Home Forums Medieval Welsh One Shoe Soldiers?

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  • #78376
    Guy Farrish
    Participant

    A recent request on these pages for figures that precisely follow an illustration by an artist working from a contemporary stylised  form of representation of a Prince, set me wondering as I wandered aimlessly round Waitrose.

    Do we put too much emphasis on the authority of such illustrations? I’m not blaming the illustrator who usually does a great job of realising a figure from disparate, often part and partial descriptions and limited contemporary evidence. But put one well painted illustration before a set of wargamers and before you know, it you have a Platonic ideal set in stone (if that isn’t mixing too many concepts – I know it is.)

    Take for example the one shoed Welsh bowmen and spearmen that appear on wargames tables across the world.

    We get mostly this idea from a couple of marginal illustrations in the Littere Wallie – a collection of letters and official documents  from 1217 to 1297 collected by the English Exchequer and transcribed by Sir John Goronwy Edwards and published in 1940.

    From those we get lots of similar representations of Welsh mediaeval foot soldiers with one shoe on and one shoe off. Google this for a reason and you will get the old rationalisation that they did it in real life to get a better grip on rough ground. I would suggest that few if any of those who repeat this have actually thought about it or tried it.

    Now it may be that they really did go around shod on only one side. However lots of magical, mystical, mythical stories abound about heroes with one shoe or one foot placed in special  places and poses in Celtic and Norse mythology. Vidarr the son of Odin kills the Fenris Wolf wearing a magical shoe. The image appears in early medieval stone carvings in England – the Gosforth Cross in Cumberland, in the Isle of Man – Kirk Andreas and Sweden – The Ledberg Cross. Further still, in time and place in the Aeneid, Praeneste’s soldiers appear one shoe on, one shoe off.

    What is going on appears to be more of a common mythological representation of a great warrior or hero rather than an actual representation of hairy Welshmen in battle (not hairy I know according to Gerald). It may be that they really did only have one shoe on but I am prepared to guess that if so it was in honour of one of these myths or taboos rather than any inherent practical advantage in having one foot frozen and soaking all the time.

    Just to confuse the matter a little, we need to be careful of who were Welsh and who were Irish (and no doubt other dubious types like Cornish and Highland Scots) in mediaeval documents. Several French descriptions of shoeless vagabond low life in English armies name them as Irish: eg Jean de Wavrin describing the siege of Rouen in 1418  – but these were probably Welsh, and appear to be sans shoes at all. Celtic cannon (arrow?) fodder are commonly lumped under the first name that comes to mind (‘Irish’ massacred by the Parliamentary forces in the ECW in various campaigns in England probably being Welsh was probably the latest example of this).

    So when I can, in the smaller scales, I usually throw caution to the winds and paint a shoe on the sculpted bare foot of my mediaeval Welsh soldiers as well as the beautifully shod other.

    If this were the only example – well it’s my little foible  – but when we always try and get exactly the ‘correct’ length of hauberk, or baldric or belt or nasal are we trying a bit too hard for an exactitude that didn’t often really exist?

    #78380
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

    I view ‘historical accuracy’ with a jaundiced eye these days. Have done for years in fact.

    Sculptors have tended to be too quick to jump on illustrations composed from fragmentary or solitary sources as being definitive for a particular ‘troop class’. And let’s not forget that in the early 80s Minifigs famously (it was a USP) based all of their remodelled Imperial Romans and their opponents on Barker’s ‘Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome. Errors and all.

     

    "I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing."

    #78420
    Mike Headden
    Participant

    When insisting on creating an ancient army that no one does figures of in the required scale, I am comforted by the thought that in my common 6-10mm scales my “paintpot conversion” of some vaguely similar figure may be proved by future research to be every bit as accurate as those in other scales actually intended to represent the troop type I’m modelling 🙂

    Growing old is mandatory, growing up is entirely optional!

    #78445
    Cerdic
    Participant

    I think it is like wargamers in a thousand years time having only this source to portray the typical late 20th Century soldier…

    https://goo.gl/images/adKAYv

     

     

    #78455
    OB
    Participant

    I agree with all the above.

    I’ve recently come to the conclusion that based on what little evidence we have Irish warriors of Late Antiquity should be equipped with a medium sized oblong shield and a sword that looked and functioned very much like a Gladius. I might convert some in 15mm.

    OB
    http://withob.blogspot.co.uk/

    #78461
    Guy Farrish
    Participant

    Strange, I have a desire to commission a series of figures for my medieval rabbit army, based on impeccable contemporary sources, to take on the Anglo-Normans:

    Rabbit Army

    #78462
    OB
    Participant

    Hare today gone tomorrow.

    OB
    http://withob.blogspot.co.uk/

    #78464
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

    Strange, I have a desire to commission a series of figures for my medieval rabbit army, based on impeccable contemporary sources, to take on the Anglo-Normans: Rabbit Army

     

    That’s obviously fantasy. Everyone ‘knows’ that Anglo-Normans wore mail hauberks. FFS, haven’t you got any better sources than that rubbish?

    "I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing."

    #78467
    Guy Farrish
    Participant

    Ye of little faith

    rabbit v knight

    Though I admit this is from the later 100 Bunnies War.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 6 months ago by Guy Farrish.
    #78470
    Rhoderic
    Participant

    I’m still not convinced. These illustrations are not definitive proof that the Anglo-Normans were humans at all. Magpies, I say.

    #78472
    Cerdic
    Participant

    Those fellers need the Holy Hand Grenade Of Antioch….

    #78484
    Guy Farrish
    Participant

    I’m still not convinced. These illustrations are not definitive proof that the Anglo-Normans were humans at all. 

    I think all reasonable historians are agreed that it is the case Anglo-Normans were not human.

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