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The Knight At War. How Did His Role Change And Was Their Any Place For Chivalry On The Battlefield During The Late Medieval Period?

1794 words - 7 pages

When William I invaded England in 1066 he did so on horseback. In the battle of Hastings the foot-soldier based army of the English wilted under the charge of the Norman knights. With this conquest, Marcus Bull argues, the old era of foot-soldier armies was wiped away and the new era of the horse-backed knight began.Up until the end of the thirteenth century the mass cavalry charge was the ace-card of battle. The destructive fury of a group of heavily armoured knights could break any unit. Knights lived their entire life to fight. They trained all day in the art of war and at tourney they practised war-games constantly. As time progressed they developed more discipline and cavalry units began to regroup and hit second or third units with a charge. However, throughout the period the discipline of knights was always suspect and the pursuit for personal glory a priority. What would a peasant warrior do when faced with the charge of this blood-crazed battalion?By the fourteenth century the peasants had quite a simple plan of action. They drew back their longbows and they let loose a hail of arrows that could massacre even the most heavily armoured unit of chivalric knights. By the time of the 100 years war, one might argue that Chivalry was on its way out. All-ready the mounted knight was demounting and fighting on foot, so the cavalry charge was less of a factor but other factors contributed to this.Set piece engagements formed little part of late medieval warfare. Famous battles such as Crécy, Poitiers and Agincourt were famous because of their rarity. The tactic of the day was 'chevaucheé' where knights would go on a foray to pillage, destroy and intimidate locals whilst constantly being on the moove. After enough had been torched and looted the knights would retreat to their stronghold. Chevaucheés numbered a hundred or two, a thousand at most - certainly not the numbers one might imagine in a medieval army - and because of their need for mobility many were on horseback. When not on chevaucheé castles and forts would be taken by siege in the late middle ages. Usually a set date was agreed upon with the town, if the town was not relieved by a supporting army within this date the town would be handed over. Sometimes in the case of more stubborn cities, assailing troops would attempt to dig under the walls and by Henry V's time cannons and gunpowder were increasingly used.It was on Chevaucheé into France that Edward, the Black Prince, was cut off from the way home by the vastly larger French army of King Jean II. The Black Prince attempted a truce, suggesting the handing back of plunder, but as more and more French troops arrived Jean demanded unconditional surrender. The Black Prince decided to stand and fight, lining his men up in-front of a wood so they could not be routed by cavalry. The French knights advanced and were struck down by a hail of longbow bolts that blackened the sky. Mounted cavalry were supposed...

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