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LIVERIED FRENCH RETAINER, 15th CENTURY

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



50.      LIVERIED FRENCH RETAINER, 15th CENTURY

Liveries and badges were far less common in France than they were in England, but they are nevertheless occasionally to be found in the sources. Some communal infantry, probably imitating Flemish practice, were wearing liveries from the very beginning of this period, such as those of Orleans in 1304 who wore black tunics with a badge (perhaps a porcupine?) back and front, and, later in the century, those of Tournai (red tunics with a silver castle back and front) and Paris (red and blue mi-parti: see figure 40). Other 14th century examples include the militiamen of Rouen, who wore red and tawny liveries in 1364, and the 200-strong retinue of the Comte de Nevers during the Nicopolis expedition of 1396, who wore liveries of ‘gay green’. Du Guesclin’s livery colour appears to have been blue.

Until the introduction of uniforms in Charles the Bold’s army (see note 110), liveries in the 15th century seem to have been largely restricted to bodyguard troops, of which archers provided a major part. For example, on Charles VII’s entry into Rouen in 1449 the Comte de Clermont had 40 archers in brigandines, leg-harness, silver-decorated sallets and ‘red aketons without crosses’, and in 1465 Commynes records 2 archers of the Duc de Brittany’s bodyguard, wearing his livery’, the figure actually depicted here is an archer from the Duc de Bourgogne’s bodyguard, from a 15th century illustration intended to represent troops of the time of Philip the Bold (d. 1404), wherein 8 such figures appear. The jacket is probably blue and white, with the characteristic Burgundian ‘flame’ pattern in gold. Badges continued to be worn by some 15th century communal troops as before (by francs-archers, for instance), sometimes taking the form of the name of their home-town or province embroidered on their quilted armour.

On the subject of archers, the ‘Traité du Costume Militaire’ of 1446 describes the equipment of French archers as ‘leg-armour, sallets, heavy jacks lined with linen, or brigandines, bow in hand and quiver at side’. This source, however, is probably speaking of the archers of the newly-formed ordinance companies.

[Based on Volume 2, Chroniques by Jean Froissart, copy from Bruges, Belgium, 4th quarter of the 15th century. f. 12r: The return of the Duke of Burgundy]



See Liveried French Retainers in Les Alarmes de Mars sur le voyage de Milan, Paris, 1507AD. Bibliothèque Nationale Ms fr. 5089, f. Dv: Louis XII
Next: 51. FRENCH INFANTRYMAN c.1450 in Armies of the Middle Ages, Volume 1 by Ian Heath