Crying over spilt Castlemilk: The Tale of Sir William and the Silver Sallet Part 2

The second instalment this six-part essay identifies the most likely owner of the silver sallet. It explains why he, his kinsmen, and many of his compatriots were to be found in France’s urban centres at a critical juncture in the Hundred Years War.

A Desperate Dauphin

To say that Charles’s fortunes were at a low ebb by the start of the siege of Orléans in October of 1428 would be far too generous. A fairer oceanic metaphor would be that his fortunes were stranded in mudflats facing a rushing incoming tide. But the tide was to turn. Thanks to the Auld Alliance of 1295 French monarchs had secured the aid of the Scots. Such scholars as Michael Brown have demonstrated that the large forces of fighting men (and boys) commanded by Scottish magnates were raised from their own private retinues bound by ties of landholding and kinship.[1] There are, therefore, no detailed records of the nature of those of England such as muster rolls and service indentures. It is likely that up to 15,000 Scots were involved, many of them skilled archers.[2] This is a staggering number given the small size of this northern realm. For the crucial role played by the Scots one need only refer to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entries for such war leaders as Archibald, earl of Douglas, John Stewart, earl of Buchan, and Sir John Stewart of Darnley.

Desperately-needed aid was soon to arrive at Orléans in the form of a cyclops, his brother, and some hard fighting men.

Fig.1: John Hassall, Bannockburn, 1914-15, Glasgow Museums, ID No. 1386.

Billy the Kid Brother to the Connétable

Two Stewarts appear as characters in a play about the siege of Orléans, probably written not long after the conflict itself. One is ‘Le Connétable d’Écosse Lord John Stuart de Darnley’ the other is ‘Messire Guillaume Estuart’.[3] Sir John had been appointed to one of the highest military ranks. There are royal lettres patentes of 1423 granting ‘la ville, leur chastel et Chastelline d’Aubigny […] à Jean Stuart, seigneur de Darnelle et Concressault, conestable de l’armee d’Ecosse, [… et] à ses hoirs [sic] males descendants de son corps’.[4] In a payment to his Connétable, Charles refers to ‘his ancient enemies and adversaries of England’ (‘ses anciens ennemis et adversaires d’Angleterre’).[5] This is somewhat of an understatement. Sir John lost his half-brother, great grandfather (and his two brothers), and great great grandfather in battle against them – he even lost an eye before his capture at Cravant (31 July 1423). Such epic clashes with the ‘Auld Innemie’ have proved themselves an enduring inspiration to many artists across the centuries (Figure 1, Figure 2, and Figure 3).

Fig.2: Sir John Maxwell, Battle of Otterburn-Death of Douglas and Capture of Sir Ralph Percy, 19th century, Glasgow Museums, ID No. NR.89.
Fig.3: Sir William Alan, Heroism and Humanity, 1802-50, Glasgow Museums, ID No. 1233.

The coat of arms of ‘Le s[eigneu]r de dernele’ is recorded in Berry Herald’s beautiful armorial produced in the middle of the fifteenth century (Figure 4).[6] On the following folio is ‘Le s[eigneu]r de chastelmont’ (Figure 5).[7] The blazon on each features a gold field with a distinctive central, horizontal, band checkered with blue and silver – or, a fess chequy azure and argent. This proclaims their kinship with the royal Stewart dynasty. The second has a diagonal red band (bendlet gules) that passes under the fess chequy as a mark of difference. These are the arms of Sir William Stewart of Castlemilk, Sir John’s younger brother, and the most likely candidate for the owner of the silver sallet.

Fig.4: Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Français 4985, fol. 158r.

Sir William’s lactose-like title comes from the lands of Castlemilk in Lanarkshire. The name’s origin lies with an ancestor’s castle on the Water of Milk, a tributary of the River Annan in the far south-west of the country.

Fig.5: Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Français 4985, fol. 159r.

So, how did Sir William come into the possession of such a fine piece of armour as the sallet? One possibility is that it was made in, or imported into, his own realm. Unfortunately, due to the paucity of sources, it is incredibly difficult to construct a picture of armour production in Scotland.[8]

In the next three installments I examine three possible explanations: gift, purchase, and plunder.

Cite this article as: Ralph Moffat, "Crying over spilt Castlemilk: The Tale of Sir William and the Silver Sallet Part 2," in Martial Culture in Medieval Town, 10/12/2020, https://martcult.hypotheses.org/1156.

[1] Michael Brown, The Black Douglases: War and Lordship in Late Medieval Scotland, 1300-1455 (East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 1998), p. 153 and pp. 216-23. See also M. H. Brown, ‘“Men, Brave and Strong”: Bannockburn, the Auld Alliance and Scottish Martial Identity in the Later Middle Ages’, in Scotland and the First World War: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Bannockburn, ed. by Gill Plain (Lanham, MD: Bucknell University Press, 2017), pp. 49-64 (esp. pp. 55-57).

[2] R. Moffat, ‘Armour’, in A Companion to Chivalry, ed. by Robert W. Jones and Peter Coss (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2019), pp. 159-85 (at p. 164).

[3] Le Mistère du siège d’Orléans, ed. by F. Guessard and E. De Certain (Paris: Imprimerie Impériale, 1862), p. xlviii and p. 255.

[4] Paris, Archives nationales, K 168, no. 91.

[5] Jules Loiseleur, ‘Compte des dépenses faites par Charles VII pour secourir Orléans pendant le siège de 1428’, Mémoires de la Société Archéologique de l’Orléanais, 11 (1868), 1-209 (p. 184). The account published by Loiseleur is a seventeenth-century copy of a lost original.

[6] Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 4985, fol. 158r.

[7] Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 4985, fol. 159r.

[8] A detailed study drawing on surviving royal records is David H. Caldwell, ‘Royal Patronage of Arms and Armour Making in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Scotland’, in Scottish Weapons and Fortifications, 1100-1800, ed. by David H. Caldwell (Edinburgh: Donald, 1981), pp. 73-93.

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

The aim of this six-part essay is to investigate the fortunes of a fighting knight in the 1420s, his armour, and the key role of urban centres in supporting the martial culture of his ilk. They are illustrated with objects from Glasgow Museums’ collections and others.

A Silver Sallet at Orléans in 1437

On 7 February 1437 the notaire of Orléans scribbled the following entry:

Olivier des Brosses et Jehan Phelippe, armeurier demourant a Orliens, receurent de Jehan Bourgeoys, cousturier demourant a Orliens, une salade appartenant a Guillaume Stewart, Escossoys comme ils disoient, bordee d’argent, avecques une hoppe d’argent, tout ledit argent pesant deux marcs sept onces comme ilz disoient, que ledit Bourgeoys avoit en gaige dudit Escossoys pour trois reaulx d’or

Olivier des Brosses and Jehan Phelippe, armourer of Orléans, have received from Jehan Bourgeoys, couturier (tailor) of Orléans, one sallet belonging to William Stewart, a Scot, as they claim, bordered with silver with a silver hoop, all the said silver weighs two marcs seven onces, as they claim, that the said Bourgeoys had accepted as a pledge from the said Scot for three royaux d’or.[1]

‘The most common and the best, as seems to me’

The sallet is a type of helmet. An anonymous Frenchman writing in 1446 of the arms and armour of his day understood that it afforded the fighting man good protection whilst allowing ease of movement, vision, and breathing: ‘the most common and the best, as seems to me, are the head defences called sallets’ (‘la plus co[m]mune et la meilleur a mon semblant est larmeure de teste qui se appelle sallades’).[2] It might be of one piece (Fig. 1) or fitted with a visor (Fig. 2). Some are beautifully-decorated works of art: examples being the one crafted as part of the harness for Archduke Sigismund of the Tyrol in the Kunsthistorisches Museum,Vienna, the sallet of Emperor Maximilian I in New York’s Metropolitan Museum and that of Philip I in the Real Armería, Madrid.

Fig. 1: Sallet forged in one piece with central flattened keel form ridge over the skull passing into long pointed tail at the back and descending sharply to horizontal sight slit in front, the lower edge of which juts beyond the upper; lining rivets surround the base of the skull at eye level and are continued inside on metal strap fixed to the brow of the sight slit. Germany.
http://collections.glasgowmuseums.com/mwebcgi/mweb?request=record;id=32743;type=101

 The silver borders referred to in the notaire’s entry were applied strips of decoration. An elegant survival of this type is the sabaton (plate foot defence) from the components of armour for the young Dauphin (later Charles VI) dedicated to Chartres Cathedral in the 1380s (now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Chartres). On it are the remains of a border of silver-gilt fleur-de-lys.[3]

Fig. 2: Sculpture featuring a visored sallet. Stone head of a warrior, possibly from a statue of St George. Made in France , circa 1520.
http://collections.glasgowmuseums.com/mwebcgi/mweb?request=record;id=40277;type=101

We now have our silver sallet, but who was its owner? What was he doing pawning his martial equipment in this urban centre and why? Find out in the next installment.

Cite this article as: Ralph Moffat, "Crying over spilt Castlemilk: The Tale of Sir William and the Silver Sallet Part I," in Martial Culture in Medieval Town, 16/11/2020, https://martcult.hypotheses.org/1125.

[1] Orléans, Archives départementales du Loiret, 3E10151, fol. 114v. I am extremely grateful to Prof. Kouky Fianu for her kind assistance locating this document and generously sharing her transcription.

[2] Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 1997, fol. 64r. A full scan of this MS is available at: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b9059047w/f36.image

[3] F. H. Cripps-Day, ‘The Armour at Chartres’, The Connoisseur, 110 (1942), 91-95.

Martial sports in the Travels of Leo of Rozmital

Medieval Europe remains an enduringly elusive subject for the scholar, the historical fencer, and the interested layman. The tropes and clichés popular culture provides equip us poorly to decipher the enigmatic complexity of the world revealed in the ‘fight-books’ of men like Hans Talhoffer and Fiore dei Liberi. And yet, there is a wealth of data available for those with a serious interest in their world. Late Medieval Europe was documented by busy bureaucracies (secular, civic and seigniorial) who were each producing a wealth of written records, making it an almost unique subject for this period.

One type of MS which is particularly useful to modern researchers is the travelogue. Medieval travellers recorded memoirs ranging from the purely fanciful but wildly popular Travels of Sir John Mandeville, to the (mostly) real but less artfully crafted Travels of Marco Polo. Even whimsical tales can provide valuable insights into the mind-set of their time, while more grounded memoirs offer priceless hints into the day to day realities of life in past centuries.

However, contemporaneous travelogues describing experiences within Latinized Europe are somewhat rarer. A unique account of a journey in the 15th Century, The Travels of Leo of Rozmital[1], records a diplomatic voyage of 40 men that took place entirely within “Christendom” across two years. Written during the expedition itself starting in 1465, these memoirs document conditions both on the rough roads and pathways of Late Medieval Europe as well as in the luxurious courts of the greatest princes of the time. Because the accounts of these travellers are well corroborated by many other sources derived from the places they visited, this relatively little known travelogue is potentially of great value to scholars.

The origin and context of this journey are also of interest, as the trip was organized on behalf of the enigmatic heretic King of Bohemia, Jiří z Poděbrad, known to the Germans as Georg von Podiebrad. This remarkable monarch found his nation, the predominantly Czech Kingdom of Bohemia, while facing a renewed Crusade instigated by a hostile Pope. Success in defending their homeland from the original Hussite Crusades of the 1420s- and in particular, their early mastery of the use of firearms in the open field, had earned the Czechs a considerable (begrudging) respect among the towns and principalities of Central Europe. Despite their status as heretics, Bohemian mercenaries were in high demand throughout the fifteenth century and fought in battles as far away as the Rhineland, and even on behalf of great prince-prelates such as Archbishop Dietrich of Cologne[2] and Emperor Frederick III.

The Bohemian expedition, led by Jaroslav Lev (“Leo”) of Rožmitál, a Czech noble of lower-princely rank allied by marriage to King Poděbrady, had two purposes: first, to build good relationships among the princely rulers and towns of Christian Europe, and second, a far more interesting and ambitious secret mission, which was to propose a general peace, the Tractatus pacis toti Christianitati fiendae, something like a precursor to the EU or the UN[3].  Though the idea of the universal treaty, centuries ahead of its time, did not take hold, the voyage was indeed something of a diplomatic success, blunting support for the Crusade, which was downgraded to a local war between Bohemia and Hungary.

However, the account of the journey itself is of interest to us today. It survives in the form of two written memoirs, each by one of the 12 knights accompanying the Baron. The first is by a Czech minor noble, Václav Šašek z Bířkova. The second, by Gabriel Tetzel von Nurnberg, is particularly interesting regarding martial culture in medieval towns – because though he was part of the knightly retinue as both bodyguard and representative to the Baron, he wasn’t a noble at all but a high ranking burgher from Nuremberg.

The places they visited are of further interest, which aside from princely courts also included several towns and Free Cities. One visit in particular combined both elements, the princely court and the fabulous urban landscape, when they arrived in Bruges for a visit to the mighty Duke of Burgundy, Philippe Le Bon. The Baron and his entourage found a lavish welcome, as aside from the politics their role as travelling knights captured the imagination of the nobility and burghers. Additionally, the Bohemians’ reputation as warriors aroused great interest in seeing their martial skills put to the test. In many courts they jousted, grappled, and engaged in other feats of arms with their Flemish / Burgundian hosts, for example this grappling tournament which gives us some insight to the rules of the sport[4]:

“…at the third hour of the night, the Duke sent to [the Bohemian champion] John Zehrowsky and invited him to come with certain of the senior members of his company who wished to wrestle, saying that he would provide each with an opponent. Thereupon Lord John presented himself at the castle with those whom he had chosen. He entered the hall where the Duke was with three Duchesses, those of Burgundy, Cleves, and Guelders and other ladies and noble maidens. Then certain of the Duke’s attendants approached John Zehrowsky and informed him that he should prepare himself, as his opponents would shortly appear. Then Lord John enquired how the wrestling was to proceed, whether the wrestlers were to appear naked or in tunics. ‘In tunics’, was the answer, ‘for such is our custom, but it is prohibited by law to seize an opponent below the belt and to trip him up by the feet. Otherwise it is permitted to throw an opponent to the ground in whatever manner one wished. For it is the custom’, they said, ‘in our country to wear underclothes, that is tunic and hose, and it is no shame to wrestle thus clad, even though multitudes of matrons and maidens be present.’

The bout having started, the wrestler could do nothing against his opponent, Lord John, who threw him three times to the ground, at which the spectators were amazed. For it was said that his match was not to be found in all the dominions of the Duke of Burgundy, that he had not previously been beaten by any man at wrestling, and that for this reason he had received 500 gold pieces a year more than his usual wages. But perhaps he would now lose this reward, as he had been thrice overthrown.

After the wrestling match the Duke called Lord John to him dressed only in his tunic, as he had wrestled, and feeling all his limbs, feet and hands, examined his whole body and was amazed that his wrestler had been vanquished. Then the duke asked Lord John whether he had a worthy adversary against whom he could match a noble Count of his. Lord John had a man present called Kevard who wrestled with the count and threw him to the ground three times. Then Schaseck [the narrator] approached the Duke and said: ‘I beg, most illustrious prince, that your highness may appoint an adversary who may be thought to be my equal.’ Having heard this, the Duke ordered one to be summoned for him to wrestle with. As we wrestled I threw him once to the ground. But when by the Duke’s orders I renewed the contest, I was thrown down with such force that I thought the devil was behind it.”

Aside from grappling tournaments, which took place several times in the narrative, the travellers also experienced many other types of martial sports. One of the most unique was an ice-skating fencing match, which also took place during the visit to the court of Duke Philippe le Bon of Burgundy in Flanders:

On the day on which my lord [Baron Rožmitál] took leave of the Duke we saw a marvellous spectacle. There is a park adjoining the castle with a lake which was then frozen over. The Duke ordered certain of his courtiers to go out to this park and to run a course on the frozen lake. They-there were twenty-eight of them- fought on foot [skates] with such agility that I can declare that never have I seen or heard of such agile men. One in particular was so skilful that he resisted alone the assault of twenty-two men. Such was their speed in running and turning that no horse could have kept up with them. I was curious to see what it was that they had on their feet which enabled them to move so swiftly on the ice. I could easily have done this, but I could not leave my lord who was looking on with the Duke. We saw many kinds of wild beasts in the park. After this my lord took leave of the Duke and his son [future Duke Charles the Bold].”

These two brief excerpts give us a hint of the types of martial sports routinely practiced by the burghers, courtiers and noblemen of Late Medieval Europe, and can perhaps offer us some useful insights into rare aspects of the martial culture of the period, such as the rules of martial games and competitions. The medieval travelogue is a valuable source providing us with a glimpse into a strange and remote world, but one which is also well documented.

[1] This entire section is derived from the 1957 translation as The Travels of Leo of Rozmital through Germany, Flanders, England, France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy, 1465-1467 by Malcolm Letts (Cambridge: Hakluyt Society, 1956).

[2] Archbishop Dietrich hired at least 6,000 Bohemian mercenaries during the infamous Soest feud of 1444-47. See Departure for Modern Europe: A Handbook of Early Modern Philosophy (1400-1700), Hubertus Busche [editor] (Felix Meiner Verlag, 2011) p. 100.

[3] Treaty on the Establishment of Peace throughout Christendom. Edit. Kejř J., Transl. Dvořák I. In VANĚČEK V., The Universal Peace Organization of King George of Bohemia a fifteenth Century Plan for World Peace 1462 / 1464. (Prague: Publishing House of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences 1964) pp. 81-90.

[4] The following excerpt is transcribed from of The Travels of Leo of Rozmital through Germany, Flanders, England, France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy, 1465-1467 by Malcolm Letts (Cambridge: Hakluyt Society, 1956) pp. 36-37.

Cite this article as: Jean Chandler, "Martial sports in the Travels of Leo of Rozmital," in Martial Culture in Medieval Town, 30/01/2020, https://martcult.hypotheses.org/685.