SPANISH INFANTRYMEN, 15th CENTURY

An extract from Armies of the Middle Ages, volume 1
by Ian Heath


[Based on Saint George by Pedro Nisart, Mallorca, Spain, c.1468-70] c.f. Altarpiece of St. Barbara, by Sarria, Valencia, 1410-25
Altarpiece of Saint Vincent, by Martorell, Barcelona, 1438-40
Martyrdom of Saint Eulalia, by Martorell, Barcelona, 1442-5
St. Vincent at the stake, by Huguet, Barcelona, 1455-60
Calvary, Altar of Sant Esteve de Granolles, 1495-1500
90, 91 & 92.      SPANISH INFANTRYMEN, 15th CENTURY

14th century Spanish foot-soldiers are neatly summed up by Chandos Herald, who describes the Castilian infantry at Nájera as 'crossbowmen, villeins and varlets, with lances and sharp darts, and slings to throw stones'. Of the 15th century figures depicted here the first two, who date to c. 1468, in fact closely resemble 14th century types, especially 90 whose equipment tallies perfectly with the minimum required of many 14th century militiamen - a shield, lance and sword or knife, and on the head a hat, cap or helmet. The source he comes from shows an assortment of such spearmen with convex kite-shields, adarges and large oval shields, and cabacetes, bascinets and barbutes, often with nasals projecting from the forehead. They are either unarmoured as here or partly armoured in mail and brigandine. Note the 9-10 foot lance with pointed iron ferrule.

In fact there is a noticeable similarity between this equipment and that of contemporary Italians. From early in the 15th century most Spanish pictures show men-at-arms in Milanese-style armours while their foot-slogging followers wear light Italian-style equipment comprising open helmets, brigandines, haubergeons and sometimes arm-harness, but only rarely any leg-armour. One picture of c. 1420 includes a soldier who is almost identical to figure 72 except that interestingly he has complete arm-harness and gauntlet on his right arm while his left, carrying a similar large oval shield, is completely unarmoured.

The equipment of 92 is characteristic of the late-15th century, occurring in a large number of sources where the only usual differences are the variety of helmet worn, the length of sleeve on the corselet, brigandine or haubergeon, and whether or not additional pieces of arm or leg armour are worn. This particular figure wears a red tunic, dark red hose, a leather jerkin with a red belt over a mail corselet, elbow-guards, and a close-fitting iron capelina, and he carries a red adarge. Red was in fact a popular colour in Spain, red morocco leather boots often being worn too (as, for example, by figure 91).

By the end of this period Spanish infantry were largely pikemen, arquebusiers (espringaderos) or crossbowmen, and sword-and-buckler men, in roughly equal numbers. With the exception of their respective arms they differed little if at all from figure 92 in appearance. The value placed upon arquebusiers by this time is apparent from the fact that they received twice the pay of an ordinary foot-soldier and as much as a mounted royal vassal.



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