Sunday, 9 February 2014

Picard Pike complete !

Here we have the second unit of French Picard pike representing the defenders of Therouanne.

The besieged defenders of Therouanne numbered around 3500 though this did fluctuate as reinforcements were able to break through the siege lines on a number of occasions.

Other than something akin to a town militia there was no garrison as such, Louis XII had reasonable time to gather forces in the area and appoint captains, local nobles such as seigneurs de Bournonville and Heilly were ordered to muster 1000 infantry each as represented in this pike square;

Though there may have been a nucleus of some of their household these troops were undoubtedly francs archers, meaning free archers (in that their service exempted them from land tax), these were locally raised territorial troops with an average age of around 32, they were something of a 'home guard' force.

The development of this troop type began during the hundred years war,  if you're interested I thoroughly recommend a read of this post by Jim Hale for an in depth look at the evolution, success and limitations of the francs archer;

Notably the last occasion where they fought in any great numbers was at the Battle of Guinegate (a few miles from Therouanne) in 1479, after which a period of relative decline began. Sources get confusing at this point as they begin to get reorganised, suppressed and re-raised. To bring us up to date, after this relative hiatus 22000 were raised for frontier defence in May 1513, these were organised in 44 ensigns of 500 men each and stayed in being for 18 months. I'm convinced that the French defenders of Therouanne and some of the relief army must have been part of this decree.

Despite the name the armament of the franc archer in the early sixteenth century was very much reflective of the early renaissance; whereas previously they had been required to serve with brigandine, sallet,and predominantly bow and crossbow (though pike had been tried on the Swiss model in the late 1470's / 1480's) a decree of January 1522 required a levy of 24000 francs archers for campaigns in Italy, Guyenne and Picardy (the latter for a second invasion by Henry) to be equipped with , doublets, feathers, leather cape, shoes, corselets, mail gorgets, arm pieces, mail skirts and helmets. 2/3 were armed with pike and the rest were halberdiers, crossbowmen and arquebusiers. All were to serve in hoquetons (sleeveless coats) in the liveries of their captains and or towns / cities. They were paid month by month and stood down at the end of a campaign.

Based upon the equipment described up to 1490 and from 1522 (I have been unable to find anything for the 1513 muster) as well as descriptions of the skirmishing during the siege of Therouanne I have opted for a mid point for the francs archers of Therouanne to be armed with a mix of 1/3 pike and the remainder missile armed.

It is also worth mentioning another staple of the French infantry; the adventurier. These were less disciplined, predominantly crossbow and arquebus armed infantry, the term adventurier meaning equally foot soldier and pillager.

These were more specifically raised for the Italian campaigns though Picardy was a recruiting region with recurring captains such as Bournonville, Sercus and Heilly becoming commonplace beginning a semi permanent formation soon referred to as the ‘bands of Picardy’ which would soon become known as the 'old bands of Picardy' during the reign of Francis I.

As I've experienced with the early Tudors army lists seem to confuse the franc archer and adventurier both in terms of armament and ability; in the case of the former they tend to be deemed as ineffectual with their performance at Guinegate crystallising that notion; the battle was partly lost due to them turning their attention to Maximilian's baggage train but prior to this they defeated their opposite number of Burgundian and English archers, captured the Burgundian artillery and began firing into their flank with it - not bad going for an 'ineffectual' unit.

The defenders of Therouanne are noted to have been tenacious, well led and determined. No doubt this has something to do with being besieged rather than any real test of open warfare but could this perhaps also reflect that Picardy was a frontier region with its franc archers having much more experience than their comrades in other parts of France? worthy of consideration for anyone wishing to game the siege.

On to the miniatures, you can see the initial ideas and my notion of these troops potentially being equipped with pavises in this post from when the first unit of pike was completed;

As with the earlier unit just about every figure has been converted to hold the pike and pavise in a standing position. To fully realise this you'll need to get the Perry WOTR and Mercenaries boxed sets, the archer arms in particular have some good right angle poses. Often I have used the closed hand from one arm drilled and glued to the arm of another.

Following earlier experiments with green stuff upon some crossbowmen I have tried again with two of the front rank giving their hacquetons puffed and slashed arms which I'm fairly pleased with, this chap being my favourite of the two;

You'll also notice a TAG Tudor figure in the front rank, very nice figures indeed and slightly less slender than the earlier Spanish and Italian ranges, he wears upper armour of almain rivet which would have been commonplace to both sides, particularly Henry's.

In this unit I have opted for a loose colour scheme of red and white reflecting de Pisseleu's livery as well as a few 'national' red coats with the cross of St. Denis.

The Pavises bear the white cross also as well as France Royal (which upon reflection may be unlikely ....but it looks good!) and two heraldic references to the town of Heilly (see below) from where de Pisseleu hails. These I then weathered with a dark brown wash.

Last but by no means least, you'll notice that my collection of real estate has begun with two buildings from the 4ground high medieval and renaissance ranges. I was surprised at the level of detail, build quality and value of these and will definitely be getting some more. My only concern is that perhaps I could do something with the roof of the Tudor framed building, maybe thatching or some smaller, irregular tiles to give it a better period feel for the 1500's.

I'd also like to modify some of these to represent homesteads which were ripped down or partially destroyed by the French prior to the siege.

Overall, I'm really pleased in achieving my first square of French pike, it's been a long journey since I first started thinking about how to do them and as usual I've really enjoyed learning about the organisation and background of the men who served and the nobles who led them. The assembly, sculpting and painting all adds to the fun but it feels that bit better when I can see that I've got a unit which I think have the right look about them and are noticeably different to the English while using the same figures - at least I hope that anyway.

Bye for now



  1. Well, I always like reading your blog, but this is certainly one of the best posts I've read anywhere. Masterful work in all respects.

  2. These are fantastic. Although sources on them are so sparse, with the greenstuff and the addition of a few TAG figures you have really captured the look of the French native troops in the 1510s!

  3. Stunning work Stuart !!!

    Very vell painted and lovely pictures, thanks for a interesting historical background.

    Looking forward to more:)

    Best regards Michael

  4. Once again, museum quality work. The photography and scenery of the highest quality - and most suitable for equally impressive figures. Best, Dean

  5. Absolutely wonderful stuff Stuart.I'm very impressed at the work you have done on these figures. And thanks for the background.

  6. Amazing research and absolutely stunning painting Stuart!!


  7. Superb work! The units have so much character...

  8. Excellent looking figures and historical background, great work!

  9. These are exceptional Stuart, looking forward to what appears next

  10. Wow. A awesome looking unit Stuart - they certainly do look right for the period and convincing as French troops for the period - sufficiently different from the English - as well as the fantastic paintwork & flags etc. All set off with a great setting for the pics. Assume you'll be dropping in a few more TAG models now too, they do fit in well.
    Every time you seem to surpass you last high standards!

  11. Stunning and some great background info:-)


  12. Absolutely outstanding. One of the best you've done to date IMO Stuart. All are excellent but a couple if figures stand out like the drummer. Nice!

  13. Absolutely fantastic Stuart. Your patience with the research is, without doubt, paying off.

    Love it all!


  14. Question: How do you use the shield if you're wielding a pike? Is there a spike to plant it in the ground? Is it worn on the back so that one can turn to avoid incoming arrows? Just curious.

    1. Their use is documented by the Scots pike (under French instruction) at both Flodden so i've taken a leap of faith that they may have also been used against a similarly armed foe during the siege of Therouanne.

      Thus we turn to descriptions of their use by the scots at Flodden which indicates that they were used defensively and were discarded before coming to blows. They're described as having rope / leather handles, no mention of a spike.

  15. I really love this unit! watching it all come together has been a joy, and seeing the end result is certainly breathtaking. all the little details add up really nicely when all the figures are assembled in a group, yet they all stand out as individuals. truly excellent work!!

  16. Hi mate,

    This is awesome work. Do you have any advice for a Italian Wars newbie in regards to painting French Infantry and cavalry. I don't know if there is a standard set of colours they used or what works better for a unit in regards to colour combinations or symbols.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.



    1. Hi Michael

      These men have a loose scheme of red white and yellow to incorporate national, lord and city livery as they're in defence of a town. For generic troops you might want to have a good scattering of st Denis crosses on red livery coats mixed in with more somber colours, parti coloured hose but not too many stripes, you'll want to differentiate between any Landsknechts or Swiss. In contrast gendarmes wore expensive patterned cloth. Have a look at my French Pinterest board ( search stuart mulligan on Pinterest and you'll find it).

      Hope that helps