Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Challenge of the Seneschal of Hainault: Pennsic 2010

The Seneschal of Hainault and certain companions have come to do single combats against the Company of St. Michael. Those who wish may also offer challenges against one side or the other, either for an agreed number of blows or until one champion or the other falls to the ground. Also, there will be group combats with rebated weapons as often and as long as the ladies wish.

This deed will occur on Tuesday August 10th from 3-6 PM on the Main Battlefield (West) at Pennsic.

The Historical Basis:

This is based on deeds of arms done by the Seneschal of Hainault and certain others at Smithfield in 1410.

“And in the tenth year of King Harry's reign the IVth, come the seneschal of Hainault, with other men, into England, for to seek adventures, and to get him worship in deeds of arms, both on horseback and on foot, of all manner points of deeds of arms and war.”

The company is seeking volunteers to take the role of the puissant seneschal and his immediate household. To take these roles you must have harness suitable for his era (1380-1415) and authentic in appearance from a distance of ten feet or less. There is no appearance requirement or limitation to the seneschal’s period for other challengers, although authentic appearance is encouraged and appreciated.

If interested, contact Galleron de Cressy, Captain of the Company, at mclean1382@aol.com

Combat Conventions

Each combat between two champions will end when the judges stop the fight, or a champion is unable to continue

A champion is unable to continue if he is struck five good blows in the course of the combat, or falls or becomes disarmed, or is disabled as described below. A champion whose weapon breaks is not considered disarmed, and the fight will halt while he replaces it.

Champions may also agree to end the fight after an agreed number of blows thrown by one side or the other, even if nobody is knocked down or disabled first.

Weapons:

We will have matched lances, throwing spears, pollaxes, two handed swords and daggers available for the combatants.

Effects of Blows

Two handed edge blows have no effect against plate or brigantine torso armor, and count as one good blow against the head or other protection.

A hit with a thrown lance or spear counts the same as a two handed edge blow. For the justification of the relative effectiveness of thrown weapons, see here.

Single handed edge blows have no effect against any plate but the helmet, and count as a good blow against the head or lesser protection elsewhere.

Thrusts have no effect against any plate except for plate helmet visors or faceplates, count as one good blow against these or mail, and a disabling blow against barred visors and lesser protection.

Heavy hardened leather and other suitably covered rigid protection will generally count as plate, with debatable cases to be decided by the discretion of the judges. The judges will, as far as seems practical, attempt to match opponents with similar levels of protection like against like, and harness from the same period like against like.

Champions may agree that both are assumed to be wearing typical armor of the early 15th century even if they are actually wearing less protection: mail at the neck, armpit and inside the elbow, cloth at the back of the knee and inner thigh, and plate elsewhere. Barred visors will still count as no protection against a thrust.

I suggest these rules for halfswording with two-handed swords, if both parties consent.

Do not act out blows, but call them out clearly. Except in group combat you need not keep track of the blows struck yourself: those guarding the list will do so for you.

Group Combats with Rebated Weapons

After any telling blow, retreat to your end of the lists, cry your cry, and return to the fray. Do not act out amputations. The weapons are no more than six feet long: a sword, pollaxe or short spear.

René’s rules assumed the combatants would batter each other with blunt weapons, and if a combatant was temporarily stunned his retainers would protect him until he recovered. Standard SCA rules in which the man struck pretended he was crippled or killed were not appropriate. After our first recreation we omitted the armored retainers who protected their master in René’s rules: under the adapted rules they didn’t have a lot to do or scope to enjoy themselves. (In the original, this was irrelevant: they were paid to do their job, not to have fun).

We often fight this over the barrier. Barriers didn’t become part of friendly deeds of arms until around 1500, rather later than René’s rules. However, barriers do allow good control of the melee with minimal need for marshaling. Sword and shield at the barrier tends to be an uninteresting fight, and I would discourage that choice if the combatant is able to use one of the other options.

Since we fight on foot we faced a fundamental choice. Should we use contemporary foot combat conventions while using as much of René’s format as made sense, or should we follow as many of his rules as possible even if they lose their purpose in the absence of horses? We eventually chose the first, and so allowed the typical weapons of foot combat. Thrusts were only rarely prohibited in contemporary foot combat so we allowed them.

You can learn more about 15th century deeds of arms here:

Some of the historical basis for the combat rules can be found here.

Here is an account of the deeds of arms the seneschal did on his pilgrimage to Santiago a few years earlier. It gives a good sense of the formats he and his companions might have used for their combats.
Here is an account of the the challenge the seneschal issued before his departure. You will see that his opponents negotiated significant variations from the original challenge in the combats they actually fought.

The formats for single combats are described here.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Of course! We've already decided not to go to Pennsic this year. I'll look forward to St. Mike's next deed of arms after this one.