Crying over spilt Castlemilk: The Tale of Sir William and the Silver Sallet Part 3

This third, and the following two parts, of this six-part essay examine the evidence available to provide an explanation as to where such equipment as Sir William Stewart of Castlemilk’s silver sallet may have come from: royal gift, purchase, and plunder.

‘A ung homme d’armes natif du pays d’Escoce […] un harnoiz’

On 26 May 1447 King Charles forked out 2,726 livres 5 sous tournois for seventy-five harnesses and thirteen brigandines. A harness is the term for a complete plate armour. A brigandine is a flexible torso defence constructed of fabric and metal plates (Figure 1 and Figure 2). A number of these were gifted and distributed (‘donné et fait distribuer’) thus:

A ung homme d’armes natif du pays d’Escoce nommé Matasselin; un harnoiz, à un grant homme d’armes du dit pays d’Escosse nommé Unfroy Coningnam, un harnois; à Gilbert, archier de la garde du corps dudit seigneur, que ledit seigneur luy a donné pour envoyer en Escosse, un harnoiz […] à Robert Hounter, homme d’armes, ung harnoiz […] à Robert Conignan, trois harnoiz et une brigandine dorée; à un archier, une brigandine commune.[1]

The payment for these was made to ‘Balsazin de Trez, marchant de Milan, armurier’. Such royal gifts of martial equipment were entirely dependent on urban centres and their inhabitants.

Fig.1: Glasgow Museums, Hercules and his Companions on Mount Olympus or Hercules Initiating the Olympic Games (detail), 46.80, tapestry, Belgium, c. 1465-1470.

Wise Guys’ Supplies: The Milanese Connection

On 12 October 1455 Francesco, duke of Milan, wrote to Charles VII to request safe conduct for Balzarino da Trezo, armourer of our City (‘armorero de questa nostra cita’). He also asked that this be revoked if necessary ‘so that Balzarino does not bring any craftsmen of his art outwith our jurisdiction’ (‘non condure alcuni lavoratori de l’arte sua fuora della nostra jurisdictione’).[2] But the Duke could not put the genie back in the bottle. Balzarin and his brother Gasparin (Lombard versions of Balthazar and Caspar – presumably there was a third brother to make up the Magi: the Three Wise Men) had been granted letters of naturalization between 1449 and 1450 and were firmly ensconced at Tours.[3] An extract from the letter granted to their fellow Milanese business partner conveys the importance of such men to the French war effort. The King extends his thanks for ‘the good and agreeable service that the said supplicant has done us in times past with sale of harness, wishing to attract this in our said realm’ (‘bons et aggreables services que le dict suppliant nous a faiz le temps passé ou dict fait de marchandise de harnois, voulans icelui attraire en nostre dict royaume’).[4]

Fig.2: Royal Armouries, Brigandine, III.1664, Italy, 1470.

It is up for debate if Balzarin and his compatriots were craftsmen or merchants (or indeed both). In a document of 1477 Gabriel de Trez is named as the son of ‘sire Balsarin de Tres, valet de chambre et armurier du roi’.[5] What is indisputable is that they were able to shift a quality product.In Parisian regulations of 1407 the charge was levelled that German-made haubergeons are ‘not of such sure work as is made in parts of Lombardy’ (‘pas si seurs ouurages que on fait esd[i]c[t]es partes de lombardie’). It is, it was claimed, in ‘good towns of Lombardy where they are accustomed to make and work good and secure armours’ (‘bonnes villes de lombardie ou len a acoustume faire & ouurer de bonnes et seures armeures’). Worse still, these knock-offs were being flogged off to unwitting buyers with false marks or signs (‘faulses marques ou saigns’).[6] Three years later an unscrupulous merchant was slapped with a fine of 100 Parisian sous for attempting to sell three haubergeons ‘signe et m[ar]quez du saing de milan’.[7]

Fig.3: Glasgow Museums, Haubergeon, E.1939.65.e.14, Germany, 14th century.

English fighters too, appreciated the quality. For instance, one hauberk of Milan (‘vna[m] lorica[m] de milayne’) was bequeathed by Sir Philip Darcy in his will of 16 April 1399.[8] In 1464 Sir John Howard lent out ‘a salate of fyn melen wethe a veser’, ‘a fyne salat of melen wethe a veser’, and another of his men ‘hathe on[e] of my fyneeste salates of melen, wethe a veser’.[9]

That the silver sallet was a gift to Sir William is a strong possibility. The next two instalments deal with two alternatives: purchase and plunder.


[1] Chronique de Mathieu d’Escouchy, ed. by G. Du Fresne de Beaucourt, 3 vols (Paris: Renouard, 1863-64), III, 255-56. The original document – if it survives – is probably in the Archives nationales.

[2] Jacopo Gelli and Gaetano Moretti, Gli armaroli milanesi. I Missaglia e la loro casa (Milan: Hoepli, 1903), p. 5, citing Milan, Archivio di Stato di Milano, Missivi ducale, no. 25, fol. 139r.

[3] Paris, Archives nationales, JJ//180, no. 1403, fol. 94r: ‘Gasparinon et Balsarino de Trez’. The toponymic Tres/Trez reflects the Lombard pronunciation of Trezzo.

[4] Paris, Archives nationales, JJ 180, no. 111, fol. 50r, printed in Françoise Mighaud-Fréjaville, ‘Être naturalisé dans la vallée de la Loire (1450-1501)’, Annuaire-Bulletin de la Société de l’histoire de France, unnumbered(2011), 3-13 (p. 12).

[5] Tours, Archives départementales d’Indre-et-Loire, 37, 3E1/2.

[6] Paris, Archives nationales, Y//2, Châtelet de Paris, Livre rouge vieil, fol. 237r.

[7] Paris, Archives nationales, Registres des sentences civiles du Châtelet, Y//5227, fol. 173v.

[8] York, Borthwick Institute, Abp Reg. 16: Richard Scrope, fol. 134v. The Latin name lorica was specifically applied to the hauberk at this time. See R. Moffat, ‘The Manner of Arming Knights for the Tourney: A Re-Interpretation of an Important Early-14th-Century Arming Treatise’, Arms & Armour, 7 (2010), 5-29 (at pp. 13-14).

[9] Manners and Household Expenses of England in the Thirteenth and Fifteenth Centuries Illustrated by Original Records, ed. by T. H. Turner (London: Nichol, 1841), p. 440. The original document is likely in the archives at Arundel Castle.


OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
Ralph Moffat (January 15, 2021). Crying over spilt Castlemilk: The Tale of Sir William and the Silver Sallet Part 3. Martial Culture in Medieval Town. Retrieved July 22, 2024 from https://doi.org/10.58079/r90h


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