Crying over spilt Castlemilk: The Tale of Sir William and the Silver Sallet Part 5

Evidence for the role of plunder is addressed in this fifth piece of this six-part essay to explain how Sir William Stewart of Castlemilk may have obtained his silver sallet.

A Helmet with a Coronet ‘of purest gold ornamented with the most precious gems’

Thomas, duke of Clarence, was the eldest of Henry V’s younger brothers and heir to the English (and French) throne. His reckless charge at a force of Scots who were enjoying a wee swally and a game of footie would prove to be his last. The Battle of Baugé (22 March 1421) utterly destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the English ‘Band of Brothers’.[1]

            The unnamed chronicler at Pluscarden Abbey in Moray, writing later in the fifteenth century, tells an intriguing tale:

[…] sed tamen publica vox fuit quod quidam Scotus montanus, Alexander Makcaustelayn nominatus, de Levenax oriundus, de familia domini de Bachania, dictum ducem de Clarencia occidit; quia, ac hoc signum, coronellam auream, quae in galia sua de auro purissimo, gemmis preciosis ornatum, super caput ejus in campo inventa fuit, praedicus Makcastelan secum in campo portavit, et pro mille nobilibus domino de Dernly vendidit: qui eandem coronellam Roberto de Houston pro quinque millibus nobilium sibi debitis in pignore postea reliquit.

[…] but folk said, however, that a certain mountain Scot (i.e. Gael) from the Lennox, of the lord (earl) of Buchan’s household, named Alexander Makcaustelayn, slew the said duke of Clarence who, as proof of this, found on his (Clarence’s) helm on his head in the field (of battle) a gold coronet of the purest gold ornamented with the most precious gems. The aforesaid Makcastelan [sic] carried it with him into the camp and sold it to the lord of Darnley for 1,000 nobles, who afterwards pledged this same coronet to Robert Houston for 5,000 nobles.[2]

Fig.1: St. George and the Dragon, stained glass panel, c. 1400, made in England, Glasgow Museums Collections, 45.86.

“This day should Clarence closely be mew’d [or hewed!] up”

A remarkable survival is a household account recording payments to Bartholomew Winter ‘arm[o]rer’ to the hapless Duke Thomas. It dates to sometime between 1418 and 1421 in anticipation of the departure ‘versus p[ar]tes Normandie’. We are provided with a great amount of detail as to the lavish equipment this nobleman took on campaign. I have included in this extract the armour only.

j par’ de plates nouis liij s. iiij d. j nouo basinet xliij s. iiij d. vno pare’ [sic] Cirotecar[um] de plate xiij s. iiij d. j breeke de maile j pair gusset iij pair’ [sic] voiders xxj s. viij d. j lorica xxvj s. viij d. pro exambio vni’ pair’ [sic] legharnays & j pair’ rerbrace viij s. […] margarete Strawston’ pro iij verges de corsez rubij p[ro] garnisshing’ del legh[ar]nays vaumbrace & rerbrace & aut[re]s v s. Henrico aurifabro london’ p[ro] Bukles & pendantz de arg’ pro eod[e]m xxj s. vj d. […] pro iiij dozein poyntes p[u]r armyng de j h[a]b[er]geon’ Girdell’ ij d. j tresse ij d. sim[u]l cu’ Bothirs de london’ vsq’ Grenewyche p[u]r assayng del dit h[er]neyse v d. […] pro emendac[i]one vni’ basinet’ cu’ vno pare [sic] de plates & totu’ h[er]nec’ d[omi]no Comiti xx s. p[ro] j salade xx s. vno par’ nouar[um] sabatou[n]s vj s. viij d. et p[ro] imposic[i]one de nouo de vno par’ cirotec’ de plate empt’ pro d[omi]no Comite iiij s. iiij d. vna lorica xxxiij s. iiij d. vn’ pysan’ xiiij s.

one new pair of plates 53s. 4d., one new basinet 43s. 4d., one pair of plate gauntlets 13s. 4d., one breech of mail and one pair of gussets, three pairs of voiders 21s. 8d., one hauberk 24s. 8d., for canvassing one pair of legharness and one pair of rerebrace (plate arm defences) 8s. […] Margaret Strawson for three ells of red silk for equipping the legharness, vambrace and rerebrace, and others 5s., Henry, goldsmith of London, for silver buckles and pendants for them 21s. 6d. […] for four dozen points for the arming of one haubergeon girdle 2d., one tress 2d., along with boat hire from London to Greenwich for assaying the said harness 5d. […] for mending one basinet with one pair of plates and all the lord earl’s harness 20s., for one sallet 20s., for a new pair of sabatons 6s. 8d., and for newly-fitting one pair of plate gauntlets 4s. 4d., one hauberk 23s. 4d., one pisan (mail collar) 14s.[3]

None of this harness survives but some idea of its finery is given by beautiful artworks produced at this time (Figure 1 and Figure 2).

Fig.2: St John the Evangelist Hands the Palm to the Jewish Chief Priest, stained glass panel, c. 1450-55, Glasgow Museums Collections, 45.92.

This same account records a payment ‘for gilt mail to repair my lord Edmund’s hauberk along with its making etc.’ (‘pro giltmayle p[ro] emendac[i]one lorice d[omin]i mei Ed[mund]i simul cu’ factura eiusd[e]m &c’’). Edmund Beaufort, the future duke of Somerset, was Clarence’s teenage stepson. Edmund’s elder brother Thomas was captured in the mêlée at Baugé by Darnley’s retinue and was (very likely) passed on to Jean, duke of Bourbon, for doubtless a handsome fee.[4]

Might Sir William’s sallet have come from this valuable haul? It is certainly a very strong possibility. What then was the fate of Sir William and his silver sallet? Find out in the final instalment.

Cite this article as: Ralph Moffat, "Crying over spilt Castlemilk: The Tale of Sir William and the Silver Sallet Part 5," in Martial Culture in Medieval Town, 14/03/2021, https://martcult.hypotheses.org/1230.

[1] John D. Milner, ‘The Battle of Baugé, March 1421: Impact and Memory’, History, 91 (2006), 484-507.

[2] Liber Pluscardensis, ed. by Felix J. H. Skene, 2 vols (Edinburgh: Paterson, 1877-80), I, 356. Might this man be the ‘matasselin’ who was gifted a harness by King Charles in 1447, as mentioned in the third essay?

[3] London, Westminster Abbey, Muniment 12163, fol. 12r-fol. 12v, and fol. 20r.

[4] Rémy Ambühl, Prisoners of War in the Hundred Years War: Ransom Culture in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 66-68.


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