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Warfare in Medieval Brabant, 1356-1406

Warfare in Medieval Brabant, 1356-1406

Sergio Boffa
Volume: 17
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Warfare in Medieval Brabant, 1356-1406
    Book Description:

    The medieval duchy of Brabant was one of the most powerful principalities of the Low Countries. During the second half of the fourteenth century, it underwent a particularly dramatic period in its history: the House of Leuven was on the point of disappearance, the duchy was coveted by Philip the Bold of Burgundy, who was already dreaming of extending the "Burgundian Empire" and, by a network of alliances, Brabant was drawn into the Hundred Years' War. The author reviews the successive conflicts which troubled the duchy between 1356 and 1406; the different authorities which influenced the course of military operations (the duchess and the duke, their officers, and the Estates of Brabant); describes the combatants, in particular the nobility and the urban militias; considers the practical aspects of warfare; and analyses the military obligations and contracts which bound the men at arms to the duke. SERGIO BOFFA is currently researching in the department of Maps and Plans, Bibliotheque Royale de Belgique, Brussels.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-173-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. List of illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. General Editor’s Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Matthew Bennett
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Sergio Boffa
  6. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  8. [Maps]
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  9. Part One: The Events

    • 1 Military History of the Duchy during the Reigns of Wenceslas of Luxemburg and of Joan (1356–1383)
      (pp. 3-28)

      The succession to John III (December 1355) was a key moment in the history of the duchy, conditioning its course throughout the second half of the fourteenth century.¹ In 1347, the eldest daughter of John III, Joan of Brabant, was promised in marriage to Wenceslas, count of Luxemburg. Their marriage was celebrated a few years later.² At that time, nobody expected Joan to succeed her father. Two of the three sons of John III were still alive at the time of the betrothal, and one at the time of the marriage. Their deaths, first of Henry (d.1349) and then of...

    • 2 Military History of the Duchy during the Reign of Joan (1383–1406)
      (pp. 29-44)

      The last Landfriede in the region dated from 9 April 1383 and assembled the dukes of Brabant, Jülich and Guelders, the archbishop of Cologne and the towns of Cologne and Aachen.¹ It may have met at the instigation of Wenceslas (II) of Bohemia.² In 1385, John, lord of Reifferscheid, Renaud of Reifferscheid, lord of Bedburg, and their men disturbed the peace and the commerce. Among other misdeeds, they attacked the subjects of the duke of Luxemburg. They thus attracted the ire of the Landfriede. An imposing army was raised and placed under the command of Pothe of Chiastolowitz, seneschal of...

    • 3 Assessment of Half a Century of War
      (pp. 45-50)

      The reign of Joan covers half a century. This period was troubled by a series of major conflicts and various military operations of lesser importance. If we include only the most important conflicts, twenty years of Joan’s reign were disturbed by war. If we also count the minor operations, a state of war existed for more then two-thirds of the period. Wenceslas (1356–83), as duke of Brabant and Limburg, as duke of Luxemburg, or in a private capacity, took part in a military expedition almost every year. During Joan’s reign as a widow (1384–1406), the situation was scarcely...

    • 4 Art of War, Strategy and Tactics
      (pp. 51-74)

      The military system of a State is accounted for by various factors – the organisation of its society, the nature of its economy, the available resources, the structure of government, its administration, its technological level and so on. The way in which the State undertakes and conducts a war follows from the same factors. For this reason, the progress of military operations obeys logic and rules proper to the time. The task of the historian is to understand these broad principles so as to be able to interpret events without falling into the grave but all too easy sin of anachronism....

  10. Part Two: The Powers

    • 5 The Duke, the Duchess and their Entourage
      (pp. 77-93)

      Uyttebrouck has clearly shown that the duchy of Brabant was:

      A group of territories of diverse origin, conglomerated in the course of time, subject to a person who was called, in the usage, the duke of Brabant.¹

      Therefore, we can define the duchy only by the governing prince and not on the basis of its constituent territories. I entirely share this view, which makes the duke the central character. In the later Middle Ages, there is no doubt that powerful lords such as the count of Flanders, the duke of Brabant or the bishop of Liège exercised full sovereignty over...

    • 6 The Chain of Command
      (pp. 94-112)

      Medieval institutions were complex and very different from those of modern times. We must make a clear distinction between hereditary officers and appointees. At the end of the fourteenth century, there were many hereditary high officials in Brabant: the Seneschal, the Marshal, the Chamberlain, the Butler, the Standard-Bearer and the Castellans of Brussels, Jodoigne and Antwerp.¹ All these positions were held in fief by important families from the Brabançon nobility. Ganshof has clearly shown that most of these offices are more ancient and were originally occupied by families of ministeriales who did not rise to the nobility until later.² The...

    • 7 The Three Estates of Brabant
      (pp. 113-120)

      By the second half of the fourteenth century, the pays of Brabant¹ had managed to obtain a certain degree of control over the exercise of power by the duke and his entourage.² The most striking evidence of this political rise is the oath of the Joyeuse Entrée, which Joan and Wenceslas were obliged to swear to on their accession to power. Nonetheless, in order for this document to have any significance, it was necessary that someone or some organisation should ensure its application. This institution would be known at the start of the fifteenth century under the names of the...

  11. Part Three: The Combatants

    • 8 Nobility and Chivalry in Brabant
      (pp. 123-132)

      Medieval society is often described in terms of a threefold division; we have those that pray, those that fight and those that labour. The Estates were organised in a very similar fashion, as there we find the clergy, the nobility and the towns. At the risk of caricature, we can use this same division to describe military matters. Here we encounter professional combatants (the nobility and the knights), occasional combatants (the urban militias) and non-combatants (churchmen and others). In this part, I intend to review these different categories as well as certain unclassified characters such as mercenaries and specialists. It...

    • 9 The Urban Militias
      (pp. 133-151)

      In the second half of the fourteenth century, the towns of Brabant were numerous, and a large part of the population of the duchy lived in them. Before 1300, van Uytven counts 21 localities that could be considered as towns,¹ without taking account of the numerous places possessing a charter of liberty.² Shortly before the death of John III, in 1355, so as to ease the succession of Joan, the towns took the initiative in forming an alliance. In it, we find 44 towns and franchises of the duchies of Brabant and Limburg as well as the lands of Outre-Meuse.³...

    • 10 Mercenaries, Specialists and Non-combatants
      (pp. 152-170)

      It is important to define what a mercenary is in the fourteenth century. Many foreign lords served the duke during the war of the succession of Brabant or the chevauchée of Jülich. Must they be counted as mercenaries? Certain authors say yes, but I do not agree. I think that it is important to distinguish the man-at-arms who served because of a fief-rente or an indenture from the simple mercenary. Garlan, although he was referring to the ancient world, proposes a simple and excellent definition:

      The mercenary is a professional soldier whose conduct is dictated above all not by his...

  12. Part Four: The Organisation

    • 11 General Organisation of the Army
      (pp. 173-200)

      Although defeat was often synonymous with financial catastrophe, victory usually allowed a ruler to recover his expenses. Unfortunately this was not always the case. In 1329, while John III had indeed succeeded in subduing Renaud, lord of Fauquemont, rumour had it that the long siege of the robber baron’s fortress had cost the duke the equivalent of four times the value of the seigniory.¹ I have deliberately glossed over the financial aspects of warfare. The subject is worthy of a detailed treatment, which cannot be undertaken within the scope of this work. It seems useful, even so, to describe briefly...

    • 12 Military Obligations and Contracts
      (pp. 201-228)

      When a ruler decided to muster his army, three different types of troops were distinguished by their mode of recruitment. These were the vassals and all those bound to feudal service; those persons obliged to take up arms in the case of a general levy or obligatory service; and volunteers, foreign or domestic, engaged by contract. Therefore, these armies were very varied in both their mode of recruitment and in the geographical and social origins of those who served in them. To understand better the variation, we must consider in turn the forms of military service and the different types...

  13. General Conclusions
    (pp. 229-234)

    Warfare was, in one way or another, a part of daily life in Brabant in the later fourteenth century. Fortunately for the inhabitants of the duchy, conflicts were often of limited scope in both space and time and their repercussions were mostly of a political and economic nature. This is easily explained. The duchy of Brabant was a far smaller geographical entity than the neighbouring kingdoms. It was therefore far easier for its ruler to establish and maintain his authority. From the thirteenth century onwards the dukes, unlike the kings of France, for example, did not have to undertake long...

  14. Glossary
    (pp. 235-238)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-280)
  16. Index
    (pp. 281-290)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 291-292)