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

[Based on the Victory of the Sienese Troops at Val di Chiana in 1363 by Lippo Vanni also known as The Battle of Sinalunga] [Based on a trumpeter in Traittié de la forme et devis comme on fait les tournois, par Rene d'Anjou, Bruges, c.1488-1489, BnF MS. Français 2692]

60 & 61.      TRUMPETERS

Musicians were clearly not regarded as fighting men and during the 14th century (and frequently up to the mid-15th) they are depicted unarmoured and bareheaded even in battle scenes, carrying at most only a sword or a dagger or more often without any apparent weapons at all. Principal military musical instruments were trumpets of various types and sizes, horns, pipes (including bagpipes) and drums (usually tambours or tabours but frequently nakers); Chaucer's 'Knight's Tale' includes a reference to 'pypes, trompes, nakers and clariounes, that in the bataill blewe bloody sownes'. Similarly a description of the Battle of Halidon Hill refers to the English minstrels who 'beat their tabers, and blowen their trompes, and pipers pipedene lowd.'

Trumpets took pride of place, being used to transmit orders in camp and on the battlefield, both on land and sea, ordering men to arm, to mount, to break camp, to advance, to rally and so on, often in conjunction with flag signals (see note 130). They appear to have been largely brass, otherwise silver, and usually had banners or pennoncels hanging from them. The trumpet's two principal variants were the clarion, a somewhat smaller, shriller instrument, and the bouzin or buisine (from the Latin buccina).

Figure 60 is an Italian from the same source as 73 and 82. His trumpet is almost identical to those of trumpeters in Uccello's San Romano paintings, except that theirs have far bigger banners and the trumpeters themselves wear barbutes and plate armour under tabards like that of 58. Interestingly they also have small drums like that of figure 82 slung at the right hip, whereas the fresco from which this figure comes shows a mounted kettle-drummer with 2 large nakers, one slung from either side of the saddle, accompanied by 2 trumpeters.

Figure 61 is from the 'Traité de la Formes et Devis d'un Tournois' of 1447, written by René d'Anjou, King of Naples 1435-42. He wears a sallet and, under a beige leather-lined slashed tunic, a mail haubergeon under breast and back plates. Undershirt is red, hose green, boots black, and saddle and harness red-brown with iron arçons. The banner on his trumpet shows the arms of the Sieur de la Gruthuyse, a Low Countries family whose name recurs frequently in chronicles of the Hundred Years' War: quarterly, 1 & 4 or, a cross sable, 2 & 3 gules, a saltire argent. Judging from other sources trumpets of this size were generally slung diagonally across the back by a strap when not in use.

All military musicians appear to be called 'minstrels' in contemporary sources even where they are drummers or trumpeters (for example, the 15 minstrels in Henry V's entourage in 1415 included 3 with the surname Trumper and 3 with the surname Pyper). As some indication of the importance of such minstrels it is worth noting that during the Crécy campaign those of Edward III earnt 12d a day, the same pay as an esquire.

Next: 62. HERALD in Armies of the Middle Ages, Volume 1 by Ian Heath