Window on the Past: Sir Percival Pelham and the Battle of Agincourt 135
Knighthood and Chivalry 141
The Hundred Years' War 145
Trade and Town 149
Women in the Late Middle Ages 156
The Church in the Late Middle Ages 158
Social Upheaval 161 PAGE 132
PATHWAYS: CIVILIZATIONS THROUGH TIME
UNIT 2 MEDIEVAL PERSPECTIVES, 1100-1400
Over time, civilizations evolve. Although civilizations do not evolve in the same way, they all grow, flourish, and decline. Most civilizations go through the cycle of growth and decline at different times.
In Unit 2, we investigate a remarkable exception to this rule. About a thousand years ago, two civilizations, Europe and Japan, went through a similar period at about the same time. Japan and Europe had virtually no contact during this period. Nonetheless, both societies functioned as feudal societies. The land was controlled by the nobles while the vast majority of people toiled as peasants on the land. In both societies, a system of military loyalty, honour, and obligation kept the land--and power--in the hands of the few. The most powerful nobles, barons in Europe and shoguns in Japan, maintained their power by means of castles and warriors. In Europe these warriors were called "knights" while in Japan they were called "samurai." In both societies, a few people enjoyed the finer things in life while everyone else enjoyed few rights and lived short, difficult lives. Unlike modern Canadians, people did not have the opportunity to improve themselves or their social position.
Despite the many similarities between feudal Japan and feudal Europe, the two societies were distinct. Individual societies always find unique solutions to the common problems of life. The similarity in the basic structure of European and Japanese feudal society, however, is quite noticeable. As you read the next two chapters, speculate about why the similarities existed. Photograph: Chartres Cathedral, one of the most beautiful of the Gothic cathedrals. During feudal times, religion and the Church became overwhelming influences in the daily lives of ordinary people. Just as European pilgrims visited distant holy sites as a way of expressing their religious feelings, so did the Japanese make long journeys to visit Shinto shrines.
Illustration: European feudal knights in the heat of battle. During the late Middle Ages, the armed warrior became the most powerful member of society. The same can be said of the samurai warriors in feudal Japan. Illustration: Two noblewomen of the Japanese court play Go. As in feudal Europe, Japanese women of high rank had the opportunity to dress well, pursue an education, listen to and play music, and embroider, paint, or write. Neither European women nor Japanese women had any political power.
5 EUROPE's LATE MIDDLE AGES CHAPTER OUTCOMES
In this chapter you will learn about the forces that ended feudalism in the mid-fifteenth century and set the scene for the Renaissance in western Europe. By the end of this chapter you will
· explain how the technologies of war changed a society
· identify ways that the growth of trade changed feudal society
· examine the beginnings of craft and merchant guilds in western Europe
· investigate the role of women during this period
· make a graph showing how the Black Death affected the population of Europe
· compare different maps
WINDOW ON THE PAST
Sir Percival Pelham and the Battle of Agincourt
Although the story that follows is fictional, it tells the tale of a real battle that happened on October 25, 1415. In a field between the villages of Agincourt and Tramecourt in Normandy (part of France), a knight and his squire are poised to make history in the Battle of Agincourt.
Many accounts of this battle have been written by people who witnessed the events of the day. Through these first-hand, or primary, sources, we know that many young men like Sir Percival and his squire, Ralph, fought in the battle. We also have some idea of what they were thinking about--their hopes and fears.
As you read this story, try to imagine what the people who were there that day experienced. Illustration: The English army waits for the French attack. Sir Percival, a young knight, gazed across the field towards the ranks of French knights who filled the field between the little villages of Agincourt and Tramecourt. He was amazed by the size of the French army: it looked about four times larger than the force commanded by Percival's liege lord, King Henry Very of England.
The French seemed in good spirits. In their roomy tents they had not suffered much from the rain the night before, and they had eaten well at breakfast. In contrast, most of the English soldiers had slept in the open, and they'd had nothing but a handful of dried wheat to eat. It was all they could find. Percival's stomach growled as he gazed at the French troops.
Just after dawn, the French had noisily assembled into battle formation. Several fights had broken out before the battle order was finally settled; everyone wanted to be in the front where they could capture English nobles for ransom.
This confident, terrifying army awed the English knights, squires, and archers waiting almost a kilometre away. Never before had any of them seen
such a large group of the French chivalry. Every knight wore a brightly coloured jupon and polished armour; every squire carried a banner with heraldic symbols that identified the lineage and accomplishments of his lord. When the armies formed up at dawn, the English had braced themselves for an overwhelming attack by the French cavalry.
Yet now, after three cold, miserable hours, the French army still showed no signs of moving.
"Percival!" An older man in full-plate armour clanked towards the young knight, his breath steaming.
"Yes, my lord Gloucester." Percival nodded his head slightly to acknowledge his uncle's rank.
"The King thinks that the French want to sit back and starve us into surrender. Be ready to move. We may have to draw them into battle."
The English army numbered about six thousand, only a thousand of whom were knights. Most of the rest were archers, ordinary people from the villages of England and Wales. Beside each archer was a sharpened pole driven into the ground with the point set at the height of a horse's chest. The archers had battle-axes and hatchets to protect themselves in the heat of battle, but little armour. Now they all stood silently, waiting for the king's command.
King Henry dismounted and strode to the front to face his army. He was dressed in bright armour with a gold crown on his helmet. The English king's red and blue jupon, which hung across his breast, showed both the fleur-de-lis of France, which Henry claimed to rule, and the leopards of England. After a brief pause, the king raised his arm and called out to his waiting soldiers. "In the name of Almighty God and Saint George, forward banner!" Illustration: With an energetic battle cry, King Henry leads his troops into battle. At the king's command, priests quickly blessed the troops. Every soldier in the army knelt, drew a cross on the ground, and kissed the earth. Some put dirt into their mouths to show that they had just been blessed and could now accept death. With that, the archers rose and cheered. They pulled their sharpened wooden stakes from the ground and began to march forward. The armoured knights, leaving their horses behind, followed noisily. They tried to stay together in defensive formation behind the archers. Their heavy armour dragged them down, forcing them to pause every few hundred metres to catch their breath.
The English army was now only three hundred paces from the enemy. Most of the French had dismounted and had cut short their lances.
Percival took his place in the centre battle (group of knights) near the king. As he struggled through the mud, he saw the archers preparing for the French attack. Some peeled off their wet shirts. Others adjusted tunics of chain mail or hardened leather. An archer whom Percival knew as the manor blacksmith winked at Percival while he checked his boiled leather cap.
Percival's mouth was dry and he began to sweat. He turned to look at the French line again. The French knights, thousands of them, still hesitated to attack. In frustration, King Henry ordered his archers to shoot into the first battle. With a great shout, five thousand archers drew their bows and loosed their shafts. With a tremendous crash, a shower of metre-long arrows smashed into the front ranks of the French army, killing and wounding many. Without waiting, the English archers drew a second time and
fired. This time the French knights turned their armoured backs to the arrows. Illustration: A shower of arrows rains down on the French knights before they can engage in hand-to-hand combat. Angrily, the French commanders ordered their first battle to attack. A small band began to play on flutes and drums. The clash and clatter of the armour of thousands of warriors, the sound of their excited voices, and the low metallic roar of their spectacular approach terrified Percival.
Detachments of French cavalry were the first to reach the English line, trying to ride down the archers on the flanks. The mounted French knights did not see the sharpened stakes driven into the ground until it was too late to stop. Many of the horses rode right into them, piercing themselves and throwing their riders to the ground. Using their axes and hatchets, the nimble archers made quick work of the helpless, armour-clad knights.
The French knights on foot faced a storm of arrows so fierce that many knights lowered their armoured heads to protect their faces. Through the mud they came, bent forward as if fighting a gale. Volley after volley of arrows strummed across the field and smashed into the armoured ranks. The English fire was so accurate that many knights were struck through the visor and killed instantly. Once down in their heavy armour, the wounded struggled in the mud, unable to rise. Many were crushed under the weight of fallen comrades.
The French knights, still in their thousands, huddled together and passed through the arrow storm. Before he knew what was happening, Sir Percival was knocked to the ground by a tall French knight wielding a mace. Percival's squire, Ralph, rushed to help his lord, driving a long knife into the unprotected spot under the French knight's arm. He then yanked Percival to his feet. Nearby, King Henry had dismounted and was fighting on foot. With his gold crown and royal banner, the young king was a tempting target for the French. If they could kill or capture him, the victory would be theirs.
The fighting was fierce, but the first French battle was losing. So many French knights were pushing and shoving to get to the front that those already there couldn't swing their weapons or keep their balance. In the confusion, the Duc d'Alençon led the second French battle forward, pushing through the disoriented knights of the first. D'Alençon spied
the king fighting beneath his royal banner. Calling loudly on Saint Denis, d'Alençon and his comrades rushed towards Henry, climbing over the heaps of dead knights to reach their prey.
Percival's uncle Gloucester threw himself between d'Alençon and Henry, but the powerful duke pushed him aside and, with a crunching blow from his battle-
axe, knocked the old man to the ground. With a shout, Percival and Ralph rushed at the king's attackers.
Percival struck down one attacker with his sword. King Henry was dodging wild swings of d'Alençon's battle-axe. With a mighty effort, d'Alençon threw himself forward, aiming a blow at the king's head. Quickly, Henry dodged to one side. D'Alençon slipped in the mud and fell heavily to the ground, his axe clipping a piece from Henry's crown. As d'Alençon floundered in the mud, Percival disarmed him and then rushed to the king's side. Illustration: Duc d'Alençon swings his battle-axe at King Henry's head as Percival rushes to help his liege lord. "Are you well, your Majesty?" he asked anxiously.
"Aye, well enough. Look, the French have retreated for the moment but there are more waiting to attack. Send messengers to my commanders. I want the prisoners gathered together behind the line."
Percival sent Ralph off with the message and then rejoined the line. The battlefield was a ghastly sight. The English soldiers had taken care to spare the lives of the French nobles who were worth large ransoms, but they had slaughtered the rest of the French on the spot.
The third French battle waited, horrified by the sight of thousands of dead comrades. The commanders talked among themselves, and arguments broke out. Some French knights drew their swords, threatening their own lords. Suddenly, it was all over. A few of the French returned to their horses, mounted, and rode off. Soon others followed. Within a few minutes, the French third battle had gone, leaving the field to the English. Six thousand had defeated twenty-five thousand. Percival and the others, hardly believing their eyes, stood quietly for a few moments, resting on their swords. Some cheered a little; a few laughed as the tension eased.
Percival heard his name
called. He looked around and saw his uncle Gloucester, head bandaged, motioning him and Ralph to join the king at his standard. When Percival arrived, Henry grasped him by the forearm, and clapped him on the back.
"Lord Percival!" he exclaimed, giving the young knight a new title. "I will require that you do homage to me for your new estates in Gloucestershire once we are safely in Calais. You have my thanks. Do you accept your reward?"
Flushed with pride, Percival nodded. "Aye, Sire, I will always serve Your Majesty as a true and Christian knight." In an exultant voice, King Henry spoke to the army. "Today, we give thanks for a great victory at Agincourt. Tonight, we rest. Tomorrow, on to Calais! God bless you all." With that, the whole army knelt to give thanks. Illustration: Sir Percival kneels with his squire and the whole English army to give thanks for the day's victory. liege lord: the lord to whom a person owes loyalty
ransom: money demanded in exchange for a prisoner
squire: a knight's assistant; a knight in training
archer: a person who shoots a bow. By law, all adult males in English villages had
to practise archery.
chivalry: knights and nobles
jupon: a long shirt worn over armour
heraldic symbol: a symbol that represents a family line; a coat of arms
cavalry: soldiers on horseback
full-plate armour: overlapping plates of steel that covered knights from head to toe
fleur de lis: representation of a flower called the iris; the symbol of France
leopards of England: three crouching lions, the heraldic symbol of England
Saint George: the patron saint of England pace: the length of a stride, about a metre battle: a military action; a group of knights
to loose a shaft: to shoot an arrow
mace: a war club
Saint Denis: the patron saint of France
to do homage: to swear loyalty ACTIVITIES
1. During the Middle Ages, people learned news by word of mouth. Many found it easy to remember details of the events of the day by turning them into rhyming poems. When sung, these were known as ballads. Choose one of the characters in the story and write a
poem about the battle from his point of view. Alternatively, draw a series of pictures to show what happened to that character in the battle. Or imagine you are the mother, father, sister, brother, or wife of one of the slain soldiers and write a poem that describes the events of your loved one's death. Compare your poem or pictures with those of someone who took a different point of view.
2. Pretend you are a French military advisor. What advice would you give your king after the battle? Draw up a list of mistakes the French made and your recommendations to help avoid similar disasters. Remember to be diplomatic. You are speaking to a king who will be furious about the defeat he has just suffered.
3. Draw a series of maps showing the stages in the Battle of Agincourt, or create a scale model of the battlefield. Your maps or model should clearly show the positions of the French and English forces at the time of the battle. Show the location of Henry Very, Duc d'Alençon, archers, knights, and their numbers.
1066 The Battle of Hastings
1097 The First Crusade begins
1327 The Hundred Years' War begins
1347 The Black Death strikes Europe
1358 The Jacquerie in France
1381 The Peasants' Revolt in England
1400 Geoffrey Chaucer completes the Canterbury Tales
1415 The Battle of Agincourt
1429 Joan of Arc begins her campaign against the English
The said French were so loaded with armour that they could not support themselves or move forward. In the first place they were armed with long coats of steel, reaching to the knees or lower, and very heavy .... The softness of the wet ground kept them as if immovable, so that they could raise their clubs only with difficulty .... The plain was so narrow that there was no room except for the men-at-arms. immovable: unable to move The said archers were for the most part in their doublets, without armour, their stockings rolled up to their knees, and having hatchets and battle-axes or great swords hanging at their girdles; some were bare-footed and bare-headed, others had caps of boiled leather. doublet: vest
--JEHAN DE WAVRIN Jehan de Wavrin, a French knight who fought in the battle of Agincourt, describes the difference in the clothing of the French knights and the English archers. What advantage did the light dress of the archers give them over the heavily armoured French? What was the difference in social class between the two groups? What do you think the triumph of the archers over the knights might mean for the feudal system?
The Middle Ages of Europe seems a romantic period, very different from the world we live in today. We dream of a time when knights and ladies lived in castles and attended colourful tournaments. To some extent, the Middle Ages were as we imagine them. A great many knights lived in castles all over Europe. There were more than 10,000 castles in Germany alone, and many thousands more throughout Europe.
Yet only about 10 percent of the people belonged to the knightly, or noble, class; far more were serfs, many of whom lived in dreadful conditions. Only in the late Middle Ages did some serfs escape the life into which they were born. Their opportunities came with the beginnings of trade.
The late Middle Ages was a time of great change and upheaval, a time when a series of terrible events shook the foundations of Western society. In religion, the unity of the Catholic Church was rocked by the appearance of new