Military history

The Plates

A: German knight (minnesanger), early 14th century

This figure is taken from the famous Manesse Codex at Heidelberg, compiled at the beginning of the 14th century. The minnesanger was the approximate equivalent of the French troubadour and usually came from the lower nobility. In this example he and his horse are decked in the full panoply of a medieval knight: horse trapper, surcoat, crest, lance banner, and shield bearinghis coat of arms. It was normal practice for the surcoat, crest and trapper to be either in the colours of the arms or to bear the charges shown on those arms, but, as may be seen from this illustration, this was by no means a hard and fast rule. The symbol on the surcoat is believed to be a stylized letter ‘A’, for Amor, and in the original manuscript this minnesanger is shown receiving his helm from the lady he is wooing.


See body of text for identifications; note details: (103) Gold hair and chevron, red gown and mantling. (104) White fish with red gills. (106) Gold fleur-de-lys and crown, blue mantling. (107) Gold fleur-de-lys, blue mantling edged red, upper wreath blue and yellow, lower wreath red and white. (109) White eagle, yellow beak, red tongue, wreath of black and white.

B1: Ulrich von Lichenstein, died 1275

As in the preceding plate, this figure is taken from the Manesse Codex. Ulrich von Lichenstein was a Styrian poet who died circa 1275, but the armour and crest he wears are typical of those worn by the lesser German knights in the first half of the 14th century. His surcoat is unrelated to his arms, but does bear his coat of arms on a shield. His horse trapper was of the same green material and bore three shields with his arms on each side of the front and rear halves.

Both this and the figure in Plate A are dressed as if for the tourney, and von Lichenstein is in fact armed with a tourney lance with three-pointed (coronel) head.

B2: Bohemian knight, second half of 14th century

By this date the close-fitting jupon had replaced the surcoat. Unlike the surcoat, the jupon rarely bore the wearer’s arms (except in England) and in this example the knight is portrayed with only a shield bearing arms (of the Holy Roman Empire) and holding a lance with a pennon bearing the Hungarian colours. The figure is based on an illustration in a Bohemian chess book of 1350—1400.

B3: Count Frederick von Cilli, 1415

Based on a contemporary illustration which shows the count outside the walls of Coutances on 20 March 1415, waiting to joust with Duke Frederick of Austria. His jousting shield bears the arms of the von Cilli family and the crest is the one used by all members of that family. His trapper was of the same colour as his helmet mantling, and each half bore on each side a shield displaying his arms.

C1: Mathieu de Montmorency, 1360

This illustration of the Chevalier Mathieu de Montmorency is based on the effigy on his tomb at Tavergny in France. There is no heraldry on the jupon and he would have been identified in battle solely by his shield and lance pennon. No helmet is shown on the tomb effigy, but it would probably have been of the general type shown on Plate D3. Note the difference of a three-pointed label over the arms, indicating this particular warrior was a cadet of the great Montmorency family.

C2: Bertrand du Guesclin, died 1380

One of France’s greatest military leaders during the Hundred Years War, du Guesclin was made Constable of France in October 1370, thus placing even the royal princes under his command. In the contemporary print upon which this illustration is based, du Guesclin carries a shield bearing a lion and with the arms of France (modern) in chief, but we have shown his personal arms. It is worth pointing out that his arms are not repeated on his jupon, nor does he wear an elaborate crest. (His tourney crest is shown inFig 109.) Like the figures shown in B2 and C1, du Guesclin is dressed for battle: it was only at the tournament that elaborate jupons, crests and trappers were used.

C3: Jean de Créquy, circa 1440

Jean, Seigneur de Créquy, was ambassador to Spain and France for the Duke of Burgundy and is shown here dressed for the tourney with elaborate crest and tabard. The charge on his arms is a stylized wild cherry tree, in French créquier, and his arms are therefore of the type known as canting arms. Jean de Créquy was a knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece (instituted in 1429 by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy) and this illustration is based on an original in the 15th-century Armorial of the Knights of the Golden Fleece. His father Jacques de Créquy was taken prisoner and put to death at the battle of Agincourt.

D1: John Plantagenet, Earl of Cornwall, 1316–36

John Plantagenet bears the arms of England differenced with a bordure of France—a combination of the arms of his father, Edward II, and mother, Queen Isabel of France. He was created Earl of Cornwall in 1328, was regent for Edward III while that king was in France (1329–31) and commanded the English army in Scotland. His arms are repeated on his cyclas. This figure is based on the effigy in Westminster Abbey.


A horse armour made for Otto Heinrich, Count Palatine of the Rhine, between 1532–36. The arms of the Palatinate and Bavaria appear on the rear half of the bard and are repeated on a small shield on the front of the chanfron. The lion appears again at the side of the head, while the tinctures of the arms of the Palatinate are employed on the border of the bard.

D2: Sir Oliver D’Ingham, died 1344

Sir Oliver had a distinguished career in the reigns of Edward II and Edward III, and was Seneschal of Aquitaine in 1325–26 and 1333–43. He gained a decisive victory over the French at Bordeaux in 1340. The early arms of the Ingham family appear to have had a white field and the party field shown here was probably derived from the arms of Bigod, Earls of Norfolk, where the Ingham lands lay. The illustration is based on the effigy in Ingham Church, though the arms on the cyclas are after Stothard (1811). The helmet with crest at the head of the monument is now mutilated beyond recognition, but John Weever, writing in 1613, stated that the crest was an owl on a thorn bush.

D3: Sir Hugh Calveley, died 1393

Sir Hugh was one of the most famous captains of the free companies in the Hundred Years War. He served in Spain with Henry of Trastamare in 1366, and later joined the army of the Black Prince. He was appointed deputy of Calais in 1377, and in 1380 took part in the unsuccessful expedition to France led by the Duke of Gloucester. He was governor of the Channel Isles, 1376–88.

He is shown in a jupon bearing his canting arms and wearing his tourney helm with crest of a calf’s head. The arms are an early example in English heraldry of the use of two differently coloured charges on one field. This illustration is based on the effigy in Bunbury Church, Cheshire.

E1: Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, 1345–1401

Thomas Beauchamp was a warrior and military governor throughout the reign of Edward III, but in the following reign he joined various plots against the king and was imprisoned in the Tower. He was released and had his honours restored on the accession of Henry IV. His jupon bears the arms of the Beauchamps, while the plates at his elbows, on the sword-belt and scabbard are decorated with the ragged staff badge of Warwick. Other branches of the family used the same colours but replaced the crosses crosslet with different charges. The figure is based on the brass at St Mary’s Church, Warwick.

E2: Sir John Say, 1420–78

Sir John was probably a son of John Say of Podington in Bedfordshire, and possibly a kinsman of Lord Sayc and Sele. Although brought up a Lancastrian, he became a Yorkist in 1460 and on his tomb brass wears round his neck a Yorkist collar of alternate suns and roses. He was a prominent figure in Parliament and was knighted in 1465. His tabard bears his arms, which are repeated on each sleeve. The figure is based on a brass made during his lifetime (in 1473) and which is in Broxbourne Church, Hertfordshire.

E3: Sir Edmund de Thorpe, died 1418 (?)

Sir Edmund was a prominent soldier in the wars of Henry V, and is believed to have been killed at the siege of Louviers in 1418. His jupon bears the arms of Thorpe (Azure, three crescents argent) quartered with those of his mother, daughter and heiress of Robert Baynard (Sable, a fess between two chevrons or). He is shown wearing his tourney helmet with crest, this and other information shown here being taken from his effigy in Ashwellthorpe Church, Norfolk.

F1: Robert de Mamines, died 1431

Robert de Mamines was a leading Flemish soldier who followed Jean ‘Sans Peur’, father of Philip III. He was killed at Liège in 1431. He appears here attired for the tourney, in blazoned tabard and highly decorative crested helmet, as illustrated in the Armorial of the Knights of the Golden Fleece. He was created a knight of this Order in 1430 at the siege of Melun.

F2: Jacopo dei Cavalli, died 1384

Based on an effigy in SS Giovanni e Paolo, Venice, this is another example of canting arms. Note the knight’s arms do not appear on his jupon.

F3: Lord of Gruthnyse, first half of 15th century

This Flemish knight is thus portrayed in the famous 15th-century Livre des Tournois. The same manuscript shows this lord’s herald, wearing a tabard bearing his lord’s arms, and his trumpeter, whose trumpet has a banner bearing the same arms. The family name is also spelt Groothuys and Gruthuse in contemporary sources, and in the Armorial of the Knights of the Golden Fleece (compiled between 1430 and 1440) is listed a Monsieur de Grutusse, who bears these same arms but with the quarters reversed. A Gruthuse served in the army of the Duke of Burgundy in 1417.

G1: English herald, first half of 16th century

This figure is taken from a parade of English officers of arms, illustrated in a tourney book of the time of Henry VIII. The pursuivants had a similar tabard but wore it askew, that is with the short arm panels over chest and back, and the longer panels over their arms.

G2: Spanish herald, circa 1420

The Sicily herald illustrated here served the king of Aragon, to whom Sicily then belonged, around 1420. He wears the arms of Sicily and Aragon. This particular herald, Jean Courteois, was responsible for the most authoritative written record of the rights and duties of a herald.


A German sallet for a light horseman, circa 1490, painted with heraldic charges. In the early days of heraldry ‘crests’ were often painted on helmets before the true crest developed: this example suggests ‘crests’ for the lower nobility may have come full circle by the late 15th century.

G3: Brandenburg pursuivant, 15th century

German pursuivants wore their tabards in the same fashion as the heralds. The one illustrated here was pursuivant of the Elector Frederick II of Brandenburg (1413–71). His official title was Burggraf’, because his master, as a Hohenzollern, was also theburgrave of Nuremburg.

H: Jean de Dillon, died 1481 or 1482

Jean de Dillon was the king of France’s representative in Arras, and this portrait of him is based on a mille-fleur tapestry made there, probably in 1477. Note that by this late date the knight does not wear any heraldic devices on his person and, as shields were no longer carried in battle, he could only be identified by his lance pennon or banner. Thus from circa 1450 at the latest the flag became the sole means of identifying individual lords on the field of battle, and the military rôle of heraldry had come to an end, to be superseded by the age of the military flag, at leas: until the reintroduction of heraldic symbols in the form of formation signs in the First World War.


(110) Lord Willoughby D’Eresby. (111) John D’Aubynge. (112) 14th-century German knight named Chur: red jester’s cap with gold edge and white balls. (113) 14-century German knight named Hevtler: red edging to mantling, red beak and embattled upper half to spinal crest. (114) Sir Ralph Basset, Knight of the Garter 1368–90: gold tusks and coronet. (115) de Montacute, Earls of Salisbury, 1337–44, 1337–1400: gold griffin and coronet. (116) Humphrey, Earl of Stafford, Knight of the Garter, 1429: white swan, red beak, gold coronet. (117) The Burgrave of Nuremburg: the mantling was probably black. (118) 14th-century knight from Basle named Schaler: white lozengy on red. (119) Nicholas de Borssele, 15th-century French knight. (120) Charles, Comte de Valois, circa 1295. (121) 14th-century German knight named Bretsla: green peacock’s feathers with red eyes on yellow, yellow background to eagle, white crescent, red mantling edged yellow.

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