Military lands in 15th century Western Europe

Oct 2011
543
Croatia
OK, feudalism was very efficient governmental system, but comparatively inefficient militarily as - unlike Byzantine thematic system, or Ottoman timariot system - a lot of income of the lands was wasted on luxurious living, possibly inefficient subinfeudation and so on. Further, since central government has comparatively little input on anything but highest levels of the system, this process may have - and often did - lead to the "lowest common denominator", where only knights and men-at-arms were professional soldiers, whereas much of the infantry was not professional. This however would quickly change, and by 15th century even the cheapest infantry would still be composed of professional soldiers. Further, independent soldiers - that is, soldiers who did not have obligation towards a feudal lord - were not unknown; and I am talking about landed military here, not mercenaries.

I do have several questions:
  1. What were minimum lands required to support a) a knight, b) a man-at-arms, c) a light cavalryman, d) a crossbowman? I am intersted in values in England, France and Hungary, specifically.
  2. What were specific differences between English, French and Hungarian systems?
  3. How did town militias fit into this system?
  4. How did it compare to Byzantine pronoia or Ottoman timariot system?
 
Apr 2018
338
Italy
The main problem of feudal armies is that they had to go on war only for a a certain time. In England the servitium debitum as of 40 days, than for longer campaigns the king had to pay the feudal lords. In France was for three months i think. However in England feudal levies declined in favor of mercenaries in the end of XII century. The scutage was a tax payed by feudal lords to avoid servitium debitum. Militias also had to do military service for a period of time in the year. In France also in XIV armies were mercenaries, and in XV century was created the first standing army, the compagnie d'ordonnance roiale. In Hungary also in XV century under Mathias Corvinus there were a regular army called the Black Army of 30.000 men.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,973
Dispargum
In England men-at-arms and bowmen were on salary and were not compensated by grants of land. The kings probably raised more taxes on trade and other sources rather than on direct land taxes.
 
Oct 2011
543
Croatia
In England men-at-arms and bowmen were on salary and were not compensated by grants of land. The kings probably raised more taxes on trade and other sources rather than on direct land taxes.
I know they were on salary when on campaign, but that does not tell anything about how they supported themselves rest of the time. In fact, Byzantine thematic soldiers also received campaign pay, but their main way of support were the grants of land given to them by the state. Just for reference, Byzantine thematic soldier in 949 campaign received a) grant of land (stratioka ktemata), b) regular pay of 1 - 12 nomisma per year and c) campaign pay of 3 nomismata. English soldiers received salary, but from what I have read, that salary seems a lot like Byzantine campaign pay.

Further, for them to be "not compensated by grants of land" would have meant that English men-at-arms and bowmen either a) already were rich enough to fulfill the requirements of the service, or b) they were standing salaried army. And option b) is unlikely, as from everything I know, French compagnie d'ordonnance and Hungarian Black Army were the first fully professional militaries in Europe after the fall of Byzantine Empire.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,973
Dispargum
My understanding is that the difference between English knights and men-at-arms is that knights could afford to equip themselves while men-at-arms were equipped by the crown. To be a knight was more prestigious, but most men-at-arms settled for the lower status because they could not afford the expensive lifestyle that went along with knighthood including the expense of equipping oneself. My info is more pertinent to the 100 Years War so I don't know if things changed by the late 15th century or not.

Given that all civilian Englishmen were required to practice bowmanship on a weekly basis, I always assumed most bowmen were civilians between wars. I don't know how men-at-arms lived between the wars if not on salary. I imagine there was always some work for a man who wasn't squeamish about spilling a little blood - law enforcement, private security, etc.
 
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Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,436
Portugal
I don't know how men-at-arms lived between the wars if not on salary. I imagine there was always some work for a man who wasn't squeamish about spilling a little blood - law enforcement, private security, etc.
During the periods of peace of the Hundred Years War, many English would serve as mercenaries in the Iberian Peninsula, and if I recall correctly also in Italy.
 
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May 2015
50
Schertz ,Tx
Mercenaries probably came from various places in Europe.To some men, you may have gotten steady pay, adventure a chance to travel and get spoils of war. I know the germans served as mercenaries , think they even served in England during the War of the Roses or other occassions and other wars. The relatives in Nuremberg keep the family history book which i would love to see one day. My dad said he modeled his life on his father's family, who have been soldiers for generations.Know of at least two generals in the family, 19th and 20th century.The family were land owners and petty court officials ,etc. so not how military service went in Medieval Germany, which was different of course than the Germany of today. They might have had to furnish their own weapons, or maybe they supplied weapons to those who worked for them.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,436
Portugal
Mercenaries probably came from various places in Europe.To some men, you may have gotten steady pay, adventure a chance to travel and get spoils of war. I know the germans served as mercenaries , think they even served in England during the War of the Roses or other occassions and other wars. The relatives in Nuremberg keep the family history book which i would love to see one day. My dad said he modeled his life on his father's family, who have been soldiers for generations.Know of at least two generals in the family, 19th and 20th century.The family were land owners and petty court officials ,etc. so not how military service went in Medieval Germany, which was different of course than the Germany of today. They might have had to furnish their own weapons, or maybe they supplied weapons to those who worked for them.
Naturally there were mercenaries from many places, but the long Hundred Years war created men, English and French, prone to violence, often inducing unrest, that didn’t know to do anything else. Let us recall that in the Hundred Years war, Castile often sided with France, while Portugal sided with England.

So when Portugal was at war with Castile (The Fernandine Wars, and in 1383-1411) English (and Welch) mercenaries were hired (as Aragonese and Genovese). While Castile had usually French ones (Bertrand du Guesclin was well known), and also English during the Civil War.

Besides, in 1387 the new Portuguese king married with an English noblewoman Philippa of Lancaster, while her father, John of Gaunt (also father of Henry IV of England) wanted to claim the Castilian crown, due his marriage with Constance of Castile. His expedition in Galicia and Castile was a fiasco.

Before him Edward the Black Prince has also fought in the Castilian Civil War (1351-69) between Pedro, el Cruel and his half-brother Enrique II de Castile. There were English on both sides, and some companies even changed sides when the Black Prince entered in Castile to support Pedro, el Cruel.

Some time ago I posted the prices of some warriors and mercenaries here (post #65):

Advantages of Crossbows vs English Longbows
 
Apr 2018
338
Italy
During the periods of peace of the Hundred Years War, many English would serve as mercenaries in the Iberian Peninsula, and if I recall correctly also in Italy.
You are referring to John Hawkwood i suppose. However in XV century all condottieri were italians.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,436
Portugal
You are referring to John Hawkwood i suppose. However in XV century all condottieri were italians.
Yes, undoubtedly I was, even if his name didn't occur me when I was writing the previous post. But I don’t think that he and his men were a sole case.

Side note: I am surprised that you say that all condottieri were Italians in the XV century, that would invalidate the possibility that D. Pedro, Duque de Coimbra, and his Portuguese and English men were mercenaries in Italy (for Venice?) in the second decade of that century. The possibility that they were mercenaries for Sigismund seems more solid.

See a thread that I opened about him (and the Morosini Codex) some time ago: The Morosini Codex and D. Pedro, Duke of Treviso