little could be expected of the despised and ill-armed foot-soldiery of the levy. The swift raids of the Danes and others (see above) had created a precedent which in French and German wars was almost invariably followed. The feudal levy rarely appeared at all on the battlefield, and when it was thus employed it was ridden down by the hostile knights, and even by those of its own party, without offering more than the feeblest resistance. Above all, one disadvantage, common to all classes of feudal soldiers, made an army so composed quite untrustworthy. The service which a king was able to exact from his feudatories was so slight (varying from one month to three in the year) that no military operation which was at all likely to be prolonged could be undertaken with any hope of success.
15. Medieval Mercenaries.—It was natural, therefore, that a sovereign who contemplated a great war should employ mercenaries. These were usually foreigners, as practically all national forces served on feudal terms. While the greater lords rode with him on all his expeditions, the bulk of his army consisted of professional soldiers, paid by the levy of scutage imposed upon the feudal tenantry. There had always been soldiers of fortune. William’s host at Hastings contained many such men; later, the Flemings who invaded England in the days of Henry I. sang to each other—
“Hop, hop, Willeken, hop! England is mine and thine,”—
and from all the evidence it is clear that in earlier days the hired soldiers were adventurers seeking lands and homes. But these men usually proved to be most undesirable subjects, and sovereigns soon began to pay a money wage for the services of mercenaries properly so called. Such were the troops which figured in English history under Stephen. Such troops, moreover, formed the main part of the armies of the early Plantagenets. They were, as a matter of course, armed and armoured like the knights, with whom they formed the men-at-arms (gendarmes) of the army. Indeed, in the 11th and 12th centuries, the typical army of France or the Empire contains a relatively small percentage of “knights,” evidence of which fact may be found even in so fanciful a romance as Aucassin and Nicolete. It must be noted, however, that not all the mercenaries were heavy cavalry; the Brabançon pikeman and the Italian crossbowman (the value of whose weapon was universally recognized) often formed part of a feudal army.
16. Infantry in Feudal Times.—These mercenary foot soldiers came as a rule from districts in which the infantry arm had maintained its ancient predominance in unbroken continuity. The cities of Flanders and Brabant, and those of the Lombard plain, had escaped feudal interference with their methods of fighting, and their burgher militia had developed into solid bodies of heavy-armed pikemen. These were very different from those of the feudal levy, and individual knightly bravery usually failed to make the slightest impression on a band of infantry held together by the stringent corporate feeling of a trade-gild. The more adventurous of the young men, like those of the Greek cities, took service abroad and fought with credit in their customary manner. The reign of the “Brabançon” as a mercenary was indeed short, but he continued, in his own country, to fight in the old way, and his successor in the profession of arms, the Genoese crossbowman, was always highly valued. In England, moreover, the infantry of the old fyrd was not suffered to decay into a rabble of half-armed countrymen, and in France a burgher infantry was established by Louis VI. under the name of the milice des communes, with the idea of creating a counterpoise to the power of the feudatories. Feudalism, therefore, as a military system, was short-lived. Its limitations had always necessitated the employment of mercenaries, and in several places a solid infantry was coming into existence, which was drawn from the sturdy and self-respecting middle classes, and in a few generations was to prove itself a worthy opponent not only to the knight, but to the professional man-at-arms.
17. The Crusades.—It is an undoubted fact that the long wars of the Crusades produced, directly, but slight improvement in the feudal armies of Europe. In the East large bodies of men were successfully kept under arms for a considerable period, but the application of crusading methods to European war was altogether impracticable. In the first place, much of the permanent force of these armies was contributed by the military orders, which had no place in European political activities. Secondly, enthusiasm mitigated much of the evil of individualism. In the third place, there was no custom to limit the period of service, since the Crusaders had undertaken a definite task and would merely have stultified their own purpose in leaving the work only half done. There were, therefore, sharp contrasts between crusading and European armies. In the latter, systematization was confined to details of recruiting; in the armies of the Cross, men were from time to time obtained by the accident of religious fervour, while at the same time continuous service produced a relatively high system of tactical organization. Different conditions, therefore, produced different methods, and crusading unity and discipline could not have been imposed on an ordinary army, which indeed with its paid auxiliaries was fairly adequate for the somewhat desultory European wars of that time. The statement that the Crusaders had a direct influence on the revival of infantry is hardly susceptible of convincing demonstration, but it is at any rate beyond question that the social and economic results of the Crusades materially contributed to the downfall of the feudal knight, and in consequence to a rise in the relative importance of the middle classes. Further, not only were the Crusading knights compelled by their own want of numbers to rely on the good qualities of the foot, but the foot themselves were the “survivors of the fittest,” for the weakly men died before they reached the Holy Land, and with them there were always knights who had lost their horses and could not obtain remounts. Moreover, when “simple” and “gentle” both took the Cross there could be no question of treating Crusaders as if they were the mere feudal levy. But the little direct influence of the whole of these wars upon military progress in Europe is shown clearly enough by the fact that at the very close of the Crusades a great battle was lost through knight-errantry of the true feudal type (Mansurah).
18. The Period of Transition (1290-1490).—Besides the infantry already mentioned, that of Scotland and that of the German cities fought with credit on many fields. Their arm was the pike, and they were always formed in solid masses (called in Scotland, schiltrons). The basis of the medieval commune being the suppression of the individual in the social unit, it was natural that the burgher infantry should fight “in serried ranks and in better order” than a line of individual knights, who, moreover, were almost powerless before walled cities. But these forces lacked offensive power, and it was left for the English archers, whose importance dates from the latter years of the 13th century, to show afresh, at Creçy, Poitiers and Agincourt, the value of missile action. When properly supported by other arms, they proved themselves capable of meeting both the man-at-arms and the pikeman. The greatest importance attaches to the evolution of this idea of mutual support and combination. Once it was realized, war became an art, and armies became specially organized bodies of troops of different arms. It cannot be admitted, indeed, as has been claimed, that the 14th century had a scientific system of tactics, or that the campaign of Poitiers was arranged by the French “general staff.” Nevertheless, during this century armies were steadily coming to consist of expert soldiers, to the exclusion of national levies and casual mercenaries. It is true that, by his system of “indents,” Edward III. of England raised national armies of a professional type, but the English soldier thus enrolled, when discharged by his own sovereign, naturally sought similar employment elsewhere. This system produced, moreover, a class of unemployed soldiers, and these, with others who became adventurers from choice or necessity, and even with foreign troops, formed the armies which fought in the Wars of the Roses—armies which differed but slightly from others of the time. The natural result of these wars was to implant a hatred of soldiery in the heart of a nation which had formerly produced the best fighting men in Europe, a hatred which left a deep imprint on the constitutional and social life of the people. In