Saturday 26 May 2018

Early 16th Century Infantry

For my latest unit I have attempted to create a set of figures that represent infantrymen armed with polearms for the first quarter of the 16th Century. As I have often talked about on this blog it is the Landsknecht and Swiss, or Reisläufer, that get most of the attention in 16th Century Art and we rarely find depictions of all the other types of infantry who we know from the sources also fought in this period in large numbers. For this unit I wanted to create a set of troops that could pass muster as English, French or Scots. At a pinch they could also do as Spanish although they perhaps have more specialist infantry while similarly the Italians are quite different and I have covered them already: I am aware that regional differences would have been important in this era so for example even within the "French Infantry" you would have Gascons who may well have looked very different to the Picards but we simply don't know in what way they differed.

I have posted up some depictions on these perhaps less "glamorous" infantry to give an idea of what they may have looked like. Using these images combined with remaining pieces of munitions armour from the early 1500s it possible to build up an idea of how such troops may have dressed and armed. With regard to the armour I would recommend "The Medieval Armour from Rhodes" as it is superb for highlighting armour that was in use at a particular snapshot in time; Rhodes fell to the Ottomans in 1522 and this collection of armour was discovered there in the 19th Century. The collection is a fascinating mix of pieces from all over Europe ranging from mid 15th Century armour to pieces that would have been very new at the time of the second Turkish siege. It seems that this was some of the armour that was being used by the defenders, and often mixed and matched, during the siege. Of course the force defending Rhodes was fairly international in its composition but we know from Elis Gruffydd that the Calais Garrison was similarly international in it's make up as were the armies serving in Italy in the 1500s so there is no reason to doubt such variety of armour was not seen in other forces. If you can find this book I would certainly recommend it.

Detail from Breydenbach's Pilgrimage to the Holyland, 1522 edition. Crusaders at Damietta, note in the top right these chaps are described as Aventuriers. While their clothes are clearly of early 16th century fashion their armour has changed little from the late 15th century.

Detail from Jean d'Auton, King Louis XIIs entry to Milan October 6 1499. 

Jean Marot "Le Voyage de Gênes" first quarter of the 16th Century.

By 1500 munition quality armour had become common place and from the collection of images shown here it seems clear that in the early 1500s plenty of armour was worn by infantry of the various European nations. It's often easy to think of an era where gunpowder weapons were in the ascendance as one where armour was becoming worn less and less but this is far from the case. By the mid 16th Century, when the size of armies had grown to unprecendented levels, more armour was worn, "Corselets" being a term commonly used to describe Pikemen by the Mid 1500s. For this unit I was trying to depict troops from the early 16th Century who were not quite as uniformly equipped as later 16th Century infantry would be, or were at least meant to be.

The images show a lot of plate armour, often still very similar in style to that of the late 15th Century as in "Le Voyage de Gênes", the Crusaders at Damietta in the 1522 edition of Breydenbach, both shown above, and in "The Nancéïde", shown below. Relatively basic munition style armour is also shown as in the Jan Joest and Gerard David images, also both shown below. As a word of caution I would add that soldiers from Biblical scenes in this period are often depicted in quite "fantastical" or "ancient" armour, or at least a 16th Century idea of what ancient armour might be. Sometimes they appear in a mix of both contemporary and fantastical. This should be borne in mind when looking at these works for evidence of how they dressed. That being said the armour shown here doesn't seem particularly fantastical in any way.

"The Art of War" Bérault Stuart, seigneur d’Aubigny, first decade of the 1500s.

"The Nancéïde", Pierre de Blarru start of the 1500s. Is the chap with a halberd in the centre perhaps wearing a hair net?

Theuerdank c.1517. Notice how the infantry in this image look very similar to those in the two images above and below.

Detail from The Prayer of Jesus on the Mount of Olives, Betrayal of Judas, Innsbruck 1500-1510.

Detail from a resurrection scene, Jan Joest, Auferst.1506-08.

Detail from Gerard David, Christ on the Cross, 1515. A point of caution for images depicting Biblical scenes is that the artists sometimes try to make the soldiers look a little more "exotic" or "ancient" which can make it difficult to tell what is contemporary or not! Note the simple arm harness, sword and buckler and helmet worn under the hat of the figure on the right.

Unfortunately just as in the contemporary art it's the Landsknecht and Reisläufer that get all the attention the same is true for miniature manufacturers! There aren't really any miniatures that look like the soliders depicted in the art work above, well not a speficic range at least. There are however plenty of individual figures as well as bits and pieces that can be used to get something close to how these infantry may have looked.

The below photo shows the unit before it was painted up. I used figures and parts from Steel Fist Miniatures, Wargames Foundry, Warlord Games, The Assault Group, Mirliton, Perry Miniatures and Stuarts Tudor Dolls to put it together. In fact I think the unit may have taken longer to build than it did to paint if the time taken to see what worked and what didn't is taken into consideration! My skills with green stuff are still very basic so I was limited by the figures to how closely I could get something resembling an early 16th Century infantry unit. It was a similar situation when I worked on my generic pike,, a couple of years ago. Since then the addition of the Steel Fist casts, specifically the 16th Century Foot Knights, late 15th Century Munition Armoured Swiss Front Rankers,, and a couple of carefully selected figures from their Landsknecht range as well as Stuarts Tudor Dolls,, have meant I have been able to get closer to the look I wanted than was possible when I worked on the pike blocks.

The infantry assembled, this picture shows all the bits and pieces used to make this unit.

French Polearmed Infantry c.1500-1520.

So does it work as a convincing unit of early 16th Century infantry? I will leave that up to you to decide. The unit has a mix of late 15th Century armour, a lot of which I have left black to further demonstrate that it is of munition quality while some of the soldiers wear 16th Century armour and helmets. The elaborate and shiny early 16th Century harnesses have been reserved for the units leaders. The early 1500s style "base coats" are well represented thanks to the Tudor Dolls and figures from The Assault Group. The contemporary art work shown above clearly demonstrates that these coats were a feature of dress for many soldiers of the early decades of the 1500s. The various 1500s caps and hats also help to define the unit, again these can be seen in a lot of the images above.

For polearms I tried to use a many different variants as possible but avoided Bills. These seem to have been a particularly, though not exclusively, English or Italian weapon and while I could have included a couple I decided against them. My reasoning for this is that I will probably do a very similar unit to this one that will be specifically English Levied Billmen who will be carrying Bills of various varieties and wearing the St Georges cross. I have also included Brigandines, these can be seen in use in the Jean Marot image above, and some padded jacks for the less well armed members of the unit. The padded jacks are particularly suitable for using these troops as Scots or English as they were worn in the British Isles into Elizabethan times.

The photos show how versatile these troops can be, with a simple swap of the flags they are French, Scots or English infantry. They should also work well bolstering the ranks of my generic pikemen and the two command bases could be used in lots of different units in my collection. I was initially somewhat disappointed with the finished unit though, as all the forward pointing polearms make it very difficult to put one base behind the other and I felt that they were perhaps simply too generic and as such not that convincing. Once they were finished I painted up a couple more bases of 16th Century Archers, to give me three units of Bowmen for Lion Rampant, these can be seen in the last two photos. When added to the polearmed troops and under the English flags they help to make quite a convincing English unit despite the fact the figures are so generic and none of them even carry Bills. This has restored my confidence in the unit and I think once placed with the rest of my collection they will work well. I also have a feeling that because they are so generic they could be seeing an awful lot of action on the gaming table!

One of the command bases, under a French Banner. This will be a useful base that could be used for lots of units. The Man-at-Arms with the sword is in a very late 15th Century harness while the soldier on his left is in a more "modern" harness but of munition quality.

A unit of Scots of the Graham family.

The second command base, under the banner of William Graham, Earl of Montrose. This is a base that will have lots of uses. Note also how the two Men-at-Arms are in very up to date and fashionable harnesses for the early 16th Century

Billmen (ok there aren't actually any Bills there!) and Archers under the banners of Edmund Howard.

Unliveried English troops under the banners of Edmund Howard, perfect for the English right at Flodden.

Thursday 10 May 2018

The Last White Rose

Over the Bank Holiday weekend I visited fellow Renaissance Painter and Gamer, Stuart, for a series of three games which followed the theme of an attempted usurpation of Henry VIII's throne by Richard de la Pole. This is the same De la Pole that featured in one of our previous Siege of Pavia games a couple of months back. Stuart has written a background on De la Pole and included details of the games along with some superb photos on his excellent blog Army Royal: . While I have used some of Stuart's photos here most are my slightly less carefully taken "in game" snaps so apologies in advance for some of them!

The opening scene is Northern England, the Summer of 1514. During the previous month De la Pole has landed north of the border in Leith. Initially he has secured little more than fair words from the Duke of Albany, the Scots Regent, but has gained some support from Northern English Lords with Yorkist sympathies. While few banners have been unfurled openly declaring their alleigance these Lords have provided archers and Men-at-Arms to De la Pole's invasion force. He has brought with him a substantial contingent of Landsknechts and with these battle hardened Germans and the English Rebel forces has crossed the border into England. At first he encounters little opposition as locals flee in terror from him and his outlandish troops, however his scouts soon report that a Royalist army has been gathered under George Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury, a seasoned commander having led Henry's foreward in the invasion of France the previous year. Knowing the Tudor forces lie over the ridge De la Pole prepares for battle.

The initial set up with both armies hidden by the ridge. The red cards represent the Royalist units and the blue cards the Rebel forces.

The Die is Cast

The aim of this game was for the Rebels to deploy along one table edge and exit from the opposite edge with the Royalist forces doing their best to stop them. As always we used our modified Lion Rampant rules. Stuart took command of the Royalists and I commanded De la Pole's various forces, we kept to leading the same sides for all three games. To represent the ridge both forces deployed as paper markers (as can be seen in the photo above). Until revealed all markers could "move" activate on a 6+ and move 7 inches. As soon as a marker reached the crest of the hill this revealed the enemy force below, as well as revealing what that marker was. Similarly when the oppossing side crested the hill this revealed units on the other side. The forces were as follows:

The Earl of Shrewsbury's Royalists

1 Unit of Demilancers (George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, as Retinue Leader)
1 Unit of Foot Knights
1 Unit of Retinue Bill
1 Unit of Retinue Bow
1 Unit of Shire Bill
1 Unit of Shire Bow
1 Culverin

Richard de la Pole and his Rebels
1 Unit of Foot Knights (Richard de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, the “White Rose” as Retinue Leader)
2 Units of Landsknecht Pike
1 Unit of Landsknecht Arquebusiers
1 Unit of Mounted Crossbowmen
1 Unit of Rebel English Men-at-Arms
1 Unit of Rebel English Shire Archers
1 Culverin

De la Pole's Rebels are first to make it to the crest if the hill revealing the Royalist units below.

As with my previous Battle Reports the best way to follow the action is the captions under each photo. At the start of this clash the impetus was very much with De la Pole, with a couple of his units cresting the hill very quickly. It turned out one of these was the Rebel Culverin which deployed atop the hill and revealed the waiting Tudor force below. In an attempt to seize back the iniative some of the Royalist units climbed the hill. The Rebel Culverin took a toll on the group of Foot Knights who lead the advance while the Rebel Men-at-Arms rode up to help thrust the Tudor forces back down the hill.

Things were looking good for De la Pole but he had failed to notice how many Archers, bowmen who outclassed his own English supporters, had been drawn up to face his troops. As the Royalist arrows darkened the sky De la Pole thrust his forces foward, well tried to, in an all out assault. For many of the Rebels taking shelter in the shallow stream at the foot of the ridge was preferable to climbing the hill and this weakened the Rebel attack. With the Mounted Crossbowmen and Rebel Archers being cowed by the bows of the Royalists, De la Pole's Landsknechts and Men-at-Arms engaged with the Archers and Billmen who blocked their path. The rebels were successful in these attacks and pushed the Tudor infantry back down the hill after some brief but bloody melees.

The Royalists climb up the hill for a view of De la Poles forces. This also allows the Tudor archers to loose upon the advancing Rebels.

Initially it all goes in De la Pole's favour with the Rebel Culverin firing on the Royalists and the Rebel Men-at-Arms sending the Tudor infantry back down the hill.

The Marquis of Dorset's veteran billmen take on the Rebel Men-at-Arms.

A view from the Tudor lines below the hill. The initial attack up the hill by the Royalists waivers in front of the Rebel onslaught. 

But the English have done enough to slow the rebels who take cover in the shallow river as more and more arrows are directed at them by the English archers.

 Dorset's Billmen are routed by De la Pole's Landsknechts but this has bought time for the rest of the Tudor force to get into position.

Still pushing forward the Landsknechts take on some of the Tudor bowmen. At this point the rebel Men-at-Arms withdraw from the fray in an attempt to escape the field intact.

The noose tightens on De la Pole's forces as he attempts to cross the ridge.

It looked as though De la Pole was going to make it through. His front line troops, however, had been badly mauled by the archery and combat, so much so that the Men-at-Arms rode around to the rear of the Landsknecht Pike in an attempt to shield themselves from further harm. The Rebel aim was after all to get their forces through the blockade with as little damage as possible and it was looking more and more as if they had been lured into a trap. As more Royalist Archers arrived on the field the archery began to tell on the blooded Landsknecht Pike. The final straw was the Royalist Culverin which delivered repeated shots into the close ordered German Pikemen. The carnage this caused meant one block faltered and ran and the second quickly followed them! With what forces he had left De la Pole was forced to cross back over the border. An inauspicious start to the supposed triumph of Richard IV.

For a moment it still looks as though the Rebel forces may get through, but both Landsknecht Pike blocks and the Men-at-Arms have been mauled in combat and by archery.

Royalist reinforcements arrive and as the Landsknechts descend the hill the Tudor artillery opens fire and one after the other both of De la Pole's Pike Blocks are routed! The day is lost for the White Rose.

Bridge over Troubled Water

Richard de la Pole's first move had ended in disaster. His march into England had been blocked and to make matters worse he had lost many troops in the process. Back across the border this forced the Duke of Albany's hand and he provided a sizeable Scots contingent, hardened Border Pikemen from Lord Home's lands and Maclean Highlanders, to bolster the weakened Rebel forces. Fearing Henry's vengeance Albany much preferred war to be waged south of the border than to have Henry launching reprisals into Scotland. With French money from Louis XII allowing more Landsknechts to be recruited De la Pole attempts a second invasion of England.

For this game we played the "Hold on Tight" scenario from Lion Rampant, with the objective being a bridge over the river in the centre of the table.  I had played out this game before, covered here:, and knew only too well that this was a fast and furious scenario that could very quickly become a bloodbath. The forces were as follows:

The Earl of Shrewsbury's Royalists

1 Unit of Demilancers (George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, as Retinue Leader)
1 Unit of Border Horse
1 Unit of Retinue Bill
1 Unit of Retinue Bow
1 Unit of English Pike
1 Unit of Shire Bow
2 Organ Guns

Richard de la Pole and Scots Auxiliaries
1 Unit of Landsknecht Pike (Richard de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, the “White Rose” as Retinue Leader)
1 Unit of Landsknecht Arquebusiers
1 Unit of Rebel English Men-at-Arms
1 Unit of Rebel English Mounted Archers
1 Unit of Scots Pike
1 Unit of Kern and Horseboys (Scots Highlanders)
1 Unit of Galloglass (Scots Highlanders)
1 Culverin

Reinforced by Scots Pike and Highlanders De la Pole begins his journey south again and is met by the Tudor forces at a river crossing. 

George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, again took command of the Royalist forces. Having already bested De la Pole a couple of months previously he was perhaps too confindent of victory a second time. As in the first clash the Rebels seized the initiative and raced for the bridge, the Landsknecht Shot reaching it first. They held it as the Tudor forces moved into position, menacingly rolling forward Organ Guns and bringing up the Royalist Archers. It was these Royalist Archers who soon discomforted the Arquebusiers and sent them fleeing. The bridge was not lost to the Rebels, however, for as soon as the German Shot ran their comrades, the Landsknecht Pike under direct control of De la Pole, took their place.

On the Royalist right flank their Border Horse attempted to cross the river and surround the Rebels only to be halted in their tracks by the Rebel Mounted Archers who had dismounted and taken up a defensive position on the banks of the river. The Organ Guns were nearly in position and Archers surrounded the bridge but it was too late. This time the Rebels' enthusiasm had paid off and they had held the bridge long enough to achieve victory. The Scots hadn't played any part in the conflict, a fact which only furthered the divisions in the composite Rebel army. The English Rebels were already unhappy that they had to fight alongside age old enemies from across the border. With distrust amongst the already nervous Rebel ranks growing the Last White Rose would have to act fast if he was to become King.

The Royalist forces rush to control the crossing, wheeling organ guns up to defend the river banks.

Some of De la Pole's Landsknecht Shot are the first to reach the bridge and they set up a defence around it.

Rebel Mounted Archers aid the defence of the Landsknecht arquebusiers who struggle under a hail of Royalist bodkins.

The "Alemayne" Shot are dispersed under the rain of arrows, only for some of their fellow countrymen to secure the bridge in their place.

On the river banks Rebel Mounted Archers discomfort the Royalist Border Horse who try to push them back.

This time the day goes in De la Pole's favour, his Landsknechts have proved their worth in holding the bridge long enough for the Scots to move up and consolidate the position, although the Scots have taken no part in the fighting.

The opening moves of the clash outside London. Henry's forces are on the left with De la Pole facing him in the top right and his Scots auxiliaries and some English rebels forming the bottom right.

London Calling

Richard de La Pole has broken through and heads straight for the capital in an attempt to achieve victory before lack of funds and supplies and mutual distrust breaks up his conglomerate army. With the Earl of Shrewsbury in disgrace having let the Rebels in, Henry himself takes to the field. Unlike Shrewsbury he has by now had time to recruit Landsknechts for his own forces as well as to muster his finest troops from across the Kingdom. The final day of reckoning awaits, will Richard III be avenged by his nephew as Richard IV or will De la Pole meet the same fate as his brother John?

For this game we fought a classic pitched battle choosing two retinues each. We had 50 points to use, Stuart choosing from the English Army List for Henry VIII's forces and myself from a mix of English, Irish (for Highlanders) and French Lists for the Rebels. The resulting retinues were as follows:

The Royalists

Henry VIII, King of England

1 Unit of Kings Spears (Henry VIII, King of England as Retinue Leader)
1 Unit of Demilancers
1 Unit of Border Horse
1 Unit of Landsknecht Pike
1 Unit of Landsknecht Arquebusiers

Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset

1 Unit of Retinue Bill (Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset as Retinue Leader)
1 Unit of Retinue Bow
1 Unit of Shire Bill
1 Unit of Shire Bow
1 Culverin

The Rebels

Richard de la Pole and his Landsknechts

1 Unit of Foot Knights (Richard de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, the “White Rose” as Retinue Leader)
2 Units of Landsknecht Pike
1 Unit of Mounted Crossbowmen
1 Unit of Rebel English Mounted Archers
1 Culverin

The Scots Auxiliaries and Rebel English

1 Unit of English Rebel Men-at-Arms (A mysterious Retinue Leader who, this being a Tudor Rebellion we still don't know the true identity of!)
2 Units of Rebel English Shire Bow
1 Unit of Scots Pike
2 Units of Redshanks (Scots Highlanders)

Henry, centre left, throws forward his archers and Border Horse to harrass the oncoming Yorkist usurper.

De la Pole's artillery thunders into action in an attempt to scare off the Border Horse.

This time it was the Royalists, under the uneasy gaze of their King, who seized the initative. The Border Horse and Archers advanced and began harassing the Rebel ranks. De la Pole's Landsknecht contingent attempted to throw off the nuisance of the Border Horse by opening fire on them with the Artillery while on the Rebel left flank a general advance began. The Scots were particularly wary of the fact that if they did not close on the Royalist Archers they could be in real difficulty.

Having at first come forward in the attack the Royalists then slowy drew back into a defensive position luring both Rebel flanks out towards them. De la Pole's Pikemen became irritated by the constant skirmishing assaults of the Border Horse and marched out to drive them away. The Tudor right flank gave way to the Rebel left as they crossed the stream and attempted to close on them. The Royalist archers were always one step ahead and continued to loose a rain of arrows on the advancing Scots and Rebel forces.

The Scots and English rebels advance towards the Royalists, wary of Henry's superiority in archers they are keen to cross the stream and get to grips with the enemy.

De la Pole leads forward his right wing of Landsknecht Pike.

The Royalists bunch up luring the Rebels into an attack.

De la Pole falls for the trap and his Landsknechts charge forward in an attempt to chase off the harrassing Border Horse.

On the Tudor right flank the Scots launch a general advance.

Still sore from the first encounter on the ridge Dorset leads his men into a savage melee with some Scots Highland Auxiliaries.

Eventually both sides of the Rebel army did manage to close on the Royalists, although the Royal archery had already weakened them. On the Tudor right flank the Marquess of Dorset, still carrying wounds from his earlier clash on the ridge with the Rebels some months previously, did his King proud. First he saw off some of the Scots Highlanders in a savage melee before then crashing into the Scots Pikemen and driving them back as well. Closer to the walls of London Richard de la Pole himself charged the Border Horsemen and finally drove them off. His success was short lived though as he realised he had brought himself and his Pikemen dangerously close to Henry's Mercenary Arquebusiers and Artillery. The Arquebusiers uinleashed a deadly volley of shot into De la Pole's closely packed Landsknechts and sent some of them running. As the smoke cleared for a brief moment De la Pole and King Henry eyed each other across an already bloody battlefield.

Flushed with victory Dorsets' men then crash into the Scots Pike Block.

Meanwhile on the Rebel right the Border Horse are still causing a nuisance. De la Pole himself attacks them in an attempt to set an example for his men.

De la Poles "Alemayne" Pikemen have been drawn perilously near to the Royalist guns.

On the English right Dorset has pushed most of the Scots back across the river but is still threatened by a band of Highlanders that have emerged from the woods.

A volley of shot from Henry's own German mercenaries causes carnage in the ranks of De la Pole's tightly packed pikemen. 

Henry, top left, and De la Pole, centre left, are within a stones throw of each other. For a moment the King and the man who would be King cast eyes on one another.

Having seen the Scots, who they were never overly fond of, be defeated, the English Rebels push forward.

On the Rebel left, the Scots having been routed, save a few Highlanders, it was time for the English Rebels to attempt to push back the Royalists. Advancing into the stream and using it as cover the Rebel Archers began to loose upon the Tudors. In the centre Henry's Artillery, having already caused havoc amongst De la Pole's Pikemen managed to take out the Rebel Culverin. To add insult to injury more Royalist Archers arrived from one of the gates of London to support their King. Seeing things go badly for the Rebel leader the English Rebels pushed forward in an attempt to aid him. This was the moment Henry had waited for and his Demilancers rode across the field, riding down the Rebel English Bowmen and then besting the Rebel Cavalry in a brief melee.

De la Pole attempted to make an orderly withdrawal but with the Royalists in pursuit his remaining Pike block broke and fled. Some of the English rebels managed to recross the stream and make good their escape as did a handful of the Scots Highlanders. De la Pole's Landsknechts however had suffered particularly badly and the White Rose was left to ignominiously flee across the stream with only a handful of his closest retainers left. Henry had followed in his fathers foot steps and kept himself well out of harms way during the engagement. He was angered that De la Pole hadn't been caught but otherwise more than satisified that the Rebel army had been dispersed and his throne secured.

Henry's famed Artillery easily despatches De la Pole's gun.

As in the first clash reinforcements have arrived for the Royalists and De la Pole backs away, one of his Pike Blocks having already crumbled.

On the Royalist right Henry's Demilancers ride down some of the Rebel bowmen...

...and then proceed to best the Rebel Men-at-Arms in a clash or arms. The English rebels melt away.

With his beloved Landsknechts routed De la Pole makes a hasty retreat across the stream and away from the walls of London. His ambition of becoming Richard IV has been thwarted. 

These were superb games and it was great that they all linked together to form a narrative over the weekend. As always it was a pleasure to game using Stuart's terrain and figures, the attention to detail makes all the difference. It was a scorching Bank Holiday weekend and we did manage to find some refreshment after the games. As we forgot to take a "Generals" photo during the tabletop action we took one in the pub instead. There's nothing like a well earned drink after a failed 16th Century Rebellion!

We forgot to get a picture of the "Generals" presiding over the field of battle so here is one in the pub instead, staging and thwarting a Tudor rebellion is thirsty work after all!