Friday, July 30, 2010

Proclamation Made Before the Combat of Lord Scales and the Bastard of Burgundy: 1467

Since it is so that the most christian and victorious prince our liege lord Edward the IVth by the grace of God King of England and of France and Lord of Ireland, hath licensed and admitted the right noble and worshipful lords and knights, the Lord Scales and of Nucelles brother to the most high and excellent princess the Queen our sovereign lady, and the Bastard of Burgundy Earl of Roche and Lord of Bevere and Bev'esse, to furnish certain deeds of arms such as be comprised in certain articles delivered unto his highness by the said Bastard, sealed by the said Lord Scales with the seal of his arms, for the augmentation of martial discipline and knightly honor, necessary for the tuition of the faith catholic against heretics and miscreants, and to the defense of the right of kings and princes and their estates publics:— for so much we charge and command you, on the behalf of our most dread Sovereign Lord here present, and on my Lords the Constable and Marshall, that no manner of man of what estate degree or condition he be of, approach the lists, save such as be assigned, nor make any noise murmur or shout, or any other manner token or sign whereby the said right noble and worshipful lords and knights which this day shall do their arms within these lists, or either of them, shall move, be troubled or comforted; upon pain of imprisonment and fine and ransom at the King’s will.

The original spelling:
The Proclamacion. Sith it is so that the moost cristen and victorious prynce oure liege lorde Edwarde the iiijth by the grace of God Kyng of Englond and of Fraunce and Lorde of Irlond, hath' licencid and admittid the right' noble and worshupfull' lordes and knyghtes, the Lorde Scales and of Nucelles brothir to the moost high' and excellent pryncesse the Queene oure soveraigne lady, and the Basterd of Bourgon' Erle of Roche and Lorde of Bevere and Bev'esse, to furnysshe certeyne dedes of armes such as bee comprisid in certeigne articl'es delyverd unto his highnesse by the seide Bastarde, seald by the seide Lorde Scales with the seall' of his armes, for the augmentacion of marciall' disciplyne and knyghtly honoure, necessarye for the tuicion of the feith catholique ayenst heretikes and miscreantes, and to the defence of the right' of kynges and princes and theire estates publiques:— for so moche we charge and comaunde you, on the behalfe of oure moost drad Soveraigne Lorde here presente, and on my Lordes the Constable and Marschall', that no maner of man' of what estate degree or condicion he bee of, approche the listes, saufe such as be assigned, nor make any noise murmr or shoute, or any othir maner tokyn' or signe whereby the seide right' noble and worshupfull' lordes & knyghtes which' this day shall' doo their' armes within theise listes, or eithir of them, shall' move, be troublid or comfortid; uppon payne of emprisonement and fyne and raunson at the Kynges will'.

Excerpta historica: or, Illustrations of English history [edited by Samuel Bentley] London, 1831 p. 208

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What Was an Axe?

Combats by consent between men-at-arms in the 14th and 15th century were often fought with axes. Contemporary accounts speak of the hache in French, the azza in Italian, der axst in German and axe in English.

The vagueness of the terminology is frustrating, since the same word was also used for the ordinary civilian tool.

For the more specific form used in these combats by consent, we can look at other evidence: contemporary illustrations of those combats, contemporary combat manuals, and accounts of the combats. These sources agree that the axe in this context was wielded with both hands, and the head was designed to be effective when used backhand or forehand. One form had a cutting edge backed by either a hammer head or a fluke or spike.

Frequently, however, this type of “axe” had no cutting edge at all. Instead, a hammer head was backed by a fluke.. This is the most common form shown in contemporary fighting manuals and described in accounts of combats by consent.

These weapons often had spikes or dagues above the striking head and at the end of the haft. This was very typical but not universal, and some accounts describe axe combats fought “from high to low and without pushing

Combat manuals often show a fairly long shaft, and some suggest an overall weapon length, including spikes above and below, of six feet or more. However, the weapon could also be considerably shorter, and Fiore’s combat manual shows an azza with an overall length of about 4.5 feet or less.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Formats for the Seneschal of Hainault's Challenge at Pennsic

Here is a list of combat formats for the single combat challenges at the Seneschal of Hainault’s Challenge. Except as noted below, they reproduce the foot combat portions of challenges the seneschal fought on his pilgrimage to Santiago 1402-1403.

The seneschal's challenge that ultimately resulted in the combats at Smithfield in 1410 suggests that he had something roughly similar in mind.

If you would like to do single combat at the recreation of this deed at Pennsic, I encourage you to contact me to arrange a combat in advance, either through the comments section of this post or my e-mail at the link above. To please the ladies, I would like to show them as many of these different formats as possible. If you show up on the day without prearrangement we will also requite you, but the more of the logistics we can arrange in advance, the less time subtracted from actual combat. If you are unable to fight any of these formats and would like to propose an alternative, please let me know, and we will try to accommodate you. And if you have any other questions, I will try to answer them.

As I see there will be many who wish to do arms before the ladies, it might be uncourteous to allow one gentleman to do single combat twice before another had had a chance to fight at all. So I would like to suggest that if you wish to offer to match another's offer to do specific arms, that you say that you are willing to do those arms, against them or any other gentleman of arms and without reproach.

In any case, there will also be group combats, as described at the link above.

I have begun listing those offering specific challenges. More than one person can offer to fight the same combat format, but I do invite you to please the ladies by showing them varied forms of combat.

Single Combats

Frequently the number of blows thrown is divided into rounds, each ended by a reprinse, at which point the parties separate, as at the end of a round in a boxing match. A push refers to a powerful thrust potentially capable of pushing an opponent back.

We will have matched lances of eight feet in length, throwing spears, pollaxes of six feet in length, two handed swords and daggers available for the combatants.

Lance and Axe:
I. 9 pushes of the lance in three rounds of three and 25 axe stokes without interruption.

Pushes of the Sword.
II. Pushes of the sword with axe and dagger: 20 pushes of the sword, 20 strokes of the axe and 20 strokes of the dagger, each in two rounds of 10.
Baron Girard of Windmasters' Hill offers the above challenge
III. Pushes of the sword with axe: 20 pushes of the sword in two rounds of 10 and 20 strokes of the axe without interruption
IV. Pushes of the sword with axe and lance: 20 pushes of the sword in two rounds, 20 axe strokes in two rounds, and a throw of the lance followed by 9 pushes in three rounds

Strokes of the Axe, Sword Point or Edge, and Dagger
V. 12 axe strokes, twelve sword strokes point or edge, and twelve dagger strokes, each without interruption
Pan Jan Janowicz Bogdanski offers the above challenge
If it is agreeable to the company, it would be my preference to use the weapons to which I am accustomed against similar ones of my opponent, those being a single bladed axe of somewhat more than five feet and a rebated sword of war of approximately four feet. (edge blows with the sword only)

Also to show my esteem, though our combat be merely for the entertainment of the gallery, I shall bear a small token for the lady of my opponent.

Lord Friedrich Parcifal von Österreich offers to do those arms as well.

VI. To fight, armed with throwing spear, pollaxe and dagger until one is unable to continue or the judges stop the fight. The loser to pay a brooch, jewel or gem to the winner's lady.

Sir Kieran MacLeod, Leo Medii offers to do those arms
Duke Thorvaldr Skegglauss offers to do those arms as well
Pan Jan Janowicz Bogdanski likewise

(IV is a shortened version of arms the seneschal did, which included 30 sword and axe blows in five rounds each, and six lance throws in six rounds. V is the format of a 1415 combat between Rumaindres and Sir Guillaume de Bars. It is very similar to the foot portion of a challenge issued in 1400 by Michel D'Orris, which was for 10 blows with each weapon.)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Arms the Seneschal of Hainault Did on his Voyage to Santiago: 1402-1403

Here follow the arms my lord the seneschal of Hainault did on his voyage to Santiago in Galicia. The last day of September he did arms at Bordeaux before the duke of Iol, against Lord John Zouche, English, that is to say a lance course and 30 strokes of the sword on horseback without reprinses*. And the seneschal of Hainault broke his lance on the upper edge of the gardbrace. And they achieved their arms on horseback to the great honor of my lord seneschal. Item on foot 20 pushes of the sword, 20 strokes of the axe and 20 strokes of the dagger, with two reprinses for each weapon. And the said Englishman was wounded by a push of the sword, and carried to ground by the seneschal's 11th push, so that the arms were accomplished.

Item, the third day of October he did arms at little Bordeaux, before my lord of Duras, against Peterkin Lambert, English, of one course of the lance on horseback and 26 strokes of the sword. And in the lance course the seneschal struck the Englishman on the hinge of his armet, and so staggered him that he was not able to achieve his arms that day. On the second day they achieved their arms very fiercely. Item they did arms on foot for nine pushes of the lance with three reprinses and 25 strokes of the axe without reprinse. The seneschal made the Englishman lose his axe entirely out of both hands, so that the arms were accomplished.

Item, he did arms at Dast, before my lord Matthieu de Gornay, against the Viscount d'Orse, one lance course and 20 strokes of the sword on horseback without reprinses, during which they both broke their lances, put their hands to their swords, and achieve their count very fiercely.

Item, he did arms before the Infant of Castile against Alvaro d'Avile, one lance course and 20 strokes of the sword. The lances did not attaint, and the seneschal wounded Alvaro in the armpit with a sword stroke, so that he was in great danger of being unable to achieve his arms on foot afterwards. Item, on foot 20 pushes of the sword with two reprinses and 20 strokes of the axe without retreat.

Item, he did arms before the king of Castile against Rodis de Mendoza, the most redoubted man in Spain, one lance course and 20 strokes with a sword on horseback. And the seneschal struck Rodis de Mendoza on the gardbrace, and Rodis de Mendoza struck the seneschal on the top of the piece, and they both broke their lances and very fiercely achieved the number of their strokes with the sword. Item on foot 30 pushes the sword with five reprinses, 30 strokes of the axe with five reprinses. Item 6 throws of the lance with six reprinses and nine pushes of the lance with three reprinses. The arms on foot were accompished over three days: the first day the sword, the second the axe and the third the lance.

The seneschal do not have the advantage the first day, and Mendoza made him recoil a good three steps to the rear. The next day with the axe the seneschal recovered his honor as he made Mendoza touch the earth with hand and knee and struck his axe out of both his hands so that the arms were accomplished for that day.

Item the third day they accomplished their throws and pushes of the lance, which did not last long. On the first throw, Mendoza struck the seneschal on his little pavise, and pierced through it by more than half an arms length. On the third stroke the seneschal hit him on one of the knee lames of his cuisse, and pierced it a good three finger widths below the knee with a deadly blow so that his leg failed him and he was carried to his lodgings. The king of Spain vowed to our Lady of Gadeloup his weight in silver, and the seneschal vowed to the aforesaid Lady his weight in wax. On the fourth night afterward Mendoza had a vision in which the image of Our Lady appeared to him....

(Mendoza recovered from his wound, and the seneschal continued on to Santiago)

My lord the seneschal found there the brother of the bishop of that place who had assembled a very honorable company of ladies and demoiselles. And the lady of that knight was already there, and had scaffolds and lists made where the arms work to be. And the lady of the knight had written a letter to the seneschal of the following tenor:

My lord the great Seneschal of Hainault, I recommend myself to your good grace, because I know and see very well your very honorable goodwill. I pray that you grant me a request. That is, that please you to fight a knight of these marches, born in faithfull marriage and without base reproach, to the outrance so that he may requite his service to the ladies.

In the arm in the harness which noble men are accustomed to fight the champ clos. And the weapons will be these: the lance to throw, the axe to fight, and the dagger to do the utmost without any evil device....

The day after the writing of the letter, the seneschal arrived at Santiago, and the count of Bennevent, ladies and demoiselles met him a good two leagues outside of town and led him to his lodgings, which were well hung with tapestries and equipped with everything necessary. The next day the lord count and the ladies gave him a very fine banquet, and no one could ask for a better feast.

The day for undertaking their arms they both came into the lists and went to their pavilions. All ceremonies done and the cry of "laissez le-aller" made, they sallied out of their pavilions as fiercely as two tigers, and each threw his lance, striking and piercing the little pavise of the other. And they came to fight with axes very fiercely. And taking a deceptive step away from his opponent, the seneschal brought his axe around and struck him on the hinge of bascinet and carried him to earth thoroughly stunned. And my lord the seneschal went before the scaffolds of the judges and asked him if he had satisfied them. And during this time the count of Bennevent did not say a word. And so the seneschal returned and found his adversary on one knee attempting to rise and gave him a thrust with the axe so he turned halfway around and then the judges threw down the baton and had them taken and led before the scaffold, and judged that the prize went to my lord the seneschal so that he thanked them for the good judgment that they had given, and went to disarm at his lodgings. That night the ladies gave a banquet where he was well feasted. He took leave of all the company, and the lady who had written to him gave him a diamond to give to his lady which was worth a thousand escuz.

*Reprinse: A permitted pause in the combat during which the opponents can separate, much like the pause between rounds in a boxing match.

Translation copyright Will McLean, 2010.

Originally found in:

Archives historiques et littéraires du nord de la France, et du midi de la Belgique. 1829. Valenciennes: Au Bureau des Archives.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Proper Length for Lances Used on Foot

In the 14th and 15th centuries lances were not infrequently used by men at arms fighting on foot, both in massed formations and single combat. The length preferred depended on circumstances and personal preference.

Accounts of 15th century combats single combats and fighting manuals of the period make it clear that the lance was often expected to be thrown early in the fight, and so it should be of a suitable length for throwing. It also needed to be short enough to deal with an opponent that could quickly close range, but not so short that the wielder would seriously disadvantaged fighting against a longer weapon. The illustrated manuals suggest that eight feet might be a reasonable and typical median length for a lance used in single combat, although they could sometimes be as short as 6-6.5’.

George Silver, in his Paradoxes of Defence of 1599, offered this explanation of what he considered the proper length of hafted weapons that included thrusting spears of about this length, the short staff, half pike and partisan:

To know the perfect length of your short staff, or half pike, forest bill, partisan, or glaive, or such like weapons of vantage and perfect lengths, you shall stand upright, holding the staff upright close by your body, with your left hand, reaching with your right hand your staff as high as you can, and then allow to that length a space to set both your hands, when you come to fight, wherein you may conveniently strike, thrust, and ward, & that is the just length to be made according to your stature. And this note, that these lengths will commonly fall out to be eight or nine foot long, and will fit, although not just, the statures of all men without any hindrance at all unto them in their fight, because in any weapon wherein the hands may be removed, and at liberty, to make the weapon longer of shorter in fight at his pleasure, a foot of the staff being behind the backmost hand does no harm. And wherefore these weapons ought to be of the lengths aforesaid, and no shorter, these are the reasons: If they should be shorter, then the long staff, morris pike, and such like weapons over and above the perfect length, should have great advantage over them, because he may come boldly and safe without any guard or ward, to the place where he may thrust home, and at every thrust put him in danger of his life, then can the long staff, the morris pike, or any longer weapon lie nowhere within the compass of the true cross, to cross and uncross, whereby he may safely pass home to the place, where he may strike or thrust him that has the long weapon, in the head, face, or body at his pleasure.

When armies fought the men-at-arms on foot made somewhat different choices, and often used the same lances they would use mounted, without any modifications. In the 14th century a typical length might be 9-9.5’, but this would lengthen to 10-11.5’ in the mid 15th century and later. Contemporary iconography often shows lances of this length used by formations of men-at-arms fighting on foot.

Sometimes, however, the men-at-arms shortened their lances. Froissart reports that the French cut theirs down to five feet in length at Auray and Poitiers, and that the free company composed of mercenaries from many nations under Regnault or Arnaud de Cervoles, called ‘the archpriest’, cut theirs down to “six feet or thereabouts” at Brignais in 1361. Three related accounts of Agincourt, by Monstrelet, Waurin, and Le Fèvre, agree that the French shortened their lances, but do not specify a length.

It is important to understand that lances were not always shortened for massed combat on foot. The fact that the chroniclers saw fit to mention the fact, and only for one side at each battle mentioned, suggests that in those cases it was unusual enough to merit comment.

Silver spoke of the difference between fighting in mass formations and fighting singly or small groups:

Yet understand, that in battles, and where variety of weapons are, among multitudes of men and horses, the sword and target, the two handed sword, battle axe, the black bill, and halberd, are better weapons, and more dangerous in their offense and forces, than is the sword and buckler, short staff, long staff, or forest bill. The sword and target leads upon shot, and in troops defends thrusts and blows given by battle axe, halberds, black bill, or two handed swords, far better than can the sword and buckler.

The morris pike defends the battle from both horse and man, much better than can the short staff, long staff, or forest bill. Again the battle axe, the halberd, the black bill, the two handed sword, and sword & target, among armed men and troops, by reason of their weights, shortness, and great force, do much more offend the enemy, & are then much better weapons, than is the short staff, the long staff, or the forest bill.

Similarly, when large formations were involved, the greater length of unshortened lances could be more effective than shortened ones, particularly against cavalry. And as a practical matter, if a lance for mounted combat was shortened for foot combat, it could not be lengthened again if it was needed later for mounted combat.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I Write Like....

I write like
J. R. R. Tolkien
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

So says the software, when I wrote this.

Which shows the weakness of the algorithm even when it has several paragraphs to work with. Even at that length, a superficial similarity of vocabulary can fool it.

It does better on longer quotes. It correctly identifies the author of Sense and Studdingsails, for example. It identifies Holinshed and other Tudor authors as writing like Shakespeare, or at least more like Shakespeare than James Fenimore Cooper. If you're going to play this particular digital parlor game, give it as long a quote as you can.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Senate Committee: NASA Supports Too Much Free Enterprise and Exploration, Too Little Spending in Their States on Unneeded Giant Launcher

From the Space Access Society:

An URGENT Call To Action

There is a NASA Authorization bill up for vote tomorrow (Thursday July 15th) in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, in a session scheduled to start at 10 am Eastern time. This draft NASA Authorization makes drastic cuts over the next three years in both Commercial Crew development (and also sharply constrains that program) and in new space exploration technology, in order to pay for 2011 startup of a new NASA Shuttle/Ares-derived heavy-lift booster program plus continued development of the Orion crew capsule.

Our immediate options are limited. There are two amendments already prepared for tomorrow that would reduce the damage. The Warner Amendment would restore Commercial Crew funding and remove restrictions. The Boxer Amendment would restore some of the new space exploration technology funding.

If you are reading this before east coast close-of-business July 15th, and you are from one of the states listed below, please call or fax your Committee Senator. (If at all possible, make contact well before 10 am eastern.) If phoning, let the person who answers know you're calling about the NASA Authorization. They may switch you to another staffer (or that staffer's voicemail) or they may take the call themselves. Either way, ask them to support the Warner and Boxer Amendments to the NASA Authorization. Give one or two reasons briefly (EG, to support the US commercial launch industry, to enhance our national technological competitiveness, to support the President's NASA policy, to address the NASA problems pointed out by the Augustine Commission and restore NASA's ability to usefully explore, etc - see previous piece) then politely sign off.

Please read more here, most of which I agree with heartily. My main qualification is that I think there are reasonable arguments to continue work on the Orion capsule in the limited form proposed by NASA.

Here is a good summary of the draft authorization.

Here is a copy of the draft.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Jan van Underpants

Jan van Abbenbroec bore breeches as canting arms in the Wapenboek Beyeren of 1405.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Reaching Out to the Muslim World

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, in an interview with Al Jazeera June 30:
I am here in the region - its sort of the first anniversary of President Barack Obama's visit to Cairo - and his speech there when he gave what has now become known as Obama's "Cairo Initiative" where he announced that he wanted this to become a new beginning of the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world. When I became the NASA Administrator - before I became the NASA Administrator - he charged me with three things: One was that he wanted me to re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, that he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with predominantly Muslim nations, to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science and engineering -- science, math and engineering.

He then went on to deny that there was a diplomatic goal to his trip, but that he wanted to expand the sort of cooperation that NASA had with Russia and Japan and other countries contributing to the International Space Station.

For an example of what this outreach means in practice, see Bolden's remarks in Cairo on June 15, 2010. Tailoring the remarks to an Egyptian audience, he mentions two scientists born in Egypt: Dr. Farouk El-Baz, who contributed to the Apollo program, and Dr. Ahmed Zewail, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1999. He describes NASA's international partnerships in general, its science and education agreements with predominantly Muslim nations in particular, and the potential for expanding this cooperation.

When Bolden's remarks generated a certain amount of controversy, NASA assistant administrator for public affairs Bob Jacobs told ABC News:
Administrator Bolden understands that NASA's core mission is exploration, both in space and in scientific endeavors here at home. Inherent to the success of that mission is cooperation and collaboration with other nations which are equally committed to this effort, including expanding the range of countries with which NASA engages and partners.

White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said:
The President has always said that he wants NASA to engage with the world’s best scientists and engineers as we work together to push the boundaries of exploration. Meeting that mandate requires NASA to partner with countries around the world like Russia and Japan, as well as collaboration with Israel and with many Muslim-majority countries. The space race began as a global competition, but, today, it is a global collaboration.

It seems clear that based on the further remarks in the interview and on the content of Bolden's Cairo remarks that "help them feel good about their historic contribution" was simply part of the outreach process rather than an end in itself.

There have also been complaints that Bolden had been asked to make outreach to the Muslim world NASA's top priority. That seems to be unjustified. Bolden said that Obama had asked him to do three things, with the third "perhaps" the foremost. But it doesn't follow that Bolden was asked to do only those three things, or to put them ahead of any of the other goals previously assigned by the executive branch or Congress.

And if we look at the budget presented by the administration, there's no evidence that any of the three charges were given any sort of paramount importance.

I should add that the second, cooperation with other nations, has been an explicit goal of NASA since it was formed in 1958, and the third is a subset of the second.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Bastons or Bâtons

Baston in medieval French (later bâton) could be translated as staff, club or rod, but it was also used as a generic term for weapon. Godefroy gives several passages where estocs, swords, spears and other weapons are described as bastons.

I think it’s plausible that the medieval Latin baculum was used in a similar range of senses. Mathew Paris describes an incident where William de Valence receives some hard knocks at a tournament at Newbury in 1248.
“…ut introductiones miliaea initiales addisceret, baculatus.”

J. A. Giles translates this as:
...and was well batoned, in order that he might receive his apprentisage in knighthood.

But Richard Vaughan’s 1984 translation is less literal:
… and as an initiation to knighthood, thoroughly beaten.

Likewise, argumentum ad baculum can be translated literally as an appeal to the stick, or less literally as an appeal to force.

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Awesomeness of Elena Kagan

The most recent post of Garrett Epps' excellent coverage of the Kagan hearings is here. But go back to the beginning for the whole thing.

(I once read a theory that people who look like Muppets do best on television. Can't you picture Elena Kagan singing "O is for Opinion" with Oscar the Grouch?)