Rothero, Christopher. The Armies of Crécy and Poitiers.

(Men-at-Arms series, 111) London: Osprey Publishing, 1981.

Together with the author’s companion volume in this series on Agincourt, this is an excellent overview of the three key Anglo-French confrontations that bookend the Hundred Years War. Osprey is known especially for the detailed illustrations it provides of military uniforms and weapons, and you’ll find all that here — though the notion of “uniforms” doesn’t really apply in 14th century Europe.

Instead, we have drawings of a number of generic archers, infantrymen with pole-arms, and assorted mercenary auxiliaries, like Genoese crossbowmen, who made do with a variety of clothing, armor, and edged weapons. But the focus is especially on the knights, the mounted nobility of both countries, based largely on tomb effigies and memorial brasses for the English and on manuscript illustrations for the French. However, I was more impressed with Rothero’s short essay on the political background to the multi-generational conflict, and on the sharp distinctions between the English and French ways of doing things and of dealing with unavoidable limitations in the field. Edward III, for instance, could transport only a limited number of troops across the Channel, so he picked the best from those available. He also took along only a relatively few aristocrats as commanders, putting his faith in English and Welsh longbowmen. It’s clear that Edward, the Black Prince, who commanded a division at Crécy and the whole army at Poitiers, would have been a monarch to reckon with, had he only lived. The “Men-at-Arms” series can be a little uneven, but this volume is first-rate.

Published in: on 3 August 2012 at 8:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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