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Old 14th February 2011, 04:44 PM   #1
gumboot
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A Realistic Approach to Medieval Armies

I have a request for input and feedback from those with any sort of knowledge of medieval warfare, and in particular I suppose the mechanism by which medieval societies supported their armies.

First a brief explanation:

I have a fictional setting of a medieval european nature, in which I am trying to produce a fairly good degree of realism. One aspect of this is the scope of military forces available to the crown, and how realistic those figures are, based on a similar model to medieval europe and allowing for the population size.

So, the basic context is:

A fairly large and stable kingdom (no recent dramatic changes to territory or internal conflicts) with a population of 9.6 million.

The political structure is a little different to a typical medieval state, in that the crown is functioning, in a way, much like a Federal government. The overwhelming majority of land (some 89%) is privately owned amongst fifty lords, and their territories function much like independent states overseen by federal authority.

The lords who rule these territories in turn owe fealty to the crown.

Two distinct types of military force exist; those of the individual territories, which the lords are required to provide to the crown (in line with traditional feudal systems) and a small standing army owned by the crown itself (this is where the major difference is).

Basically the state is fairly static because it's got the best land around, and is caught between two vastly larger empires. Like the Roman Empire then, the state has a more or less permanent, fortified border, across which there are periodic attempts at invasion from without, which have to be defended against.

A small full-time professional army numbering some 87,000 is responsible for defending this territory and is distributed along the borders. In order to ensure the crown can't use these forces to suppress the lords, their composition is limited to "inferior" foot troops rather than the traditional medieval weapon of the mounted knight. In the event of an invasion they're basically seen as a buffer to slow the enemy until the "serious" army - composed of forces from the lords territories - arrives.

So the question relates to how big those forces should be that the lords are required to provide, and what their composition should be. I have produced a preliminary table but it's not really based on anything much more than my own arbitrary guess work, so I was wanting some feedback.

In addition to these 50 primary "landed lords" (i.e. lords who own and rule territories), there are a multitude of other lords who are tenants - that is they rule over part of a territory on behalf of the owner. By tradition the landed lord of a territory is always one tier above his highest ranked vassal.

These tenant lords further can have additional lords of lesser rank beneath them at further levels of sub-letting, much in the form of traditional feudalism.

So for example a Baron may have four vassals who are Counts and a further 33 Knights as direct vassals, while those four Counts might between them have another 25 Knights who owe fealty to them, giving the Baron a total of 58 Knights (63 if you include the higher ranked Lords) available to provide to the Crown.

The landed lords are the only ones who owe military service directly to the crown, but vassals owe military service to their liege, and thus the landed lords use their own vassals to provide most of their military obligation.

A few notes about these figures; the territories are ranked with four difference sizes. The names I've chosen for each category have no real link with their medieval european counterparts - the territories names (i.e. the title of the lord ruling the territory) are dictated entirely by how large the geographic area is.

Secondly, the figure for "militia" is deliberately high. All males age 16 to (to old to fight) in a given area are required to attend a militia drill muster once a year, and to own minimum military equipment (spear and shield, usually). They're not really considered much of a fighting force, and there's very little relationship between the theoretical amount a lord is required to supply to the king, and how much he'd actually supply.

Numbers in brackets are the total for all territories of that tier.

So... moving from the smallest territory to the largest:

COUNTY (25 in realm)
10.6% of land territory
1 million population
Knights: 10-20 (250 - 500)
Men-at-Arms: 20-40 (500 - 1,000)
Archers: 50 (1,250)
Militia: 2,000 (50,000)

BARONY (12 in realm)
15.3% of land territory
1.5 million population
Knights: 30-60 (360 - 720)
Men-at-Arms: 60-120 (720 - 1,480)
Archers: 150 (1,800)
Militia: 6,000 (150,000)

EARLDOM (7 in realm)
14.7% of land territory
1.4 million population
Knights: 100-300 (700 - 2,100)
Men-at-Arms: 200-600 (1,400 - 4,300)
Archers: 300 (2,100)
Militia: 12,000 (84,000)

DUCHY (6 in realm)
48.5% of land territory
4.6 million population
Knights: 500-1,000 (3,000 - 6,000)
Men-at-Arms: 1,000-2,000 (6,000 - 12,000)
Archers: 600 (3,600)
Militia: 30,000 (180,000)

All up that means theoretical total figures available to the crown would be:

Knights: 4,310 - 9,320
Men-at-Arms: 8,620 - 18,780
Archers: 8,750
Militia: 464,000

So a theoretical maximum size army the Kingdom could field would be in the realm of 122,000 (Knights, M-a-A, Archers, and the standing army) plus a militia rabble of whatever amount was deemed useful.

(The ranges are because exact amount varies from time to time, both the lower and upper ends of the ranges are highly unlikely for the totals)

So the question is whether these figures look reasonable to people?
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Old 14th February 2011, 04:47 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by gumboot View Post
So a theoretical maximum size army the Kingdom could field would be in the realm of 122,000 (Knights, M-a-A, Archers, and the standing army) plus a militia rabble of whatever amount was deemed useful.

(The ranges are because exact amount varies from time to time, both the lower and upper ends of the ranges are highly unlikely for the totals)

So the question is whether these figures look reasonable to people?
I like how you've thought this through, which suggests that no matter what, these numbers work for whatever you're writing. However, just a first glance, they seem a bit high to me. I don't have a lot of time at the moment, but this thread caught my eye, and I was curious about the discussion.
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Old 14th February 2011, 05:07 PM   #3
HansMustermann
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They're large, but, way, I see it:

1. It is a very large kingdom. By way of comparison, England circa 1086 is estimated to have had 1 million inhabitants. The total population of Europe at the time of Charlemagne (circa 800 AD) is estimated to be 25 to 30 millions.

Though granted, by the 1300's, before the plagues hit, the population of England had risen to 5-7 millions, and France actually had 18-20 millions.

So I guess it depends on the exact era. For the dark ages, a kingdom of almost 10 millions is immense, for the middle 1300's, it's the total population of Italy.

2. I think we must distinguish between total recruitable population and how much you'd field in one particular army or battle. For the totals, 120,000 or so out of a big kingdom of almost 10 millions, isn't high at all. It boils down to 1 person in 80 which is actually very low for any era. In fact, I'd say especially the number of knights is somewhat low, especially for the counties.

In any particular battle, though, if you tried to field that many, you'd run into major logistics problems, including just finding enough water to drink.
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Old 14th February 2011, 05:10 PM   #4
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@gumboot: actually, I think before we get into any numbers, it's important to peg the era. As you undoubtedly know, things varied massively across time and space. The army and obligations structure you describe generally reminds me more of very late middle ages, possibly renaissance even, but I can't guess what you wanted to go for.
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Old 14th February 2011, 05:17 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by gumboot View Post


A small full-time professional army numbering some 87,000 is responsible for defending this territory and is distributed along the borders.
Small? Thats getting into Ottoman Empire size forces. Medieval armies were small. They just didn't have the logistics and social setup for large scale roman legon service for life armies and they didn't (with perhaps the expcetion of the swiss) do the celtic every adult male fights thing.

Quote:
So the question is whether these figures look reasonable to people?
Larger than any european army fielded during the Reconquista so no. Depending on the era european armies seem to max out at about 100,000 (battle of Battle of Granada perhaps) and thats fighting close enough to home that people will be able to get back home in time for the harvest. Islamic armies may have been a little bigger but those were not standing armies.

Charles Martel threw everything he had into the Battle of Tours and didn't get up to 100K.

Standing armies were tiny because they were so expenive than any king with a large on would either run out of money or get overthrown for charging exorbitant tax rates.

9.6 million is a seriously big country. England didn't manage to hit that until the 19th century.
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Old 14th February 2011, 05:32 PM   #6
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Fair points, an obvious bit of information I've left out. Broadly speaking I've gone for High Middle Ages basically at the peak just before the 14th Century collapse, so late 13th or early 14th Century.

The population density is quite high, reflecting the premium quality of the soil and so forth. The state's about the size of Italy.

Good point on total recruitment pool versus the realistic size of a single fielded army too. And I agree I may have not enough Knights. Now that I've laid it all out and reflected on Medieval armies, it does seem there should be far more knights present.

One thing I have toyed with is that currently this is based on a system where all of the Knights are land-holding vassals with villages to look after and so forth. Obviously in Medieval times this wasn't necessarily the case. Many (most?) Knights were professional soldiers who would sell their services to a lord and made their entire living from war, not from agriculture.

Perhaps I need to adjust the categories slightly and have, almost, two categories of knights - the tenanted vassals of lords and then soldiers who are basically just knighted Men-at-Arms. Or make Men-at-Arms these types of Knights, and add a separate category for the Lord's professional soldiers he keeps as his personal guards and so forth.

I'm also particularly unsure about the archer figure. One of the issues with the time frame I've chosen is obviously that it's right when the English introduction of peasantry archers totally revolutionized warfare. I haven't got that dynamic happening in this country, so I don't have enormous numbers of archers, but I am not sure whether my numbers are sensible or way off base.

Another issue I've come up with has been a recent one when I've been building up the households of some lords. I've used historical figures for guides to how big the household of different rank lords should be, and it points to a much lower number of "guards" as it were than I would have thought (probably have Hollywood and bad fiction to thank for inflated perceptions).

For example my modeling of a Duke's personal household comes up with less than 100 guardsmen. Obviously if the King demands soldiers for war he's not going to send off his entire household guard and leave his castle defenceless.

A Knight, meanwhile, according to the historic source, should only have a total household of sixteen (I'm assuming this only counts servants and not the Knight's wife, kids, etc). I can't imagine more than 2 or 3 of them being any sort of guards or men-at-arms, and if these are lords with land to protect and manage, when they're called up to war they'll likewise want to leave these guards behind to protect their interests, so where does a Duke get his thousand or so men-at-arms from? Does he just have random fortresses full of soldiers sitting about waiting to be called up?
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Old 14th February 2011, 05:42 PM   #7
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Wow! I never knew anyone who could make Medieval armies boring!

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Old 14th February 2011, 06:02 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by gumboot View Post
I'm also particularly unsure about the archer figure. One of the issues with the time frame I've chosen is obviously that it's right when the English introduction of peasantry archers totally revolutionized warfare. I haven't got that dynamic happening in this country, so I don't have enormous numbers of archers, but I am not sure whether my numbers are sensible or way off base.
Depends what you mean by archers. Remember archers were far from uncommon on the battlefield before english longbowmen made their claim to fame. Indeed there would always be fair number of people who knew how to use a shortbow from hunting and crossbows were an option. English style longbowmen would be more of an all or nothing thing. Either you focus on it the way england did or you have at best penny packet numbers.

Quote:
Another issue I've come up with has been a recent one when I've been building up the households of some lords. I've used historical figures for guides to how big the household of different rank lords should be, and it points to a much lower number of "guards" as it were than I would have thought (probably have Hollywood and bad fiction to thank for inflated perceptions).

For example my modeling of a Duke's personal household comes up with less than 100 guardsmen. Obviously if the King demands soldiers for war he's not going to send off his entire household guard and leave his castle defenceless.
You are focusing on standing armies though. 100 men doing nothing during peacetime? Thats a serious financial drain. Remeber your opponents face the same limitations as you do. They can't move on you very quickly so you have time to prepare. Unless you are right next to a boarder area or somewhere rather lawless raids are unlikely. And even if some bandits do decide to raid are they going to hit a castle with walls and even a dozen fighting men or are they going to go after unprotected farmers?

Pre gunpowder stone castles are a massive force multiplier. Unless you have the the time and logistics to build seige engines then they are effectively untakeable even if held by a handful of men.

Quote:
A Knight, meanwhile, according to the historic source, should only have a total household of sixteen (I'm assuming this only counts servants and not the Knight's wife, kids, etc). I can't imagine more than 2 or 3 of them being any sort of guards or men-at-arms, and if these are lords with land to protect and manage, when they're called up to war they'll likewise want to leave these guards behind to protect their interests, so where does a Duke get his thousand or so men-at-arms from? Does he just have random fortresses full of soldiers sitting about waiting to be called up?
Knights don't have interests worth protecting. They have the rights to some land and a house. Anything else can be burried. Yes it would be unfortunate if the house burnt down but there is a limit to what could be done to prevent that anyway.

Thats the better off knights of course. Poor knights who would be closer to your standing army (basicaly what you refer to as knighted Men-at-Arms) wouldn't even have that. And they would want to go to war. Far better get the money from a few ransoms than trying to scratch a living as someone's hanger on.

Last edited by geni; 14th February 2011 at 06:03 PM.
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Old 14th February 2011, 06:03 PM   #9
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Ok, to get some idea of numbers vs era, the estimated numbers for England and Wales are like this:

- between 11'th and 12'th century, you had about 4000 to 5000 knights, out of a population of 1 million to 1.5 million. Thing is, though, that was the heyday of the knights, and pretty much that was the bulk of the army supplied. The rest were mostly mercenaries, hired as needed.

- as the population grew from there, the number of knights actually decreased. By the 14'th century, there were little over a thousand knights out of a population of almost 4 millions. By the 15'th century, they had some 200 knights total.

The impression I'm getting, though, is that at the heyday of the knights, pretty much the number of knights was proportional to the number of peasants. So there's not much logic in 1 million people living in the counties to supply only 10-20 knights, while 4 millions in the duchies supply up to 1000.

A saner structure would be more proportional. E.g., for the heyday of knighthood, the 1 million people in the counties would supply maybe 4000 knights, while the Earldoms at 1.4 million would supply maybe 6000 or so, and the duchies at 4.6 million could bring almost 20,000 knights.

It's immense, but we ARE talking an immense kingdom for the 1000's-1100's.

Of course, at that point you can pretty much scratch off the men at arms. The obligation of a knight to also come with 3 men at arms and some conscripted yeomen too is pretty much what happened to the number of knights later. Suddenly the same number of fighting men included less knights, but more quality foot troops to go with them.

So for the 14'th century, you'd adjust the number of knights as above, but throw in the men at arms too.

Of course, if we're talking totals vs troops you can actually throw at a battle, you also need to remember that the contract for military service was for 40 days a year total. So unless you were sure that the war ends in 40 days, you'd have to rotate your knights, so you could have maybe a tenth or a whole fifth of them on the battlefield, but no more.

This again ties in to the decrease in the number of knights later. That kind of contract quickly became a pain in the butt to use in any actual prolonged war. So England was the first to go bastard feudalism, and prefer getting scutage money instead of military service from its landowners. Then they could hire troops with those money to serve full time. So although the number of knights had fallen by a factor of 4 (or by about 15 if you look at the percentage of the population) by the 14'th century, in net effect they could throw _more_ heavy troops at an enemy for prolonged times.

Before the 1000's things get iffier, as knights weren't yet much of a hereditary class. And of course, before the 10'th century or so, the bulk of the armies was infantry and mostly using the horses for transportation. E.g., since Charles Martel at Tours was mentioned, he led a glorified phalanx.

Also I'd say lose the standing armies. Unless your kingdom is the Byzantine Empire, I guess. There were almost no standing armies in the middle ages. Even the Janissaries only came about in the second half of the 14'th century, and they were pretty much the first real standing army in medieval Europe. Hungary then had a small standing army in the second half of 15'th century, and it was pretty much an exception there too.

Most of the buffer were the castles. They were a pain in the butt to besiege, especially with troops that went home after 40 days, and generally gave a king ample time to gather an army and march to meet the invaders.

And often, to make the most out of the time you had the knights, there wasn't even an actual siege. You just showed there with the army and made a contract to the effect of "ok, let's pretend we're besieging you. If your king shows up with the army within X miles of the castle by harvest time, you've been relieved, if not you surrender to us." (See the siege of the Stirling castle for a famous example of this.) This was to the advantage of both the "besieged", who got to get on with life without all the inconvenience of a real siege, and the "besieger", who got to send his knights home and have them come back in a couple of months for the rest of their contract.

Also often simply geography and time worked as a buffer. Due to crap logistics, an invading army tended to live off the land, which meant it could advance only as fast as it could plunder. E.g., to return to Tours, the Muslims were delayed by waiting for harvest time to feed their army and horses. As they advanced north, this came later and later, so it was advance a bit, wait for crop, advance a bit, wait for crop, etc. Giving Charles Martel plenty of time to gather his army and march to intercept them.

At any rate, there would be plenty of delay anyway, so no real reason for a standing army.

Last edited by HansMustermann; 14th February 2011 at 06:09 PM.
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Old 14th February 2011, 06:05 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Ysidro View Post
Wow! I never knew anyone who could make Medieval armies boring!
If you want to make a fantasy or Si-Fi world seem realisitic you do need to provide some idea how the economy and logistics work.
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Old 14th February 2011, 06:21 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Before the 1000's things get iffier, as knights weren't yet much of a hereditary class. And of course, before the 10'th century or so, the bulk of the armies was infantry and mostly using the horses for transportation. E.g., since Charles Martel at Tours was mentioned, he led a glorified phalanx.
Martel is at the turning point though. Post Tours he did start using heavy cavalry although the bulk of his force was still infantry.

His army may also have had an uncommonly large number of trained men since he appears to have started doing some serious preperation after the Battle of Toulouse.
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Old 14th February 2011, 06:56 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
You are focusing on standing armies though. 100 men doing nothing during peacetime? Thats a serious financial drain. Remeber your opponents face the same limitations as you do. They can't move on you very quickly so you have time to prepare. Unless you are right next to a boarder area or somewhere rather lawless raids are unlikely. And even if some bandits do decide to raid are they going to hit a castle with walls and even a dozen fighting men or are they going to go after unprotected farmers?
@gumboot:
Which actually reminds me of another point, albeit more of flavour than necessarily relating to the army, that I forgot to mention before: I see no marches in that kingdom. Realistically such border areas did exist and came with higher military costs and a need for extra fortifications, but were offset by extra privileges or lower taxes for the lord of such a dangerous zone.

In a medieval kingdom, often even the name of places would reflect their current or past status as a march, such as Mercia in England or the later Welsh March, Ostmark in Austria, or the Marche region in France, etc.

And of course you could expect to see a Marquis or Lord Of The March or two in the roster of nobles for some battle. And, of course, in an invasion, the Marquis on that side would be the first to see his castles besieged.
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Old 14th February 2011, 07:14 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
Small? Thats getting into Ottoman Empire size forces. Medieval armies were small. They just didn't have the logistics and social setup for large scale roman legon service for life armies and they didn't (with perhaps the expcetion of the swiss) do the celtic every adult male fights thing.
This isn't an army, per se so much as frontier garrisons along the lines of the Roman Empire. I do have an explanation for where these armies come from though.

In medieval times, traditionally the eldest son inherited the estate (be that a family business or feudal territory or whatever), and the daughters were married off to form alliances with other estates.

Younger sons were left hanging. They generally had one of two choices:

1) Become a professional knight and essentially become a mercenary
2) Join the church

Now, a big factor here is that there's basically no church. At least not as a political force. In Medieval Europe the Church was a huge landowner in its own right, on par with the most powerful lords.

In this particular kingdom the church owns virtually no land at all, and has a much more limited political presence. As such the church isn't a viable career path for a younger son.

There also isn't the same scope of knights running about with no direct link to land (see my comments on that above).

So the question is, what do all these second sons of nobles and rich merchants and artisans do when their elder brothers take over and kick them out? Some might get to become vassals of their brother, but their father already had vassals, and those vassals will have sons to give their title to.

Instead, these second sons join the standing army. It's not seen as a rabble, but rather held in high regard. And they pay for the privilege of joining (in the same way that lords would give significant sums of money to churches where their younger brothers had gone).

The army provides a benefit to the lords because it lessens their own military commitment. It gets rid of younger brothers who might otherwise try steal some of their estates. And in the border districts they're particularly welcome because they provide a far greater force against invasion than the local lord could possibly muster.

Having said all that, I take the point about numbers. I can easily re-evaluate how big that force should be.

The Roman Empire had a population of 12 million and a standing army of ~250,000 but it was also a much larger area geographically.



Originally Posted by geni View Post
Larger than any european army fielded during the Reconquista so no. Depending on the era european armies seem to max out at about 100,000 (battle of Battle of Granada perhaps) and thats fighting close enough to home that people will be able to get back home in time for the harvest.
I think a really good pointed was made about the largest theoretical army the Crown could produce, versus the reality of how big an army they could put in the field in a given place.

For example that 87,000 standing army isn't a single monolithic army, but scattered across garrisons along a fortified border. At the very best you might be able to field 1/4 of that strength in one place as a single army.

Much like with Rome, who had 250,000 legionnaires scattered across a vast empire in twenty-odd legions and other smaller units. They didn't have an army of a quarter million troops trotting about the place.



Originally Posted by geni View Post
Standing armies were tiny because they were so expenive than any king with a large on would either run out of money or get overthrown for charging exorbitant tax rates.
This is something I've also thought about looking into, but had shied away from because it means so much work. I've got explanations for how the kingdom can support the manpower of 80,000 full time soldiers, but the finances are another issue.


Originally Posted by geni View Post
9.6 million is a seriously big country. England didn't manage to hit that until the 19th century.
This is true, but you might be surprised to find how big medieval countries got. Most Medieval countries reached population levels in the early 14th Century that weren't surpassed until the Industrial Revolution. You've got to remember that the 14th century saw a huge population collapse in Europe (Tuscany lost at least 45% of its population in a single year).

In 1345 France's population was over 20 million and at the beginning of the 14th Century England's population was potentially as high as 7 million.

Tuscany's 1300 population (2 million) wasn't matched again until 1850, and today it's population is only 3.7 million.
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Old 14th February 2011, 07:29 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
@gumboot:
Which actually reminds me of another point, albeit more of flavour than necessarily relating to the army, that I forgot to mention before: I see no marches in that kingdom. Realistically such border areas did exist and came with higher military costs and a need for extra fortifications, but were offset by extra privileges or lower taxes for the lord of such a dangerous zone.

In a medieval kingdom, often even the name of places would reflect their current or past status as a march, such as Mercia in England or the later Welsh March, Ostmark in Austria, or the Marche region in France, etc.

And of course you could expect to see a Marquis or Lord Of The March or two in the roster of nobles for some battle. And, of course, in an invasion, the Marquis on that side would be the first to see his castles besieged.


I'm not sure if I mentioned it, but nothing should really be drawn from the names of the territories other than a ranking of relative size. As you say, in early Medieval Europe the various titles related to the nature of the land area not its size, with the "March" being a prime example as you've described. A Duchy, for example, was a whole region, while a "County" (which could be governed by a Count or an Earl) was often as small as a single city. However it wasn't uncommon for a County or a March to be larger than a Duchy.

By the later period, titles had very little direct relationship to land at all, and could be (and often were) fabricated wholesale by the Monarch (this varied depending on the state).

I've got with my own approach (for this particular kingdom) whereby the name of the territory identifies the relative geographic area, and the higher ranked nobles are the ones with larger territory.

In that regard there are border territories, and in parlance those frontiers are referred to as "marches" but that refers more to the borders of the kingdom rather than specific territories in which they're located. So the "eastern marches" span an earldom in the south, a barony, four counties, another barony, another county, and finally another barony in the north.

The "Southern Marches" extend entirely along the border of a single Duchy.

And as it's the younger sons of men in those border territories who are more likely to join up to this standing army, the effective result is that those border lords do end up contributing more to the defence of the realm, it's just they're doing it via supporting a crown army rather than their own individual forces.

This is partially because the safer internal territories want the realm protected obviously, but rather than have their neighbours with much bigger armies (which the internal territories have no influence over), would rather the armies protecting the realm are loyal to the crown, which they have some influence over.
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Old 14th February 2011, 07:45 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
Depends what you mean by archers. Remember archers were far from uncommon on the battlefield before english longbowmen made their claim to fame. Indeed there would always be fair number of people who knew how to use a shortbow from hunting and crossbows were an option. English style longbowmen would be more of an all or nothing thing. Either you focus on it the way england did or you have at best penny packet numbers.
I think I'm definitely looking at the second option, and I definitely see it more as a mix-match of different archers and crossbowmen, not the English style massed army of uniform archers.


Originally Posted by geni View Post
You are focusing on standing armies though. 100 men doing nothing during peacetime? Thats a serious financial drain.
You think that's unrealistically large a household guard? Bear in mind they have to basically maintain the peace in a region with a population of some 760,000 people. Granted they have their vassals who have their own guards and so forth, but...



Originally Posted by geni View Post
Remeber your opponents face the same limitations as you do. They can't move on you very quickly so you have time to prepare. Unless you are right next to a boarder area or somewhere rather lawless raids are unlikely. And even if some bandits do decide to raid are they going to hit a castle with walls and even a dozen fighting men or are they going to go after unprotected farmers?
True.


Originally Posted by geni View Post
Pre gunpowder stone castles are a massive force multiplier. Unless you have the the time and logistics to build seige engines then they are effectively untakeable even if held by a handful of men.
This is a good point. I guess I hadn't really thought about that. I thought more along the lines of a big castle means more men to hold it, but you've got me rethinking that...


Originally Posted by geni View Post
Knights don't have interests worth protecting. They have the rights to some land and a house. Anything else can be burried. Yes it would be unfortunate if the house burnt down but there is a limit to what could be done to prevent that anyway.
In this instance what I'm referring to as "Knights" generally are looking after at least one or two villages which are providing income, so in that regard they do have something to protect. You're right though that there's a limit to what you can do to protect them anyway.


Originally Posted by geni View Post
Thats the better off knights of course. Poor knights who would be closer to your standing army (basicaly what you refer to as knighted Men-at-Arms) wouldn't even have that. And they would want to go to war. Far better get the money from a few ransoms than trying to scratch a living as someone's hanger on.
I think this particular kingdom has evolved somewhat from that stage. It's not an entirely direct parallel with Europe. The territories two direct neighbours are both empires that have been pretty hell-bent on crushing this kingdom for a while now. Capturing fighters from those empires won't bring you a ransom, just a prisoner you have to deal with.

Historically this area wasn't a single kingdom and I think historically there would have been a tonne of fighting between the states with a war economy because of that.

When these surrounding empires emerged the territories had to really band together to survive and much (though not all) of that internal conflict dried up.

Essentially you're talking about a Kingdom that's fighting for its survival, which it's managed to do for a handful of centuries because it's got such fertile land and a good supply of mineral wealth (which is why these empires are after it).

On a functional timeline there's basically no period of peace - one of the two Empires is usually having some sort of stab at them and there's a major offensive probably nearly once per generation.
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Old 14th February 2011, 08:09 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by gumboot View Post
This isn't an army, per se so much as frontier garrisons along the lines of the Roman Empire. I do have an explanation for where these armies come from though.

In medieval times, traditionally the eldest son inherited the estate (be that a family business or feudal territory or whatever), and the daughters were married off to form alliances with other estates.

Younger sons were left hanging. They generally had one of two choices:

1) Become a professional knight and essentially become a mercenary
2) Join the church

Now, a big factor here is that there's basically no church. At least not as a political force. In Medieval Europe the Church was a huge landowner in its own right, on par with the most powerful lords.

In this particular kingdom the church owns virtually no land at all, and has a much more limited political presence. As such the church isn't a viable career path for a younger son.

There also isn't the same scope of knights running about with no direct link to land (see my comments on that above).

So the question is, what do all these second sons of nobles and rich merchants and artisans do when their elder brothers take over and kick them out? Some might get to become vassals of their brother, but their father already had vassals, and those vassals will have sons to give their title to.

Instead, these second sons join the standing army. It's not seen as a rabble, but rather held in high regard. And they pay for the privilege of joining (in the same way that lords would give significant sums of money to churches where their younger brothers had gone).

The army provides a benefit to the lords because it lessens their own military commitment. It gets rid of younger brothers who might otherwise try steal some of their estates. And in the border districts they're particularly welcome because they provide a far greater force against invasion than the local lord could possibly muster.
So whats in it for the younger brothers? The roman frontier legions were fighting for citizenship. The day to day pay may not have been great but you had a fairly worthwhile reward at the end of it.

By comparision you've got a bunch of young men who've seen their brothers come into wealth stuck out on the boarder as line infantry with little to look forward to (is their pay even enough to support a family?). The result is going to be kinda predictable.

If you need to have a standing army (to make the story work) as mentioned above you look to the likes of the Janissaries who come from a religious/ethnic minority and have a life hard enough that millitry service looks good by comparison. You've not got religion to play with but you could make one of the smaller states be reviled (ancient betrayal say) and with generaly poorer land thats already at it's carrying capacity so any population growth basicaly has to join the army regardless of conditions. But even then it's going to be one heck of a drain on crown resources.

Younger borthers of lords are best kept to officers where the pay may be viable and they have at least a chance of making it to a senior position (aka the standard commisioned officer model).
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Old 14th February 2011, 08:16 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Ok, to get some idea of numbers vs era, the estimated numbers for England and Wales are like this:

- between 11'th and 12'th century, you had about 4000 to 5000 knights, out of a population of 1 million to 1.5 million. Thing is, though, that was the heyday of the knights, and pretty much that was the bulk of the army supplied. The rest were mostly mercenaries, hired as needed.

- as the population grew from there, the number of knights actually decreased. By the 14'th century, there were little over a thousand knights out of a population of almost 4 millions. By the 15'th century, they had some 200 knights total.

Thanks, these are useful numbers! What's your source out of curiosity? Is this based on knights fielded in battle during that time? I'm just trying to align the information with battlefield figures of those times.

At Crecy, for example, the figure cited is 4,000 English Knights and Men-at-Arms. Are you saying probably only around 1,000 of them were Knights (constituting the entire Knightdom of England?).



Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
The impression I'm getting, though, is that at the heyday of the knights, pretty much the number of knights was proportional to the number of peasants. So there's not much logic in 1 million people living in the counties to supply only 10-20 knights, while 4 millions in the duchies supply up to 1000.
Good point. The imbalance isn't quite as extreme as you're suggesting though - those population figures are for all territories of that type combined, where as the army figures you've cited are for individual territories. The 1 million people of the 27 combined Counties are expected to provide up to 500 knights between them while the 4.6 million people of the six combined Duchies are expected to provide up to 6,000 knights between them. There's definitely still a big imbalance though. Good point. If I use the County figures as a base (from memory I think I calculated a realistic number of Knights for a County and built up from there) maybe the combined Duchies need to provide more like 2,300 knights between them. This would dramatically drop the total and move it closer to the English figures you've cited.

I may need to rejig those figures.



Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Of course, at that point you can pretty much scratch off the men at arms. The obligation of a knight to also come with 3 men at arms and some conscripted yeomen too is pretty much what happened to the number of knights later. Suddenly the same number of fighting men included less knights, but more quality foot troops to go with them.
This sounds more like it.


Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
So for the 14'th century, you'd adjust the number of knights as above, but throw in the men at arms too.

Of course, if we're talking totals vs troops you can actually throw at a battle, you also need to remember that the contract for military service was for 40 days a year total. So unless you were sure that the war ends in 40 days, you'd have to rotate your knights, so you could have maybe a tenth or a whole fifth of them on the battlefield, but no more.
Exactly. This is precisely along the lines I was thinking.



Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
This again ties in to the decrease in the number of knights later. That kind of contract quickly became a pain in the butt to use in any actual prolonged war. So England was the first to go bastard feudalism, and prefer getting scutage money instead of military service from its landowners. Then they could hire troops with those money to serve full time. So although the number of knights had fallen by a factor of 4 (or by about 15 if you look at the percentage of the population) by the 14'th century, in net effect they could throw _more_ heavy troops at an enemy for prolonged times.
I could probably make an argument that the pressure of these neighbours has basically put the kingdom in a state of near-constant warfare, and that this sort of bastard feudalism is already in place with the crown's standing army of professional soldiers already replacing the armies of the Lords. This would require an appropriate drop in the armies for said lords.

My only issue with that is I can't see the lords being happy with the crown having a professional army at their disposal (no matter how dispersed) that's hundreds of times bigger than anything they could field.




Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Also I'd say lose the standing armies. Unless your kingdom is the Byzantine Empire, I guess.
I'm starting to suspect my kingdom is functionally an empire...


Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
There were almost no standing armies in the middle ages. Even the Janissaries only came about in the second half of the 14'th century, and they were pretty much the first real standing army in medieval Europe. Hungary then had a small standing army in the second half of 15'th century, and it was pretty much an exception there too.
I don't know that I'd call 30,000 men from a population of ~3 million "small". The Fekete Sereg was pretty big by medieval standards.

There was also France from the 15th Century. Maybe this kingdom could be my "exception".


Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Most of the buffer were the castles. They were a pain in the butt to besiege, especially with troops that went home after 40 days, and generally gave a king ample time to gather an army and march to meet the invaders.
Problematically, the two main threats are empires, whose soldiers won't go home after 40 days.

It's almost like a medieval state sandwiched between two Roman Empires, if that makes any sense.


Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
And often, to make the most out of the time you had the knights, there wasn't even an actual siege. You just showed there with the army and made a contract to the effect of "ok, let's pretend we're besieging you. If your king shows up with the army within X miles of the castle by harvest time, you've been relieved, if not you surrender to us." (See the siege of the Stirling castle for a famous example of this.) This was to the advantage of both the "besieged", who got to get on with life without all the inconvenience of a real siege, and the "besieger", who got to send his knights home and have them come back in a couple of months for the rest of their contract.
That might work for any sort of internal conflict.


Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Also often simply geography and time worked as a buffer. Due to crap logistics, an invading army tended to live off the land, which meant it could advance only as fast as it could plunder. E.g., to return to Tours, the Muslims were delayed by waiting for harvest time to feed their army and horses. As they advanced north, this came later and later, so it was advance a bit, wait for crop, advance a bit, wait for crop, etc. Giving Charles Martel plenty of time to gather his army and march to intercept them.
Another good point.

Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
At any rate, there would be plenty of delay anyway, so no real reason for a standing army.
I think it comes down to frequency of warfare. If you're experiencing a major invasion every 50 or 60 years, and you can't hold the invaders at the border, it means all of those border regions are going to get laid to waste every 50 or 60 years. With that happening on two sides of a county you're liable to end up with vast tracts of your kingdom turning almost into a sort of "no man's land" of waste with sparse population.

If you can fortify your border and provide enough of a permanent garrison to hold the invaders up, it means you can preserve those buffer areas with the same high intensity farming as the rest of the kingdom.

I suppose the question is whether the added income compensates for the additional cost of holding them.
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Old 14th February 2011, 08:33 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
So whats in it for the younger brothers? The roman frontier legions were fighting for citizenship. The day to day pay may not have been great but you had a fairly worthwhile reward at the end of it.
The benefit for the younger brothers is they have some place to go. It's that or become a beggar or highwayman or something.


Originally Posted by geni View Post
By comparision you've got a bunch of young men who've seen their brothers come into wealth stuck out on the boarder as line infantry with little to look forward to (is their pay even enough to support a family?). The result is going to be kinda predictable.
Well if varies. Not all of the army are in it for a career. Some are sent their by their fathers and will eventually leave and return home. The pay's not great so much but your serviced is "sponsored" so there's earnings from that.

Those who stay move up the ranks where pay increases dramatically. The career soldiers don't tend to have families, no (that would be frowned on, as your offspring could challenge your brother's estates at some later point).


Originally Posted by geni View Post
If you need to have a standing army (to make the story work) as mentioned above you look to the likes of the Janissaries who come from a religious/ethnic minority and have a life hard enough that millitry service looks good by comparison. You've not got religion to play with but you could make one of the smaller states be reviled (ancient betrayal say) and with generaly poorer land thats already at it's carrying capacity so any population growth basicaly has to join the army regardless of conditions. But even then it's going to be one heck of a drain on crown resources.
Interesting thought. There is religion, it's just not a significant political power in this particular kingdom.


Originally Posted by geni View Post
Younger borthers of lords are best kept to officers where the pay may be viable and they have at least a chance of making it to a senior position (aka the standard commisioned officer model).
This is basically how it is, except that in this model everyone begins at the bottom. Sons of lords will jump across from private to an officer pretty quickly (within a year) if they decide to stick around, while the sons of merchants and artisans and etc. will end up being NCOs.

The standing army does have almost a sort of "cult" status amongst the wider population so the very fact that you used to be in the army can open lots of doors to you if you decide to leave after 5 or 10 years.

Maybe you raise a good point. Maybe I need to pare back this standing army and think of it basically like a full time officer corps who then take on command of the militia etc. when it comes to full scale warfare, or can operate as a small cohesive "elite" unit if required for smaller engagements or more immediate response.

Officer-enlisted ratios seem to by typically around 1:10 - 1:20 so if I reduced the size of this standing army to something like 9,000 it might be more practical.
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Old 14th February 2011, 08:35 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by gumboot View Post
You think that's unrealistically large a household guard? Bear in mind they have to basically maintain the peace in a region with a population of some 760,000 people. Granted they have their vassals who have their own guards and so forth, but...
For that you want constables not household guards.


Quote:
I think this particular kingdom has evolved somewhat from that stage. It's not an entirely direct parallel with Europe. The territories two direct neighbours are both empires that have been pretty hell-bent on crushing this kingdom for a while now. Capturing fighters from those empires won't bring you a ransom, just a prisoner you have to deal with.

Historically this area wasn't a single kingdom and I think historically there would have been a tonne of fighting between the states with a war economy because of that.

When these surrounding empires emerged the territories had to really band together to survive and much (though not all) of that internal conflict dried up.

Essentially you're talking about a Kingdom that's fighting for its survival, which it's managed to do for a handful of centuries because it's got such fertile land and a good supply of mineral wealth (which is why these empires are after it).

On a functional timeline there's basically no period of peace - one of the two Empires is usually having some sort of stab at them and there's a major offensive probably nearly once per generation.
Ah Switzerland (or athens). The problem is your millitry setup is all wrong for that (okey technicaly sparta would be the exception). The highly statified society you are looking at makes sense if you are trying to support cavalry but since you are fighting defensively your requirement for cavalry is far more limited and thus for a nation to belivably hold out it's more likely to have some kind of nation in arms setup. Even japan broke from the pure samurai model during the Warring States period

I don't care how much heavy cavalry and men at arms the enermy can field. If I can drag in every peasent in as pikemen (or depending on the climate and metal availibilty halberdiers even) then I'm going to win. By attrition if required (this assumes the other side doesn't have hourse archers mind).

Asside from switzerland I'd guess the closest historical model would be actualy be the city states like constantinople or vienna since thats the only place you get that kind of power imballance for any length of time.
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Old 14th February 2011, 08:43 PM   #20
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Just to add some chronological context, the frontier fortifications have been introduced in the preceding ~200 years and the standing army has grown to man it in the same time frame. The standing army would have it's origin back a further ~150 years around the time that neighbouring empires starting applying pressure and forced the various territories to band together to protect themselves.

If we take the context of this discussion as a specific moment in time, it's near the end of the whole experiment. After ~350 years of one or the other neighbours launching a major offensive on a fairly regular basis within 10 years of this date two final offensives are launched which overwhelm the defenses and the kingdom is essentially destroyed. (The initial invaders themselves are defeated, but by a third faction which basically turns up while the two invaders are scrapping over the remains and seizes control).

So on that basis, I am happy with a standing army that can't really be supported in the long term - the kingdom's at a point of desperation and they're bankrupting themselves to try hold onto their borders.

ETA. If it sounds like I'm making this up as I go along it's basically because I am. The reason I started this thread was because others will ask questions you've never really thought about and force you to rethink your approach, generating new ideas and building the entire system from a vague and unrealistic idea into something much more durable.

And I agree with Ysidro; for most people this is probably nauseatingly boring.
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Old 14th February 2011, 08:44 PM   #21
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It might be worth your time to look at Monty's (a.k.a. Field-Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein) A History of Warfare which does a good job of explaining the levy, structure and tactics of medieval armies. Of course, you'll have to tease this information out from his frequent reminisces about what a great general he was - but it's probably worth the read.
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Old 14th February 2011, 09:40 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
In a medieval kingdom, often even the name of places would reflect their current or past status as a march, such as Mercia in England or the later Welsh March, Ostmark in Austria, or the Marche region in France, etc.
Not to forget Finnmark and Telemark in Norway, and of course, Denmark.

I was once asked at a bank in Germany how much money I wanted to deposit, and I answered how many marks I had.

"Deutsche marks?" he asked, as if there were any other kind of mark used as currency in those days.

"No, Denmarks." I replied sarcastically. He did not appreciate the humour.
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Old 14th February 2011, 10:35 PM   #23
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I know you're making your own world, but isn't Earl and Count the same thing, and isn't Baron below Count?
You have Counts as Baron's vassals, and Counts as Earl's vassals.

Shouldn' it go Baron -> count (or Earl) -> Marquess -> Duke if we're talking 14th century?
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Old 14th February 2011, 11:02 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by joller View Post
I know you're making your own world, but isn't Earl and Count the same thing, and isn't Baron below Count?
You have Counts as Baron's vassals, and Counts as Earl's vassals.

Shouldn' it go Baron -> count (or Earl) -> Marquess -> Duke if we're talking 14th century?

I've somewhat constructed my own order of lords, using the same names as Europe but with little other resemblance.

In terms of ranking, you're right in that it does go Duke - Marquess - Earl - Viscount - Baron in the English system, with an English Earl being the equivalent of the continental Count. Having said that, "Baron" wasn't originally strictly speaking a rank, and lords of any rank with land were considered Barons.

Originally, the titles of Nobility weren't so much ranks as descriptions of what your duties were, and your relationship to the King. So a Duke may or may not be a baron, and may or may not govern more land than a Count or Marquess, either of whom might also be or not be a baron.

I've done away with Marquess and Viscount for this particular Kingdom, and the "Counties" are the smallest territory primarily because this is for a work of fiction and your average modern reader doesn't know much of anything about the relative rank of lords, but would envisage a "county" as a fairly small administrative district - because that's what they are in the modern day.

The "Counties" in this Kingdom are much more like the "Marches" of Medieval Europe as they were established as relatively small buffers between larger territories.

Admittedly it makes things a little more confusing for people who are familiar with the different rankings.
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Old 15th February 2011, 04:34 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by gumboot View Post
Thanks, these are useful numbers! What's your source out of curiosity? Is this based on knights fielded in battle during that time? I'm just trying to align the information with battlefield figures of those times.
Peter Coss, and it's hereditary knights IIRC.

Originally Posted by gumboot View Post
At Crecy, for example, the figure cited is 4,000 English Knights and Men-at-Arms. Are you saying probably only around 1,000 of them were Knights (constituting the entire Knightdom of England?).
There just weren't much more knights than that in England, yes. So probably 90% of them or so were at Crecy. England was fighting a country over 5 times its population, making it pretty much worse off that Germany vs USSR in WW2. So they were understandably throwing all they had at it.

Originally Posted by gumboot View Post
I could probably make an argument that the pressure of these neighbours has basically put the kingdom in a state of near-constant warfare, and that this sort of bastard feudalism is already in place with the crown's standing army of professional soldiers already replacing the armies of the Lords. This would require an appropriate drop in the armies for said lords.
Constant warfare was always a given. Viking raids, dynastic claims, rebellions, border disputes, etc, were always there. The question is whether you need to fight prolonged war abroad, without using religion or much promises of land to keep them motivated.

Originally Posted by gumboot View Post
My only issue with that is I can't see the lords being happy with the crown having a professional army at their disposal (no matter how dispersed) that's hundreds of times bigger than anything they could field.
Often such armies were useful precisely in keeping the nobles at bay. E.g., the Janissaries or the Mamelukes. The question though is whether they can afford it. Also, exactly how medieval do you still want to be. That degree of centralization isn't really middle ages any more.

Originally Posted by gumboot View Post
I'm starting to suspect my kingdom is functionally an empire...
Well, most medieval kingdom of large size were effectively. Whether they called themselves empire or not, was up to finding a translatio imperii claim.

Originally Posted by gumboot View Post
I don't know that I'd call 30,000 men from a population of ~3 million "small". The Fekete Sereg was pretty big by medieval standards.
By medieval standards, it wasn't small at all. But that was fairly late, and Hungary was pretty rich. So, as I was saying, it boils down to whether you have the economy for that.

Originally Posted by gumboot View Post
Problematically, the two main threats are empires, whose soldiers won't go home after 40 days.

It's almost like a medieval state sandwiched between two Roman Empires, if that makes any sense.
Even those tended to rely on waiting until actually attacked, and delaying until they gather an army.

By medieval times though, the two Roman Empires weren't a problem any more. Well, unless you count the HRE as one, but that one didn't have a standing army either. And for the Byzantines, while they did have an awesome army, it was also expensive. The Byzantines preferred to get others to fight their wars for them. They'd pay the Bulgars to get the Arabs off their back, then the Magyars to attack the Bulgars, then the Slavs to attack the Magyars, in an expensive way of relieving overpopulation pressure on their borders... and be an a-hole in the process. You had to be pretty unlucky -- or in southern Italy -- for the Byzantines to bother with you directly.

Originally Posted by gumboot View Post
I think it comes down to frequency of warfare. If you're experiencing a major invasion every 50 or 60 years, and you can't hold the invaders at the border, it means all of those border regions are going to get laid to waste every 50 or 60 years. With that happening on two sides of a county you're liable to end up with vast tracts of your kingdom turning almost into a sort of "no man's land" of waste with sparse population.
Heh. If you had a whole half a century of peace, it would be a miracle. They had _much_ more frequent warfare, but they managed to do without expensive standing armies, because basically they were also fighting enemies that were just as hampered.

But in the end, that's why the Marches had extra privileges. Because on the flip side, all the kicks from over the border got your nuts first

Originally Posted by gumboot View Post
If you can fortify your border and provide enough of a permanent garrison to hold the invaders up, it means you can preserve those buffer areas with the same high intensity farming as the rest of the kingdom.

I suppose the question is whether the added income compensates for the additional cost of holding them.
Well, bearing in mind that fortifying the border didn't mean the Maginot line or anything. It meant some bigger castles and, yes, a bit of a more permanent garrison there. On the flip side, as a Marquis you'd have a bigger rank in court, typically a bigger domain than a mere earl (again, to pay for those fortifications), and if push came to shove, a bigger castle. Don't underestimate the job security part. Almost no king ever replaced a Marquis, precisely because they had some big frikken castles.
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Old 15th February 2011, 06:19 AM   #26
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Actually, on the topic of those nobility titles, the problem isn't just that county and earldom are historical synonims, but that it's an extra stratum that really wasn't there historically. And generally, it makes it all wrong.

Looking at the HRE, which is both probably a better example of something that was both properly feudal in the 14'th century, and more familiar to me than England, the pyramid was actually a lot flatter. Below the King/Emperor, there was only:

- Duke (Herzog), which was what you'd expect

- Count/Earl (Graf) or for Marches a Marquis (Markgraf)

- Knight (Ritter) or Baron, the two being actually synonyms, with Baron used only in the eastern territories. This was the bottom of the proverbial barrel, as it was some guy ruling over one small village, rather than some grand title of nobility. There was no division of land below them.

(There was, however, a rank of nobility below them, the class of landless nobles who just had a funny title as some kind of reward. Sorta like being knighted in England nowadays. These were styled "Edler von XYZ", i.e., "Noble of XYZ", where XYZ was often just their own surname.)

If you want to complicate it, historically some Counts were vassals directly to the king, and called Landgraf, i.e., count of the land (as opposed to count of some duke). A special case was also a Count Palatine, i.e., a count on whose domain was a royal palace. This made him practically equal to a Duke in court rank, but not in territory or anything else.

In England and France, somewhat the equivalent of a Landgraf was the Viscount, who was at least originally a royally appointed sherriff (shire-reeve) to a county within the crown's own lands. Later it became hereditary too.

Then there are the equivalents for Church fiefs, but you said you're not doing that, so we can skip it.

A further complication was the distinction between own allodial lands and lands actually held as part of a feudal contract. There were a lot of barons who actually owned their land, and were styled Freiherr (e.g., the Red Baron), and the title Freigraf (allodial earl) is at least historically mentioned. Though for a board game or roleplaying setting or novel or whatever you're making there, you can probably skip that and just go full tilt feudal.

In parallel with the nobles' pyramid, there were the free townships, or in England "boroughs". England tended to have more of them than the HRE, where it took some bloody conflicts to have the free city status accepted, and only the largest cities realistically could pull that off. These would actually be pretty unlikely to supply troops, but the whole population was sworn to stand by each other, and could be expected to maintain their own city walls and man the walls, at no expense to anyone else. They could be expected to delay an invader quite a lot, if in the way of an invasion. They would have no knights of their own, at least in the HRE, though the richest ones could field quite the mercenary armies in addition to their own citizens.

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Old 15th February 2011, 06:38 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Actually, on the topic of those nobility titles, the problem isn't just that county and earldom are historical synonims, but that it's an extra stratum that really wasn't there historically. And generally, it makes it all wrong.

Looking at the HRE, which is both probably a better example of something that was both properly feudal in the 14'th century, and more familiar to me than England, the pyramid was actually a lot flatter. Below the King/Emperor, there was only:

- Duke (Herzog), which was what you'd expect

- Count/Earl (Graf) or for Marches a Marquis (Markgraf)

- Knight (Ritter) or Baron, the two being actually synonyms, with Baron used only in the eastern territories. This was the bottom of the proverbial barrel, as it was some guy ruling over one small village, rather than some grand title of nobility. There was no division of land below them.

(There was, however, a rank of nobility below them, the class of landless nobles who just had a funny title as some kind of reward. Sorta like being knighted in England nowadays. These were styled "Edler von XYZ", i.e., "Noble of XYZ", where XYZ was often just their own surname.)

If you want to complicate it, historically some Counts were vassals directly to the king, and called Landgraf, i.e., count of the land


This is one of the more obvious problems of talking of "feudal Europe" - there was enormous variation not just from state to state but over time.

For example in England the "baronage" was what is now called the "peerage" who were the lords who had an obligation to attend the King's court (parliament). Originally they were all just barons and there wasn't a pyramid at all; rather "viscount" and "earl" were two potential offices that a Baron might hold.

By about the 13th Century England was no longer really a proper feudal society, and titles had become totally separated from land or function.

The last of the five ranks of peerage in England was the "viscount" (previously the second-in-command to an Earl, alternatively called a "Shire Reeve" from which the word "Sheriff" derives) created in 1440.

Interestingly, the traces of the origins of the peerage remain in the UK even to this day. For someone to be elevated to any rank of the peerage, they first have to be made a baron, as all peers are technically barons as well. The secondary title (assuming they're made something higher than a Baron) is never really used, however, except as a courtesy title for the Lord's heir apparent.
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Old 15th February 2011, 06:56 AM   #28
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Well, the situation isn't that far off from the continent either. The Earls and Dukes were technically knights too in the HRE too. What I meant by bottom was basically those who were only that, and didn't also hold a higher office.

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Old 15th February 2011, 08:13 AM   #29
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Also, another thing that comes to mind:

Quote:
All males age 16 to (to old to fight) in a given area are required to attend a militia drill muster once a year, and to own minimum military equipment (spear and shield, usually).
Actually, only the free men. No feudal society required the serfs to fight or bear arms, and some explicitly forbade them to. So, depending on the actual social structure your kingdom has, you could end up with that half a million militia being actually more than the total free males in the kingdom.

Even in England, in the 11th century only an estimated 10% of the peasants were free.

So doing some back-of-the-napkin calculation, out of a 10 million population, maybe 80-90% would be peasants, let's say 90% to go for the upper limit. So 9 million peasants. Out of these about half would be women, so that leaves 4.5 million. Of these more than half would be children (life expectancy in the 11'th century sucked incredibly hard), let's say half, so that's 2.25 million adult male peasants. And of these only 10% or so would be yeomen, so that leaves you with a grand high total of 225,000 draftable free men for that militia, if you were to conscript every single one of them (never actually happened in any war.)

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Old 15th February 2011, 08:57 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
So doing some back-of-the-napkin calculation, out of a 10 million population, maybe 80-90% would be peasants, let's say 90% to go for the upper limit. So 9 million peasants. Out of these about half would be women, so that leaves 4.5 million. Of these more than half would be children (life expectancy in the 11'th century sucked incredibly hard), let's say half, so that's 2.25 million adult male peasants. And of these only 10% or so would be yeomen, so that leaves you with a grand high total of 225,000 draftable free men for that militia, if you were to conscript every single one of them (never actually happened in any war.)
Don't forget the upper end of the spectrum as well, those who might be considered too old, lame, or sick to actually fight. A conservative reduction to that 225,000 number would be about a quarter (56,250). Call it 55k just to keep the numbers even, and you've got about 170,000 draftable peasants.
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Old 15th February 2011, 09:10 AM   #31
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And now for the issue of that standing army and joining to advance in rank. Someone doing that would be very disappointed. There were very few ranks, and for that matter very little organization in a medieval army. Even units we now take for granted, like the squad or the rank of corporal, only re-appeared in the 16'th century. (I say re-appeared because obviously the Romans had had them.) Heck, even the rank of "private" only appears in the 16'th century to denote a professional private soldier, i.e., a mercenary, and it bore mentioning it because he was supposed to be better trained and worth more than a levied peasant. Platoon too, only appears derived from a 17'th century word, and seems to just not have been in use in the middle ages.

The basic unit of military organization in the middle ages was the "company", but that didn't even have a fixed size or much internal organization. It simply meant the motley horde of troops an earl or duke brought to the field, and was headed by said noble as a "captain", i.e., head of a company. Or for mercenaries, it meant pretty much all the troops that a mercenary condottiero had.

The only real rank below it was one lieutenant which, as the name says, was a place-keeper for the captain when said captain couldn't personally attend.

The sergeants (ok, serjants) at first were not even a rank, as a type of troops (pretty much those men-at-arms), and later evolved into something which more generically meant a personal assistant or adjutant to the captain.

Warrant officers were another kind of assistants to the captain or his lieutenant, this time in a more technical role, but they only appear in the 13'th century in the English navy, and for the 14'th century they'd still exist only in the navy.

Above it all was the king which was supposed to personally lead his armies in battle, but he could (and often did) delegate to a "lieutenant" of his own. For the task of organizing and supplying the army, the king could in turn be assisted by someone like a Field Marshall or High Constable, but those tended to be nobility functions too, rather than something you could be promoted to if you started from the bottom.

Again there was a distinct lack of further divisions or ranks between the king or his lieutenant and the companies. There were no colonels (rank appeared much later), majors (originally a sergeant to a colonel, and again much later), etc.

Basically the whole chain of command had 2 levels, each with its lieutenant, and that was it. The possibility to start at the bottom and end up even lieutenant was non-existent in royal armies, and had real crap odds even for mercenaries.

Which reminds me, why not make that "standing army" mercenaries? That would be a more realistic medieval setup for those extra thousands of troops besides the knights and men at arms?

Mercenaries though tended to be hired only in wars -- which in some places meant almost yearly -- and typically with a contract for 3 months in the 14'th century. (Generally raised to 6 month in the 15'th century, with an option to extend for another 6 months.) Downside being that they fought rather half-arsed in the last couple of weeks of those 3 months, as, understandably, nobody was thrilled to risk his life in all earnest for someone who'll discharge him next week either way.

The standing paid army basically evolved more out of those than anything else, as after that being hired in 6 month increments, a lot of lords and kings and cities just started hiring their mercenaries as a full time job. Again that's later and only started to happen by the end of the 15'th century.

It's not necessarily a bad place to dump extra sons into, as mercenaries tended to be actually well paid for those three months. It was not unusual for a mercenary to be paid wages similar to a skilled craftsman or even higher, or get more per month than a peasant per year.

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Old 15th February 2011, 09:11 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by RobRoy View Post
Don't forget the upper end of the spectrum as well, those who might be considered too old, lame, or sick to actually fight. A conservative reduction to that 225,000 number would be about a quarter (56,250). Call it 55k just to keep the numbers even, and you've got about 170,000 draftable peasants.
Well, good point, though probably even more realistic would be to just halve the number.
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Old 15th February 2011, 09:22 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Also, another thing that comes to mind:

Actually, only the free men. No feudal society required the serfs to fight or bear arms, and some explicitly forbade them to. So, depending on the actual social structure your kingdom has, you could end up with that half a million militia being actually more than the total free males in the kingdom.

Even in England, in the 11th century only an estimated 10% of the peasants were free.

So doing some back-of-the-napkin calculation, out of a 10 million population, maybe 80-90% would be peasants, let's say 90% to go for the upper limit. So 9 million peasants. Out of these about half would be women, so that leaves 4.5 million. Of these more than half would be children (life expectancy in the 11'th century sucked incredibly hard), let's say half, so that's 2.25 million adult male peasants. And of these only 10% or so would be yeomen, so that leaves you with a grand high total of 225,000 draftable free men for that militia, if you were to conscript every single one of them (never actually happened in any war.)
I don't think you can really make such blanket determinations - the nature of serfdom varied enormously across Europe and different times. In many instances only serfs were required to provide military service and freemen could do as they please. Also the rates of Serfdom varied quite enormously - for example you propose a rate of 90%, but if we take 11th C England the very worst territories had a rate of about 90% and as time went on those rates steadily dropped. In the Domesday Book only 66% of peasantry were unfree, and by 1300 that had dropped to 33%. (Funnily enough the trend was for peasants to gain greater freedom, but get poorer)

Yeomans are a different kettle of fish altogether as they were minor land owners (30-120 acres - enough to feed 40-170 people - that's as much as 1/4 of the land of a typical village). At various times yeomen were anything from young lords training to be knights to household servants. In fact the word "knight" and the word "yeoman" are thought to have originally meant the same thing.

I've been trimming back the numbers quite dramatically but I haven't looked at the "militia" figures yet. I think I am going to reduce them though. One point; no serfdom. It's been outlawed, long ago. everyone's freeeeeeeeeeee.
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Old 15th February 2011, 09:39 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Well, good point, though probably even more realistic would be to just halve the number.
Probably. But those who made it to the "elderly" stage, without healthcare or hope of retirement, would be hardy folk. The unfortunates who survived but were incapable of contributing further, and relied on their families for sustenance would be more the exception than the rule. Thus the 75/25 split. It's been some time since I've read Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror, but I recall her going into some detail on the peasantry and their general state of health.
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Old 15th February 2011, 09:49 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
And now for the issue of that standing army and joining to advance in rank. Someone doing that would be very disappointed. There were very few ranks, and for that matter very little organization in a medieval army.

Yeah but hang on, this is a permanent, professional standing army - something that basically doesn't exist in feudal Europe, so clearly it's not going to be formed along medieval army lines. The military structures we have today are a result of having standing armies, so if we'd planted a standing army into medieval Europe those military structures would have developed much sooner.

You don't need structure when you're raising an army just to fight one campaign. As soon as a military force becomes permanent and offers a career path, rank and structure is basically guaranteed.

Whether it's the Greeks or the Romans or Europe, there's a distinct pattern whereby as soon as an army becomes permanent or professional there's a rapid increase in formal structure and hierarchy. We see it with Sparta and Alexander the Great's Macedonian Armies versus the other Greek Armies, we see it with the Marian reforms in Rome, and we see it with the changes that came about in Europe in the Renaissance.

Within a matter of years of a standing army emerging, you'll get a rank structure beginning to form from what was a rabble.

If we take the Greek example, the smallest Athenian unit was about 100 men and there were six rank levels in total in the entire Athenian army. In Alexander's Macedonian Phalanx the smallest unit was 4 men, and a platoon size unit (32 men) had five different ranks.

I think one of the crucial things about fiddling with alternative history is that you can't change one detail in isolation, because it has repercussions. You can't have a nation with a standing army and expect it to be otherwise identical to any other medieval state. Obviously something that significant is going to have enormous repercussions - not just one the nature of the military force itself, but on the entire Kingdom.

In essence that's the entire point of this thread.
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Old 15th February 2011, 10:01 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by RobRoy View Post
Probably. But those who made it to the "elderly" stage, without healthcare or hope of retirement, would be hardy folk.
Indeed Sir John de Sully may have been as much as 86 years old when he went into battle for the last time.
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Old 15th February 2011, 10:10 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
Indeed Sir John de Sully may have been as much as 86 years old when he went into battle for the last time.
The name sounds familiar, but I can't place it. For some reason I want to say that he was the captain of a free company of archers who was knighted, but I have a feeling I'm thinking of someone else entirely.
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Old 15th February 2011, 10:17 AM   #38
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From my extensive reading of medievally-themed literature, I wonder why you are even bothering with armies. All invasions in medieval times could be dealt with by a properly assorted group of five to nine individuals, always including one displaced royal (last scion of the previous dynasty, prince disgraced by false accusation or otherwise usurped, prince swapped at birth with peasant child, or some such), an archer with backcountry survival and first aid skills, a vagabond, a wizard, and an annoying young person with a prophesied destiny. The first and last listed may overlap as a single individual. A legendary sword will be among their possessions. Optional additional members include one or more yeomen, an itinerant holy man who shares or takes over the first aid duties, and/or a short-statured talking forest creature. One member may also be an elf or elf-human hybrid, and one may be a dwarf. One or two may be female, but if so, the younger of the females is approximately 25% likely to turn into a tree during the course of thwarting the invasion.

For the more realistic army scenario, one issue to consider is how realistically you want to deal with disease. Large armies in the field were almost guaranteed to suffer from chronic dysentery if not something worse. Having the army disperse seasonally was about the only thing that would slow the epidemics down. Of course, that issue would affect all sides. And your setting may or may not include either fewer diseases, or more effective medicine, than historically known.

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Old 15th February 2011, 10:25 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by RobRoy View Post
The name sounds familiar, but I can't place it. For some reason I want to say that he was the captain of a free company of archers who was knighted, but I have a feeling I'm thinking of someone else entirely.
Don't think so. I only know the name because I ran across his grave when needing to kill some time. It's this guy:

http://www.creditonparishchurch.org....john-de-sully/
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Old 15th February 2011, 10:33 AM   #40
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Logistically Medieval armies of the 12th and 13th century tended to live off the land which made them veritible plagues of locusts to the locals who where unfortunate enough to be where the armies were. Crop surpluses were very low. Generally yields of crops were on the order of 1 to 3 to 1 to 6, in some cases it was a very bad 1 to 2. the above figues are the ratio of planted grain to yield. I.E. for every 1 grain planted you got 3 or more grains. This ment that a sizable portion of the harvest had to be saved as seed grain for the next planting. Of course the peasants also had taxes to pay and dues owing to their lords. Both of which were frequently quite substantial. This made living fairly precarious. Add an army marching through to the mix and life became vastly more difficult if not impossible. Peasants ussualy viewed armies as a curse and punishment from heaven, even if the army was their army. Areas through which armies went through were ussualy swiftly devastated. Added to this Peasants were frequently forcibly conscripted to provide labour services to armies, men forcibly billeted on them. Not surprisingly regions in which armies appeared were often depopulated as people fled, and often took decades to recover.

Further adding to the problem was that Medieval governments were almost always chronically short of cash to pay their troops. The result is that the armies would squeeze the locals not just for supplies but for cash. In theory medieval armies raised by the feudal system didn't have to be paid, but were the responsibility of the feudal underlings to pay costs. The actuallity was far different; large amounts of cash were needed in a chronically cash poor society. Many of the Lords in Medieval Europe had lots of vassals but little cash and many vassals lacked the financial wherewithal to go campaigning without a monetary subsidy. For example it appears that many vassals had a very hard time simply getting together the necessary equipment. Say a suit of armour, which was by then standards spectacularily expensive. (I've read various estimates of the cost in terms of a average peasants yearly "wage", but the lowest I've heard is some like 50-100 years worth for a full suit of mail. Plate armour was even more expensive, to say nothing of a sword, a trained war horse etc.

A large component of medieval armies, at least of the element of the nobility, was second and third etc., sons seeking their fortune because the system of inheritance in which the eldest son got practically all of it left them out.

Some Medieval generals and leaders did on occasion try to lay in supplies for a campaign and provide logistic support. These efforts were not common, mainly because medieval roads were very bad and therefore transportation costs were very high and has mentioned above medieval governments were cash poor. Sometimes medieval governments tried to get enough cash together so they could buy supplies and leave their peasants alone. But all such efforts were short lived and medieval armies soon went back to what amounted to pillaging the countryside.

If medieval armies were curses to their own people, they were horrors to their enemies. The typical medieval military strategy while on campaign was the chevauchee. This involved going through enemy territory and pillaging everything within reach, burning villages, stealing everything that could be taken and often killing everyone not worth a good ransom. The rules of chivalry were generally held to only apply to relations between the Nobility. Pitched battles were actually fairly rare, but there was generally much skirmishing, pillaging, looting and myriad atrocities against enemy civilians.

Although most medieval states could call out, in theory, large numbers of peasant militia. Those men were generally useless in an army and therefore not frequently used. When they were used if they were on the losing side they were frequently butchered enmass. Not worth good ransoms you see. They were ill trained and very ill equiped. Good military equipment was very expensive. Medieval states ussually preferred to exact taxes from the peasantry to hire soldiers who could fight well.

As for garrisons. Well medieval armies being poorly paid, if at all, would get their money from the area they were protecting. In the Hundred Years War this practice was called the patis. It was basically a vast protection racket. In which the garrison would levy contributions on the locals and threaten fire and sword if they wern't paid. And of course inflict fire and sword if they were in fact not paid. To this was also added exactions for supplies and billating. The fact is even the small permanent garrisons that the English had in France during the Hundred Years War terrorized the locals to such an extent that the population of the areas garrisoned fell signifigantly even in areas far from the fighting. Also even when garrisons were paid, there was lots of money to be paid squeezeing the locals and lots of people made oddles of cash.

Governments had a very hard time paying for armies even temporarily, a garrison represented a terrible drain on finances so that a garrison system on a border was during the 12th and 14th century an pipe dream extravagance. The English during the Hundred Years war were able to have garrisons only because of the patis and a systematic policy of exploitation. As it was their official garrisons were small. There was however also the plague of unpaid soldiers who made do with pillaging the locals, and extracting patis freelance and where called back into official service when necessary.

In the late 14th century the french king Charles V was able to create something like a standing army of c. 3-5 thousand men only by straining every financial expedient to the max and taxing his subjects ruthlessly. Even so the effort evenually proved to much. This was in a nation of c. 12-15 million at the time. In the 15th century Charles VII of France was able through extensive financial and other reforms to create a standing army of c. 8,000 men, based on the same population as under Charles V. More importantly, at least from the point of view of a peasant, (the overwhelming majority of the population), he was able to insure that it was paid regularily and better yet much more disciplined so it didn't go off and pillage and devastate the people it was allegedly protecting at the drop of a hat. Charles VII was even able to organize a commisaret that if not terribly effective was efffective enough to reduce the need to live off the country and just as important arrange so that money was available to buy supplies. The result was a army that was less destructive than previous armies.
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