Saturday, January 12, 2008


Steve Muhlberger has an interesting post here on the 1351 Ordinance of King John II of France, with a follow up.

The ordinance is available at the rich and frequently rewarding site of the Bibliotheque National. Bibliographic information is noted below.

My conclusions:

Armed valets are described in association with the gens d’armes, who are either bannerets, knights or squires. Armed valets are expected to have haubergeons, gorgerettes (probably a mail collar in this context), bascinets with camails, and gauntlets, as well as a horse worth 20 livres, which is 2/3 the minimum value of a squire’s horse. If they have at least this equipment they are paid half the wages of a squire. The haubergeon is worn over a “chope”, which I suspect may be a variant on jupon or gipoun.

Later, the ordinance talks of soldiers called “haubergeons”, who are neither knights nor squires. They are also associated with but distinguished from the gens d’armes. “Haubergeon” is evidently used as a synonym for the armed valet described earlier.

Although associated with the gens d’armes, the armed valets are not described as gens d’armes themselves, and are repeatedly contrasted with gens d’armes.

The armed valets or haubergeons of the ordinance seem quite similar to the sort of soldier described in some 15th c. sources as a gros valet and in 15th c. French and Burgundian ordinances as a coustilier. The original French plan of battle for Agincourt intended to have such men support men-at-arms in charging the English archers.

The men at arms who could afford full armor and warhorses could also afford servants. Each of these represented a mouth to feed and otherwise support in the field: it was in the interest of the French King to see that as many of these mouths to be fed could also contribute to the army as a useful soldier.

In the early part of the 14th c. the English counterpart at the bottom of spectrum of mounted soldiers was called a Hobelar. Later in the century, mounted archers become prominent in this niche: English tactics had greater need for operationally mobile mounted infantry than for second class cavalry. A well equipped man at arms’ servant would appear on the payroll in a French army as an armed valet. In an English army a man of the same resources to equip himself would likely show on the payroll as a mounted archer.

In the English records of Chaucer’s day, valettus and yeoman were synonyms. These individuals could be substantial commoners. They could also be men of gentle birth, like Chaucer, who would later work their way up to the rank of squire or higher.

Secousse, Denis-François (éd.)
Titre(s) : Ordonnances des roys de France de la troisième race.... Quatrième volume, Contenant differents suppléments pour le règne du roy Jean et les ordonnances de Charles V données pendant les années 1364, 1365 et 1366
Date d'édition : 1734

Cote : NUMM-118972

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