Why would heavier lances be more effective?

Oct 2017
139
South Australia
What evidence do you have tourney armor was used in battle?
Im just conjecturing, not making a concrete argument.
I'm not saying tourney armour was used in battle, the other way around - regular armour may have been used in tourneys. I'm suggesting that maybe an indistinguished set of armour was used for both battle and tourneys by poorer knights. Some knights wouldn't have been able to afford a separate set of armour just for tourneys, and may have simply worn their usual armour to such events.
Jousting lances were designed to break. Combat lances were not.
Were there any exceptions to this? I seem to remember seeing something ages ago about the Polish Winged Hussars charging, then when their lanes broke they would get stuck in with swords and other side arms. Perhaps this wasn't intentional though, just random accidental breakages. Something about hollow lances too
Stone's entire premise is flawed. After the heavier lance was introduced, the knight's effectiveness was diminished, not enhanced. One had nothing to do with the other but Stone apparently wants to try and conflate the two.
Somewhat of a strong statement, do you have evidence to support this? Although I agree that knightly cavalry continued to follow a general trend of diminishing effectiveness in this period, it is possible that innovations such as heavier lances and better plate armour may have slowed the trend to some degree, although overall they didn't halt it.
 
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janusdviveidis

Ad Honorem
Mar 2014
2,002
Lithuania
Jousting lances were designed to break. Combat lances were not.
Winged hussars were one of the most famous lancer units in history. They used lances made to break. Lance was constructed from two parts glued together with hollow in the middle. This construction was light, so they could use very long lances. Unbreakable lance might be dangerous for user, he might get catapulted from the horse after strong impact at heavier opponent or if his lance was redirected to impale into the ground.

P. S. Polish hussars were traveling with baggage train and a lot of lances. Between charges they would replace lances and reform behind wagons and go at it again.
 
Apr 2018
281
USA
The rider isn't a rigid immovable object. He acts as a buffer between the horse and the lance. The amount of energy available to the lance is dependent of the strength of the rider.
Perhaps I'm missing what you're saying but this is what makes the weight of the lance important. A 6 lb lance moving at 20 already has twice as much kinetic energy as a 3 lb lance moving at the same speed in addition to whatever energy the rider can add using the strength of his arm.

There is a fairly common misconception that a charging knight acts as a completely rigid system which, if true and the horse+rider weigh 1000 lb overall then no, it wouldn't make much of a difference whether the weight of the lance increased their total mass to 1003 lbs or 1006 lbs. In reality though it's only the lance itself that can be mathematically treated as a near-rigid projectile, while everything else attached to it tends to be more like a series of squishy springs of wildly different rigidities.


Anyways, I'm not as familiar with the 14th century since as i understand it wasn't really until the 15th century that the lance arrest started to become common and lances started to be more often "lance shaped" as opposed to just spears.

Regarding the benefits of heavier lances, they can add more power to a charge as mentioned previously (with much more power later being added through the use of the lance arrest). "Heavier" can also potentially mean "longer" which can be a big benefit against infantry. Supposedly the Swiss first started replacing their halberds with pikes because at battles like Sempach and Arbedo they suffered due to the superior reach of knights who dismounted and started fighting with their long lances in both hands.

The decline of heavy cavalry at the end of the middle ages is not very straightforward and the influence of battles like crecy and agincourt is perhaps overstated. When talking about for instance english plate armor which seems to have been specifically designed to make fighting on foot easier, keep in mind that that's in contrast to armor still being used in regions like italy which remained better suited for fighting on horseback and protecting against couched lances. France especially seems to have returned to a focus on heavy cavalry at the end of the 100yw with it's first professional standing forces being establish by the compagnies d'ordonnance organized around super-heavy gendarmes.

Clifford Rogers makes the distinction that while late medieval infantry like longbowmen, crossbowmen, etc. had proven very effective at defending against cavalry from a fixed position, such as behind sharpened stakes, a ditch, a wagenburg, etc. they couldn't reliably go on the offensive against heavy cavalry on open ground without losing their cohesion and being countercharged. It wasn't until the swiss perfected their highly aggressive, pike-column tactics in the late 15th century that infantry became a very powerful offensive arm as well a defensive one.

Even then though it seems like heavy cavalry was perhaps actually experiencing a minor resurgance during the 15th century. Plate armor technology was beginning to peak and was becoming much cheaper allowing knights to be better protected and use lance rests more often, which in turn allowed even longer or heavier lances, at times sometimes long enough to still compete with infantry pikes. There was a brief period in the second half of the 1400s where gunpowder artillery trains became a thing and fortifications hadn't quite caught up yet leading to a dramatic increase in the frequency of pitched battles, where heavy cavalry are most useful. by the end of the century it was becoming pretty common for men-at-arms to put plate armor on their horses as well, increasing their ability to break into pike squares. At the Battle of marignano in 1515, the heavily armored French gendarmes repeatedly charged into swiss pikemen with even King Francis himself supposedly being struck by pikes around a dozen times on his armor. In the end the cavalry does seem to have come out ahead and some sources at the time did start interpreting the battle as proof that heavy cavalry were now back on top.

Unfortunately it was later discovered at battles like Pavia that weighing a horseman down with so much heavy, cumbersome armor just made him that much more vulnerable to improving artillery and firearms, but in a different reality it's interesting to think that we may have seen a different trajectory.
 
Apr 2018
281
USA
Apparently Commynes mentioned that at the battle of Fornovo the lances being used by the italian cavalry were longer and "well painted" but also "hollow and light" and thus "not worth much" compared to the lances being used by the French.

Interestingly this anonymous illustration of the battle also depicts the lances of the italian and French cavalry (bottom right) as very different looking:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/79/Albanian_Stradioti_at_Battle_of_Fornovo.jpg

I suspect that overall reach was perhaps more important for a lance being used against infantry, but that for a clash between armored cavalry weight and rigidity mattered much more.
 

deaf tuner

Ad Honoris
Oct 2013
14,533
Europix
Not that I know that much about lancers, but maybe a couple of things on wood itself might clarify things.

"Heavy" is extremely relative, and it can be even misleading.

1. heavy and stiff isn't an univoque /direct relation.

- Oak = Average Dried Weight: 675 kg/m3
- Ash = Average Dried Weight: 680 kg/m3

practically identical in mass. On the other hand:

- Oak =Elastic Modulus: 10.60 GPa
- Ash = Elastic Modulus: 12.31 GPa

meaning, for the same lance (practicaly the same weight), the oak one is 20% less elastic => "stiffer"


Meanwhile, there's the "breakable" aspect:

- Oak = Modulus of Rupture: 97.1 MPa
- Ash = Modulus of Rupture: 103.6 MPa

meaning, for the same lance, the oak will break easier.


Another example could be comparing Oak to Elm:

- Oak - Average Dried Weight: 675 kg/m3 - Modulus of Rupture: 97.1 MPa
- Elm - Average Dried Weight: 605 kg/m3 - Modulus of Rupture: 98.2 MPa

In this case too, tho some 10% heavier than elm, oak breaks easier.


2. there's also the geometrical aspect.

Two lances, of same weight, but a different ratio length/diameter, will have different break points and different elasticities.

Janus mentioned Winged Hussars "empty lances": a cylinder is more elastic than a tube (empty cylinder = Polish lances) for example.


3. Elasticity ("stiffness") was also mentioned. Actually, a more elastic lance is better than a stiffer one. As it's acting like a spring, there's a moment of accumulation of force, that is released afterwards. It's a bit like "catapulting" the opponent.

AFAIK, ash was the wood preferred for lances (it was, still is, very common for handles/shafts). I suppose because of its combination of specific mass, rupture resilience and elasticity.



Hope it helps.
 
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deaf tuner

Ad Honoris
Oct 2013
14,533
Europix
In reality though it's only the lance itself that can be mathematically treated as a near-rigid projectile, while everything else attached to it tends to be more like a series of squishy springs of wildly different rigidities
True.

Polish winged hussars had the rear of their lances fastened to the saddle with a leather strip. Which (correct me if I am wrong) increased the mass that can be considered as a near-rigid projectile.
 
Apr 2018
281
USA
True.

Polish winged hussars had the rear of their lances fastened to the saddle with a leather strip. Which (correct me if I am wrong) increased the mass that can be considered as a near-rigid projectile.
Yeah, that would be another option and it would depend on how sturdy the leather as well as well as the saddle it's attached to. Either case I think the issue you run into is that if you really did have 1000 lbs of momentum come to a sudden stop it would be likely seriously injure the horse or rider unless there is a little bit of give somewhere.
 

deaf tuner

Ad Honoris
Oct 2013
14,533
Europix
Yeah, that would be another option and it would depend on how sturdy the leather as well as well as the saddle it's attached to. Either case I think the issue you run into is that if you really did have 1000 lbs of momentum come to a sudden stop it would be likely seriously injure the horse or rider unless there is a little bit of give somewhere.

True.

IMHO, it exactly why the Polish lances had a particular design and they were breaking extremely easier than "classical" lances. (lance breaking should be the "little give somewhere")

They weren't exactly designed (nor used) as "classical" lances.

Actually, the leather strap wasn't there for the purpose of of increasing the mass. The role was to liberate hussar's right hand of the weight of the lance (as it was extremely long, the gravity point was far in front of the arm) and give the hussar the ability to easily aim the point of the lance (as the lance had a practically fixed/steady point in the rear).

Stories say that it wasn't uncommon that hussars impaled not one but two infantrymen in one trust.

___
Edit: I've forgotten to precise: the Polish lance was a light lance, not a heavy one and a very rigid one.
 
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Feb 2019
869
Pennsylvania, US
Perhaps I'm missing what you're saying but this is what makes the weight of the lance important. A 6 lb lance moving at 20 already has twice as much kinetic energy as a 3 lb lance moving at the same speed in addition to whatever energy the rider can add using the strength of his arm.

There is a fairly common misconception that a charging knight acts as a completely rigid system which, if true and the horse+rider weigh 1000 lb overall then no, it wouldn't make much of a difference whether the weight of the lance increased their total mass to 1003 lbs or 1006 lbs. In reality though it's only the lance itself that can be mathematically treated as a near-rigid projectile, while everything else attached to it tends to be more like a series of squishy springs of wildly different rigidities.
If you're unhorsed, I guess it really doesn't matter how heavy your lance is... how much kinetic energy it has or whether you classify it as a mathematical point mass... you can have a strong arm to add to the kinetic energy, as long as you have strong thighs to stay in the saddle and a strong back to take the impact. The Polish Hussar comment is interesting, but it also assumes that the horse is somehow not liable to injury - it sounds a bit like a terrible idea to use a squishy horse (even with a leather saddle on top) to drive home your lance... sound like a recipe for horse-on-a-stick. :lol: