Tuesday 22 April 2014

Tudor Arquebusiers

In this post I am moving away from the early 1500s, where this blog has been focused so far, and having a jump of a couple of decades into the 1540s. This is the first batch of figures I have completed from The Assault Groups excellent Mid-Tudor range. I backed the Kickstarter they launched to fund this range which sadly didn't succeed. Luckily these figures had already been sculpted and they have produced them anyway. They are fantastic miniatures with a real wealth of detail. Pete has also done some excellent sets of Tudor flags, most which are appropriate for these figures, though some are more specifically Elizabethan http://thegreatitalianwars.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/more-english-elizabethan-tudor-flags.html which was a further reason to persuade me to have a go at painting some up.
This is an army I have tried before, using figures from Redoubt Enterprises. I didn't really get that far and they have now been sold on ebay. Henry VIII's reign is a strange one to collect armies for as the army changes quite significantly, not so much in its composition but certainly in its look. In the early part of his reign, for the campaigns of 1511, 1513 and 1522-3, the armies look much like those of the Wars of the Roses, even carrying the swallow tailed standards familiar to anyone interested in that period. A spectacular example of one of these armies can be seen on Stuart's blog: http://stuartsworkbench.blogspot.co.uk/ where he has painstakingly researched and beautifully painted the army that took part in the Battle of the Spurs in 1513 and besieged Therouanne and Tournai.
The figures that The Assault Group have produced are for a couple of decades after this, by which time the look of the armies had changed, although in terms of composition they were still predominantly made up of billmen and archers. The fashions had changed and Henry had made a move to have his troops dressed in an early form of uniform. We have a good idea of what these troops looked like from copies of the murals from Cowdray House. The originals were destroyed in a fire but this was not before accurate copies of them had been made which are shown below:

Copy of the Cowdray House Mural showing the departure of Henry VIIIs Middle Ward from Calais in 1544

Copy of the Cowdray House Mural showing Henry VIIIs army suffering the effects of a storm in camp at Marquise on 25 July 1544. 

Copy of the Cowdray House Mural showing the siege of Boulogne in 1544

The incredible detail of these pictures clearly shows the uniforms worn by these men and the different troop types in the English army. In the particular campaign depicted in the above three pictures, the army was still divided into the traditional medieval three "battles", of Vanguard, Battle (the middle division) and Rearguard or Rearward. The Vanguard were dressed in coats of blue guarded or trimmed with red while the Battle and Rearguard were in coats of red guarded yellow. Depending on which campaign you want to use these troops  for there is actually quite a wide variety of colours for the uniform coats that you can choose from and not deviate from what was actually worn, or at least what we think was worn.
In his excellent Armies of the Sixteenth Century: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Scotland-Provinces-Netherlands-1487-1609-Sixteenth/dp/1901543005/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1397412649&sr=8-1&keywords=armies+of+the+sixteenth+century , Ian Heath has the following to say about the uniforms in the Mid-Tudor period: 'more usually only the coats were uniform, all other items of apparel varying from individual to individual: surviving details of the colours used in the Cowdray pictures, for instance, tell us that men wore assorted hosen, some white, red or yellow, others with white left leg and red right, or black left leg and yellow right. Other uniform colours are note by Blaise de Monluc, a participant in the French attack on Boulogne shortly after its fall, who reported the English soldiers (he calls them pioneers, therefore doubtless militiamen) were seen wearing coats of red and white, black and yellow, and green and white. Devonshire soldiers in Boulogne's garrison in 1545 had white coats guarded in green, yellow and red and white coats guarded in green are recorded being worn on other occasions too'. Heath goes on to list some other examples of the colours used for these coats such as red worn by the army that took part in Somersets Scottish expedition in 1547, and would have fought at Pinkie Cleugh. Yellow worn by the infantry gathered to fight the Norfolk rebels in 1549 and white worn by rebels and royalists in Wyatts rebellion.
Boulogne in 1544 is probably the best known campaign for the which these figures could be used, when Henry decided to spend the money he had raised from getting his hands on the Catholic churches property in England following his break with the Papacy in Rome. He raised an enormous army and invaded France, allied to Charles V of Spain. There are quite a few options though for using these troops in other Tudor Campaigns.
In order for Henry VIII to be able to invade France in 1544 he first had to ensure his northern border with Scotland was secure, not wanting a repeat of earlier in his reign when the Scots had invaded in 1513. The Scots were defeated at Solway Moss in 1542, more of a rout rather than an actual battle, and James V of Scotland died shortly after this. This led to the Rough Wooing, an attempt to gain the Scottish throne by marrying the infant Mary Queen of Scots to the infant Prince Edward, who would later become Edward VI. Under Henry VIII the goal seems to still have primarily been victory in France with keeping the Scots quiet a more secondary aim. However following Henry's death real control of the country fell to the kings uncle Edward Seymour, Protector Somerset. Already a veteran of war in Scotland and France, Seymour's real interest lay in the conquest of Scotland, an aim he hoped to achieve by establishing a series of garrisons to impose English control. The English initially won a victory at Pinkie Cleugh in 1547 but were eventually pushed out of Scotland, and Boulogne. The French took advantage of England's war on two fronts and sent troops to aid the Scots in defeating the increasingly beleaguered garrisons established in Scotland.
This was an intense and prolonged period of conflict for the English, far greater than the early campaigns of Henry VIII's reign and these figures are spot on for representing what the English soldiery would have looked like in these wars. An excellent of overview of the campaigns in the 1540s as well as English and Scottish tactics and armies is provided by Gervase Phillips book on the Anglo-Scots wars, http://www.amazon.co.uk/Anglo-Scots-Wars-1513-1550-Military-History/dp/0851157467/ref=la_B001KIKD30_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397740798&sr=1-1 . I cannot recommend this book enough if you are interested in collecting armies for this period. It was in fact an article in Miniature Wargames Magazine by Gervase Phillips on the Rough Wooing that began my interest in this period. It led to my first attempt to build a late Henrician army out of Redoubt figures. His book follows the campaigns in Scotland closely but also covers some of the English activity in France. The Scottish campaigns are followed in such detail that skirmishes involving a handful of men are discussed as well as much larger encounters. Phillips details the fate of the English garrisons and the arrival of the French, along with the wide variety of mercenaries that both sides employed. Another good book on this period is Marcus Merrimans "The Rough Wooings" http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rough-Wooings-Queen-Scots-1542-1551/dp/186232090X/ref=la_B001KDTI68_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1398203312&sr=1-1, this focuses more on the politics than the military aspect from what I can remember although it does have some good sketches of the English fortifications.
Although being specifically for the 1540s these figures could also be used as government forces against the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536 as well as more suitably for troops facing Kett's Rebellion and The Prayer Book Rebellion, both in 1549. I also think they would be useful as English troops in the Irish Pale facing Silken Thomas's Rebellion in 1534-35, when the 10th Earl of Kildare led the FitzGeralds in an uprising against the English crown. The FitzGeralds unsuccessfully besieged Dublin and were later besieged themselves in Maynooth. This would be a good excuse to get these figures out and fighting some Kern and Gallowglass, although I doubt the English would have fielded many arquebusiers like those shown here in that specific campaign. I am tempted to paint up a small Irish force, another project that I have already done before but I am keen to have a go at again, to face these guys. I picked up a few figures for this possible Gaelic war party at Salute last weekend but I am still not sure if I will go in that direction with the collection. I think for the later Elizabethan campaigns in Ireland these figures would be too early.
The troops on board the Mary Rose when she sank in 1545 are likely to have been dressed in a very similar fashion to these figures, if not just like them, as she sank during the war with France which started in 1544. The latest campaigns I would be happy using these figures for would be as English in the Hapsburg armies of the 1550s, when Mary I was married to Philip II of Spain and for the fall of Calais in 1558. Personally I think the fashions change too significantly for them to be used much beyond the 1550s but from this ramble I hope I have shown that there are a variety of campaigns they can be used for as well as some very different opponents they can face.
This leads me to what I am going to do with them. So far I have bought about a company of figures, around 100. This consists of the traditional Bill and Bowmen, with more modern Pike and Shot also being represented. I am going to paint them up in white coats with a red lining as white seems to be one of the most common colours, English soldiers often being known simply as "white coats" in this period. My thinking at the moment is that I want them to be able to represent English soldiers that fought in Ireland in the 1530s and also France and Scotland in the 1540s and as white seems one of the most common of the uniform colours I have stuck with this.
Initially I was going to paint these arquebusiers in more drab hose and doublets. On looking back through Phillips "Anglo-Scots Wars" and looking at the Osprey on Henry VIII's army it seems clear that the arquebusiers were very often foreign troops, typically Spanish or Italian. Phillips gives an example of how in Scotland these foreign troops could fight within "English" infantry companies composed of more traditional Bows and Bills. With this in mind I have opted to paint them in quite colourful clothing and have even given a couple some plumes of feathers. The Assault Group figures have the St Georges Cross sculpted on the front of the figures. Looking back at the Cowdray House images it is clear that a lot of the English troops wore the St Georges Cross on the back of their coats as well. As a result, on the figures in the uniform coat I have painted the cross on the back as well, as shown below. What are described as "Militia Arquebusiers" by The Assault Group are actually in more fashionable clothing than the uniformed troops. I have decided to paint them still in white, but in coats of their own styling so while they are in white with red linings the cut and style of the coats are very different and they don't all have the red cross on the back. Indeed many of the figures in the Cowdray images don't have a cross on the back of their uniforms and the Osprey book on Henry VIII's Army has a good example of a foreign arquebusier in his own version of an English Uniform. There are 28 figures as shown below:

Tudor Arquebusiers 1540s

Tudor Arquebusiers

From behind showing the St Georges Cross on most of their coats

As I mentioned earlier the detail on these miniatures is spectacular. I particularly love the command group, with the nobleman in his Tudor coat and Petty Captain with a boar spear and doublet lined with mail. They are spot on for the 1540s. Even the shoes on the figures have designs cut into them, as was the contemporary fashion. The shoes on the figures in the last 2 photos show this quite clearly. The next part of the company is going to be dressed in a slightly more sober fashion, it's the Billmen.

Tudor Command Group 1540s

Tudor Arquebusier in uniformed coat

Tudor Arquebusiers in their own styles of coat


  1. Wonderful figures and painting, and a great blog post chock full of useful information and references. Bravo!


  2. Very nice indeed, love your painting on the command group!

  3. Excellent piece there! I suspect English Captains were paid 'coat money', which would explain the variety of 'uniform' colours across the army, but that soldiers within a company had the same one... 'livery coats' in all but name.

    Gervase Phillips interviewed me for a post-grad course back in the day... I never knew he was a wargamer though!

  4. Thanks for the kind comments guys.

    Jim that is a great coincidence that Gervase Phillips interviewed you for a course once! I would be shocked if you did not get on the course having read your posts on Duchess Maries War against the French. His book on the Anglo Scots Wars is fascinating, and does perhaps betray his interest in wargaming as it really does go into a lot of detail.
    I may try and dig his Miniature Wargames article out and post it on here as I continue working on the Mid-Tudors.

  5. Awesome paint job! Love these beautiful minis!!

  6. Very interesting post. Nice to learn a bit about a period I am not too familiar with. And as always, love your painting!

  7. Great post Oli. Good read and very nice figures.

  8. Love these, your enthusiasm really shows in the attention to detail and a rather large unit straight off the bat. Looking forward to the next instalment, the info is great and ican pore over the Cowdray drawings for hours

  9. pretty nice blog, following :)

  10. Love this article. Stuart tipped me off to the Prayer Book rebellion and these sources point me in the right direction for research. Box of TAG Tudor arrived today!

    1. Thanks Marc - yep the TAG arquebusiers are spot on for the Paryer Book rebellion. For variation you could also use the French Arquebusiers, they were often Spanish or Italian Mercenaries anyway. Removing the Fleur De Lys on them is really easy - have a look: http://camisado1500s.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/marching-arquebusiers-and-mid-16th.html and http://camisado1500s.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/skirmishing-arquebusiers-mid-16th.html