Tuesday, 11 August 2009


The Iberian peninsula was divided between various kingdoms and other states, some Christian and some Muslim. Through this period there was conflict between most of the states at some time or other.

My initial interest in the Spanish armies was because of the involvement of the King of Aragon in Sicily, a conflict known as the War of the Sicilian Vespers. In brief, once Charles of Anjou defeated Manfred he gained control of the Kingdom of Sicily which included the island and the southern part of Italy as far as the Papal states. He had his eyes set on building a Mediterranean empire - I'll post something about this another time.

Peter III of Aragon had invaded the lands of Tunis to re-establish the suzerainty over Tunis that his father had imposed. While he was there, he was visited by emissaires from Sicily, inviting him to take over the kingdom from Charles. Peter had a claim on the Kingdom of Sicily through his wife and in his own right, and accepted the invitation. There is speculation that the journey to Tunis was actually a smokescreen and that it was only ever intended as a stepping stone to Sicily. The best book I've read on the background is Runciman's "The Sicilian Vespers" though I've included a link to an even older free download book in the sidebar.

The actual number of land battles in this war suitable for a wargame is small - most of the major actions were naval. The final land battle of the war, Falconaria, is perhaps the best for playing.

These are Alain Touller figures (with two Mirliton horses). As far as I know only Touller and Essex do specific Spanish figures. (Edit: Spanish are now also available from Donnington in the New Era range). The features which are particular to Iberian knights are - many of them wear a bowl shaped helmet, often with a face veil of mail; the surcoats have a sort of short sleeve; horse barding often leaves the head and neck bare and the shield has a far more rounded base than the more widely used heater shield. Touller has since redesigned the horses, which I haven't seen. The ones I have are pretty good although there aren't many poses. The great helms of the figures sold as Leonese knight look a bit rounded in places such as the vision slits. This initially put me off them but a very quick bit of work with a knife made them look how I wanted them.
Touller also does some Military Order knights wearing a hooded surcoat - I'll get some pictures of these eventually.

The Spanish nobility seem to have liked showing off their heraldry. Unlike the illustration in the Manesse Codex where most caparisons have a sprinkling of small heraldic devices, Spanish illustrations tend to show the barding with a single large form of the arms in each quarter of the housing. Sometimes the arms are split across front and back, as on the seal of the Kings of Castile and Leon.
These are not figures to paint if you don't want to do the heraldry. Some of these have the arms repeated on - the shield, four quarters of the caparison, each of the sleeves and often on the helmet.

Usually the heraldry aren't on the main body of the surcoat but there are exceptions.

Interestingly, in many of the early pictures showing surcoats from across Europe they don't show the coats of arms, so that probably isn't the original reason for surcoats being adopted.

More Spanish another time, including some of the personalities.


Rune said...

Thanks for the pictures that will give some inspiration for a Bolognese army. And the CoA-link will be very useful. I'll definitely be picking 10-15 CoAs to supplement the existing guild flags.

I've a question regarding your Aragonese knights. Do you base your choice of CoA on names mentioned in Runciman's book. Or have you pick them based on your own research?

I'm asking because I'll have to choose between Scotland or the Iberian peninsular as the next area to be added to the early HYW section.
I'll no doubt stray from the 14th century. I'm thinking ca 1200-1450.

So if you have any prominent persons which I definitely should make a banner for, please send me a list.

And I wholeheartedly agree with the Spanish nobs. When you have heraldic arms. Flaunt it. ;-)

Swampster said...

Most of the arms were chosen by looking through the info on the Spanish and Catalan heraldry sites and looking which ones were current in the 13th century. Some were names mentioned in some of the sources though there is only one specific non-royal which I wanted to do (I'm going to do something about him). I wasn't too picky about which were Catalan, especially as some non-Aragonese knights seemed to fight for the King of Aragon and also because I have painted the King of Castile and Leon as well.
I can have a trawl through a couple of books and suggest some names. One of the interesting things about doing Iberians is that the triangular flag was popular - which makes fitting in the arms tricky at times! There are also the interesting shapes used for the Catalan flags.

Rune said...

I have borrowed the book by Runciman you mentioned, but it would be much appreciated if you suggest a few names.

The shape of the flags used are definitely of interest. The triangular ones seems to be pavon pennon a la these from Italy. "Donna Hrynkiw"

But from this site you can see the classic rectangular to square form and flags with swallowtails or rounded ending.
"Banderas Militares" Have you come across any good reference work for sorting out these designs?

Swampster said...

I've sent a list of names directly to your email address.
I'll post something with what I have about Spanish flags.

Neldoreth said...

Excellent info and certainly a period and area that I am interested in. It is worth noting though that Navwar's Roundaway line includes Spanish knights, although they are 14th century so a bit later than the period you are referring to.

Great stuff!

Swampster said...

Cheers, Neldoreth.
I'll look forward to seeing your work in this period as your other stuff is inspirational.
I meant to add Navwar after seeing your Persians.