Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Picard pike of the Therouanne Garrison

Therouanne was the first town which Henry besieged during the French campaign, it very much suffered the brunt of his artillery train and was also the only real point in which skirmishing took place between the English and French armies. As such I have concentrated my efforts in representing the French at this point in the campaign (June - August 1513 to be exact !). I will start with the garrison of Therouanne then move onto the main relief army of Lord Piennes - this being the army which could have tipped the balance after the Battle of the Spurs as mentioned in the last post.

Here we have a contingent of the Therouanne garrison led by Lord Bournonville, one of the captains assigned to defend the town by Louis XII. I have tried to depict the unit as somewhat worn and suffering the effects of a siege but also proud and belligerent, exchanging obscenities with the English and shouting their allegiance to France, Therouanne and their King.

These are not uniformed as such but there are field signs of the white cross of St. Denis as badges and two have livery coats. To help bring the unit together I have used red, yellow and blue as a loose theme.

In contrast to the Tudor army I have found it particularly difficult to gather information about the Valois French army of this period. I have had some very much appreciated help from some fans, nay - contributors to this blog along with further insight from some French gamers and collectors to whom I will no doubt pester more as this army unfolds. It has been good to make new acquaintances and share information.

As with my English army I have had to make a compromise from the figures presently available to put together my representation of the French soldiery of 1513. This I'll do with conversions, the way I paint the figures and some intermingling of figure ranges, the difference in figures will hopefully help to emphasise the different troops in the French army.

There are not that many contemporary illustrations out there which show French infantry and those that do seem to indicate a more sombre fashion as can be seen here;

Louis XII's guard

Ravenna 1512 - note halberdier in the right centre

Genoa Campaign 1507, note knights tassets, brigandines, pavises

The basis for this unit of pike came from reading about how James IV's army of Flodden was under French instruction with respect to pike drill and unit formation - a key feature being that pavises were carried by some of the pikemen in his divisions as a counter to the longbow. With this in mind I assumed that the same tactic may well have been replicated at home when facing a longbow wielding foe, as also features upon the above illustration. Also, being a siege I considered that pavises would be available and appreciated - plus they make for good decoration; I have adorned them with the arms of Therouanne, Picardy and there's also a religious one there too.

Just about every figure in this unit was converted, most had some work done on their arms and hands to rest or hold on to their pavises as well as being drilled or filed to hold a wire pike in a standing position, you can appreciate this a bit better in these individual photographs;

The flags of the unit are a simple banner depicting the arms of Therouanne which also features upon some of the pavises, as well as a conjectural city standard which I put together using similar Burgundian and French banners as a basis. Both flags were roughly outlined in black and white using Photoshop, printed onto a self adhesive sheet then painted, cut and folded with further highlighting on the folds. Both poles also have very handy flag top tassels available from Front Rank.

The Captain of the unit is the Lord of Bournonville for which I'm afraid I know very little other than he was part of the Therouanne garrison and had an ancestor who was killed at Agincourt - if any readers care to offer anything more please feel free.

He displays the arms of his family on his pavise which itself was the result of some interesting debate on gaming forums; I wondered why French nobles of this period had comparatively simpler heraldy in contrast to the sometimes complex English quartering, the following quotes provide further detail;

'According to French specialists like Galbreath there is a more stable environment in France in the late 15th century. There is simply not the rise and fall of powerful families as you have in England with its civil wars in the 15th century. So there is no need to show new power through heraldry. 

Quartering does happen in France. For instance there is a scoring sheet for one of the jousts held at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. It shows among others the duke of Vendome('simple' arms), the duke of Suffolk (multiple quartering), the count of Saint Pol (quartering), the marquess of Dorset (multiple quartering)'

* * * * *

'France had an established and very large nobility and if you married into a higher ranking family, you might tend to drop your lowly origins... hence the lack of quarterings etc. The unification of two relatively equal families might be a different matter though.

Charles the Bold's arms were quite complex by French standards and his daughter Marie's, after her marriage, were even more so.

I would say that there definitely was a need for French nobles to be recognised in the battle line. Patronage and reputation were really important in the workings of the French court and getting noticed on the battlefield was all part of that. Clear and undifferentiated arms would help with that, being more visible and easily identifiable than numerous quarterings and labels.

Certainly national emblems became common, even regulated, but the Compagnies d'Ordonnance, despite being hired directly by the state, still wore the colours chosen by their Captain in the French Army and arguably in the Burgundian one too.'

* * * * *

Further weight is afforded to the above discussions in the relatively unchanged historic representations of the De Crequy family arms as seen here.

So the next army has begun, I've so far managed to put together an army list to work from and I'm building a portfolio of flags and banners which I shall reveal as I go along. 

I really would appreciate your feedback as to how this look feels, is it on the mark date wise and do these chaps look suitably French, honest opinions good or bad - I have the time to tweak things as I'm going along much as i did with the English.

I intend to add another base of garrison pike to this one as well as some crossbowmen. The majority of pike in the main army will be Landsknecht though I do hope to have a representation of some Picard pike. I would like these to appear halfway between what I have created in this unit and a more renaissance appearance - how I'll do this I really don't know but I am holding out some hope for the conversion and inter-mixing potential of the forthcoming Pro Gloria Landsknecht  plastics boxed set. I could be waiting a while for this but there shall be plenty of gendarmes and stradiots to keep me busy I expect.

I'm looking forward to seeing where this army takes me and what more I can learn. To that end if any of you stumble across anything you think may be of interest please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Best regards



  1. Fantastic looking unit. I also enjoy reading your commentary.

  2. Great painting and a fab in depth look at the base's make up and I really enjoyed the discussion about the heraldry; I had exactly the same problem with my Fornovo project!

    I'm very much looking forward to seeing much more of the French army.

    Fantastic stuff Stuart!


  3. The conversions, painting and composition are quite superb! Lovely stuff. Simon

  4. Splendid work, beautiful troops and post!!

  5. Really like these, loads of character.


  6. Splendid unit Stuart !!!

    Looking very, very good !

    Best regards Michael

  7. Très, très, TRES beau ! ;)

    Congratulations Stuart, this unit is awesome !

  8. They look great, difficult to know what they looked like but key for French armies of the period. I love the pavises in particular. I think some of the skirted coats as shown in the first and second contemporary pictures would help to give the unit a 1500s look.

    Really interesting about the coats of arms, I was looking at Anne de Montmorency's coat of arms and wondering why it was exactly the same as the Montmorencys in the hundred years war, your quotes have really helped to explain why!

    1. Thanks Oli, from one who has been there I value your opinion and yep the skirted base coat will be my nemesis, it was for the English army too. Can't someone just do a couple of blisters of base coated minis ! Never mind, I shall try my best. The heraldry info was an eye opener for me and I was glad to confirm it. To a certain extent the flags I'll create will still be conjecture but at least I can feel a bit more informed about it. I'm starting to regret not paying attention during French lessons as I have a huge feeling that there's perhaps a lot of untapped information waiting to be discovered if only I knew what to type and could read enough to understand it

  9. Amazing brushwork - the pavise work especially impressive. Best, Dean

  10. Excellent work.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your wish for some coated mini's, would be very useful.

  11. awesome work sir! splendid painting and composition

  12. From Carl at the Lead Adventure Forum;

    So the captain probably is Jean III de Bournonville, knight, lord of Bournonville and Leaunes and colonel of a 1000 foot under Louis XII. He died in 1521 or 1539. The ancestor who died at Agincourt was Alléaume de Bournonville.

  13. Another gem of a unit Stuart - fantastic conversions for the poses, all of which work really well.
    The figures do look convincing and in the absence of definitive info, the assumptions you've made are very well thought thru. Great start to the Frenchies.
    Wish i could paint flags like that!

    1. Thanks Simon, I borrowed the standard bearer pose from your Burgundian crossbowmen, I liked it so much I think I'll do it again.

  14. cracking Stuart!

    The Impetus bases really look great!


  15. honestly, i think this is my favorite unit you have done. every figure has a lot of character. as always, i thank you for the inspiration!

    1. Thank you, i put a lot into this unit, just working on some crossbowmen now so i shall try and keep up the pace.

  16. Splendid stuff with some fine brushwork

  17. Beautiful work! Inspirational painting with excellent details. I know little about this era (wrote a paper on it in VIth form, 40 years ago!) but it has hung around in my imagination for decades. I am very pleased to see it recreated so well here. Thank you for making it availableto see and for the details in your research and writing, Stuart.