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An extract from Armies of the Middle Ages, Volume 1
by Ian Heath


As early as 1368 Charles V had made it compulsory for all commoners to practise archery, but the ordinance was soon revoked because they had allegedly become too expert with their weapons and thus presented a threat to the king and nobility. It was not until 1448 that enforced adoption of the longbow on a national scale was again attempted, this time by the foundation of the francs-archers (see page 22). Francs-archers were present both at Formigny and Castillon, contributing significantly to the French victory on the latter occasion. They fought and marched to battle on foot.

Their equipment comprised a brigandine or jacque (sometimes in uniform colours), mail haubergeon, sallet, sword, dagger, quiver and bow or crossbow (there being francs-arbalÍtiers too, even though the term francs-archers prevailed). An ordinance of 1450 describes the jacque as a corselet made up of 29 or so layers of old linen or canvas with an outer layer of deer hide. This type of armour was described as a jack or quilted jack in England. It could be lined with small metal plates held together by cords usually visible on the surface, forming patterns of squares and triangles. An inventory of Sir John Fastolf's effects in 1459 included 6 jacks stuffed with horn' and one of black linen cloth stuffed with mail', jacks of 16th century date to be seen in the Tower of London weigh about 17lbs and are each comprised of over 1,100 plates. That this form of armour could provide a quite substantial defence is attested by some of Wat Tyler's rebels who in 1381 found that they were unable to damage one owned by the Duke of Lancaster by shooting arrows at it, and eventually had to resort to swords and axes to hack it to pieces.

Next: 50. LIVERIED FRENCH RETAINER, 15th CENTURY in Armies of the Middle Ages, Volume 1 by Ian Heath