Medieval Spanish
(1340-1485 AD)
DBA IV/68a

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By Stephen Montague

This list covers the Medieval Iberian kingdoms of Castile-Leon and Aragon beginning with the last invasion of Spain by Moslem forces from North Africa in 1340 AD. This was destroyed by the Christian forces sent against it. The Moslem threat was thereafter confined to Granada. The war against Granada was more or less an on-going series of raids of different sizes until the final conflict of 1481-92 AD that resulted in its conquest by Christian Spain.

Apart from fighting the infidel, the Medieval Spanish spent a lot of time fighting each other in a series of succession disputes that were endemic during this period. It was these succession disputes that were responsible for the English and French becoming involved in Spain's wars. Initially a dispute over who was the ruler of Castile resulted in both sides hiring the free companies that were available in France, as peace had temporarily broken out during the hundred year's war. However, a pattern soon emerged with the English supporting the Portuguese and the French supporting the Castillians.

Enemies

The enemies of Castile and Aragon include the Berbers (III/74), the Muslims of Granadine (IV/38), the Kingdom of Navarre (IV/39b), the meddling English (IV/62), each other as well as the Portugese (IV/68ab), the Free Companies (IV/74), and the French Ordonnance.  Unlike DBA 1.1, no provision is made in the DBA 2.2 list for Medieval Spanish armies in the New World

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James I of Aragon's Knights Marching to Fight the Moors, fresco, 13th century

Composition

IV/68a Description
1x 3Kn (Gen) King and his knights
2x 3Kn Aragonese or Castillian knights (including Knights of the Military Orders).
2x 2LH Ginetes or Muslim horse (Granadine regulars or Adalides border scouts)
1x 3Kn//4Bd or 4Lb or 2LH French/Gascon men-at-Arms, longbowmen or more Ginetes.  The longbowmen are presumably English (which could make the dismountable Knights English as well), although the DBM  list provides for English Longbowmen with the Portugese (IV/68b) army only.
1x 4Sp Hermandad spearmen
2x 3Ax Javelinmen, Aragonese Almughavers and/or Muslim Mudegars.
1x 4Cb Hermandad crossbowmen or regulars of the military orders
2x 2Ps Slingers, javelinmen (inc. Muslim Mudegars) and/or Hermandad
handgunners after 1390 AD.
 

Painting Tips

The usual medieval bright multi-coloured clothes would be in order. Remember even the poorest peasant was likely to wear colourful clothing during this period. The only notably Spanish trait was a fondness for red. At the start of the period covered by this list the Spanish arms and equipment would have given them a distinctive appearance. Some of the distinctly Spanish themes would have remained throughout. The following should give a basic idea of what the various types should look like.  

  • Knights: The long years fighting fast moving Moslem troops meant that the Spanish equipment was lighter than most of their European counterparts. Their plate armour was less complete, with the arms and hands being covered by chain mail. This changed after the French and English became involved in Spain their more complete plate armour was soon copied. As previously mentioned Italy played an important part in the way the Spaniards looked (presumably due to Aragon's connections with Italy) and Italian armour was popular in the 15th century. One other thing sets the Spanish Knight apart from his European contemporaries, their habit of riding mules instead of horses.
  • Military Orders:  Another group of Knights that featured in Spanish armies are those from the military orders. Your DBA army should include one element of these you should try painting each figure in the colours of a different order for effect. They probably didn't wear habits in battle and brethren may have worn their own arms. However, most would probably have worn a version of the official dress, perhaps as a cassock or tabard. The following are the details of each orders official garb.
Santiago White habit until early 15c then black has red espada*
Calatrava White habit until the end of 14c then grey or black with red fleury cross**
Alcantara White habit green fleury cross until end of 14c then civvies
Avis White habit green fleury cross
Sao Thiago White habit red espada*
Montesa White habit black cross until 1400 there after red
Knights of Christ White habit red cross with white twist in middle

*An Espada is a device shaped like a sword with fleur-de-lis at the end of the crosspieces and as a pommel Sao Thiago also add a fleur-de-lis at the tip of the sword.

**A Fleury cross is a cross with arms of an equal length that terminate in fleur-de-lis.

  • Ginetes: At the start of the period covered by this list they would have been lightly equipped wearing an aketon carrying shield javelins and sword. After the Anglo-French intervention this rapidly grew much heavier. It would then comprise a hauberk, aketon, helmet and shield with the possible addition of plate arm and/or leg harness.
  • Almughavars: Peasant dress with fur waistcoat. Carried a selection of javelins and spears.
  • Mudejars: These are Moslem troops dressed in typical Moslem style with long flowing robe and turban.
  • Slingers: These are peasants so will wear typical peasant clothing. Note slings may in fact be staff slings.
  • Other infantry: The amount of armour worn could vary from none to a hauberk, aketon and arm harness but never leg armour. Various styles of helmet were used, cabacetes, bascinets, barbutes as well as caps or hats. The amount and style of armour would vary with the role of the troops and the time. Spearmen were likely to be more heavily armoured than archers and more armour would be in use at the end of the period than at the beginning. The most distinctive Spanish item of equipment would be the shield. This could be a convex kite shape, oval or the distinctly Spanish adarge. During the fifteenth century the infantry also adopted Italian style equipment and could look almost identical to their Italian counterparts.


Iberian Knights

Tactics

In DBA terms, the Medieval Spanish are a high aggression, arable army.  The typical Spanish tactic was a head-on charge of the Knights, supported by Ginetes on the flanks, and often preceded by a hail of missiles. Spanish knights dismounted only when faced by fortifications.

Historically the Spanish drew their armies up in three ranks. The first according to Ian Heath (Armies of the Middle Ages Vol 1, WRG) was made up of infantry, however with the exception of the Portuguese who were influenced by their English allies this doesn't seem to be the case.  After reading several descriptions of battles I would say the front rank was made up of knights, although one account does mention slingers as well. The second rank was itself split into three parts, a centre and two wings. The centre would be knights including the army's commander. The wings would be made up of crossbow men and/or Ginetes. The third rank would be made up of the remaining infantry.

Turning now to the tactics individual parts of the army. The Knight's main tactic was to charge straight at the enemy however unlike his contemporary's in the rest of Europe if this failed the Spanish knights would start to skirmish with the enemy instead. Perhaps Spanish knights should be classed as Cavalry rather than knights in DBA?

The tactics of the Ginetes were what you would expect from light cavalry, hover round the flanks trying to get behind their opponents, pick off any stragglers, etc. They were also useful for pinning down enemy infantry.

Crossbowmen seem to have been used to soften up the enemy before the second rank charged in.

Slingers as pointed out above are mentioned as being in the front rank on at least one occasion but no mention was made of what they were doing. However, I would hazard a guess that they were covering the Knight's advance and/or providing supporting fire.

As for the other infantry they are ignored by all the sources I have seen and their position indicates they were playing a supporting role. Sir Charles Oman's description of the infantry at the battle of Navarette may give an indication of the infantry's role "Little confidence was evidently placed in them and they did no more than had been expected of them when they fled from the field."

Turning this into a DBA deployment I would suggest putting two elements of knights in your front rank supported by slingers if you wish. The second rank centre should be any remaining Knights including your general flanked by crossbow men who are in turn flanked by Ginetes. Note the crossbow men and Ginetes could be slightly ahead of the knights. The third rank is made up of the left-overs.

Under English influence the Portuguese deployment would be somewhat different their front rank should be a mixture of dismounted knights and archers including any longbow men they have. They will fight defensively in the English manner.

Camps

Typical medieval camp subjects are appropriate such as baggage wagons and medieval pavillions.  The Spanish Inquisition (which began in 1481 AD) also provides inspiration for those racking their brains for camp ideas.

Miniatures

Essex has a specific range of 15mm horse and foot for Medieval Spanish (Mid99-Mid112), as well as for the earlier Ed Cid period.  Old Glory's Spanish Normans are better suited for Navarre, but can be put to service.  Mudejars and other Muslim foot can also be found in various makers Conquest/Islamic ranges. 

Other Resources

Darren Buxbaum's Medieval Spanish

Matts Elzinga has created these paper flags for the Iberian Religious Orders.

There are several helpful Osprey references.  David Nicolle's El Cid & Reconquista 1050-1492 provides a brief overview of the entire period with color plates by Angus McBride.  Osprey's Campaign Series on Granada 1492: The Twilight of Moorish Spain post-cedes the Medieval Spanish list, but includes useful information on the history leading up to the finale of the Reconquista.  Terrence Wise's Knights of Christ features the Templars, Hospitallers and Teutonic Knights as might be expected, but gives some mention to the Spanish religious orders.


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Thanks to Steven Montague for the original essay, which has been updated for DBA 2.2 by adding pictures, an updated list of troop types, ideas on camps and miniatures, and other resources.

Last Updated: 26 Oct. 2004

Questions, comments, suggestions welcome.
Send them to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.