Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Hungarians of the 13th Century

A few months back, I decided to have another go at finding some of the heraldry for the Kingdom of Hungary in the 13th century. My lack of any knowledge of Hungarian was a bit of a problem and it seemed that there was precious little available online in English although I did find a few coats in wikipedia.

In Pal Engel's book there were a few references to heraldry which made it clear that it had begun to emerge in the kingdom soon after it appeared in Western Europe. Armed with a few names, I eventually found some information. It turns out that the Hungarian for coat of arms is cimer from the French cimier  meaning crest. The arms belonged to a number of gens (clans - nemzetseg) and I think that various members of the clans would bear the same arms or close variations. Here is a potted history of some of the clans. One reason for this different approach is that society developed very differently in Hungary compared to Western Europe although some aspects of feudalism did appear especially under the Angevins in the 14th century.

The most useful site I found was here. I concentrated on those labelled nemzetseg  as most of the entries are civic. Even without any knowledge of the language it was possible to use dates to narrow down the arms I wanted to use. There was quite a change in the style of arms into the 14th and 15th century, so I tried to make sure I used the arms from this earlier period. I saved these as a word document so that I could refer to it during painting. Even with this site, I have likely made some errors.
Support for some of the arms comes from the Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum of the late 13th century. The author included a discussion of where some of the non-Hungarian familes had originated, many of which were German. In many cases the arms are described.

By the 13th century, there were increasing numbers of people who held land within Croatia and Hungary proper so I have included a few Croatian arms. I did intend to keep them on the same base but messed up! Here is a site with some background to Croat heraldry.

The King. I don't think I found a specific example of both sets of arms being used together, so a bit of poetic licence.
(EDIT - I rememeber now - the Chronica Pictum does show this combination though it may well be anachronistic. See here

Centre figure is OG15s flanked by two Mirliton figures.

Hont-Pazman, Buzad-Hahot, Jak
Keglevic (Croat), Hermann ('Saxon'), Kaplony 

Ratold, Gutkeled (both probably 'Saxon')

Gundulic (Croat), Doroszma, Subic (Croat)

Kacsics, Vaja, Boksa

There are a few alterations to some of the figures. The Vaja figure is a OG15s. It comes with quite a tall helmet which I didn't much like, so this was cut down and changed to form an early form of face mask helm. The same figure was used for Doroszma but this time the entire head was removed and replaced with a Minifigs helmet. The rest of the Minifigs figure was a bit small to fit the style of the other figures but this magnificent crest needed to be put to use. I have a couple of others which are likely to end up being used elsewhere, probably as Poles or the King of Bohemia. The Hermann figure has also had a Minifigs head grafted onto an OG15s body. The shape of the helms makes them ideal candidates for transplants, with enough room to drill a hole and insert a small piece of brass rod to keep the head secure. 

For some background reading, there is a list of sources here . This mainly focuses on the 15th centry, so I would add the chronicle I mentioned earlier and also Hungary in the Thirteenth Century . I managed to look at both of these at my local University library. The latter book has a reasonable amount of military detail including some about the first Mongol invasion.

Friday, 17 August 2012

7th Crusade II

One point about the naming of this crusade. You will find some source material (such as the Salles des Croisades) numbering it as the Sixth Crusade. This is due to debate in the past as to whether Frederick II's crusade counted; he was excommunicate at the time and he achieved his aims by the rather unknightly method of negotiation rather than by slaughtering the heathen.

Anyway, more on the participants. This crusade was predominantly French, though the Wikipedia article are a bit off the mark with the reason. Henry III of England was not involved in conflict with de Montfort at this point - relations had been strained but Henry actually stopped de Montfort going on crusade as he wanted him to govern in Gascony. Allowing him to return to Syria could have been a convenient method of getting him out of the way if necessary.

Some English did take part however. The most famous was William II Longespée, son of the 3rd Earl of Salisbury. He is often styled Earl of Salisbury, and claimed the title himself, but his father only had the title by marriage and the younger William's mother still lived. He was not an exile and, according to a letter he sent to the Pope, accepted that the denial of the title to him was in accordance with the law. (See the Wikipedia article). In fact, he was even given an annuity by the king and Henry may have been instrumental in William gaining additional land. See the History of Poole from around page 16 for more detail of this character. The figure on the left of the picture is painted as Longespée.
His standard is borne by a member of the de Vere family. I have used one of the variants of the standard arms with a black engrailed border. The figure on the mail barded horse bears the arms of the de Bohun's. I'm now doubtful that a prominent member of the family carried out his crusading vows but I kept them anyway.
The figures are all Old Glory 15s.

These are also Old Glory 15s - lances have been replaced as those moulded on are rather flimsy.

They are painted as some of the knights from Frankish Romania. In the centre is de la Roche, Duke of Athens (though he was in the 8th, not 7th, crusade). On the right of the picture are the rather plain arms of the decidedly unplain sounding Katzenellenbogen.

More OG15s. The centre arms are those of Ibelin, borne by the Count of Jaffa. There is an interesting passage in Joinville:
"The Count of Jaffa came ashore upon our left, who was cousin-german to the Count of Montbeliart, and of the lineage of Joinville. He it was who made the most noble show at landing; for his galley came up all painted above and below water with his escutcheons, the arms of which are "or with a cross gules patee." He had about three hundred oarsmen in his galley, and each oarsman bore a target with his arms, and to each target was attached a streamer with his arms embossed in gold."
This is one of the few instances I have seen where it shows the rank and file also bearing the arms of their lord.

Finally, some more French knights.
The main reason I have included this is because it shows a mix of Old Glory (right) and Mirliton (left). The two ranges mix very well. The OG shields are slightly smaller. I do have some gripes with the range. They are sold as 3rd crusade whereas they are far more suitable for the mid-13th century though some have an older style helm. They also lack a saddle cloth on either the figure or the horse and there is a ridge underneath which stops them sitting well on the horse.However it was easy enough to make a green stuff saddle cloth and this helped the figures to sit well. I like the full mail bard on some of the horses and there is a wider range of horse pose than Mirliton.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Alphonse of Poitiers

King Louis was accompanied on crusade by his brothers, Robert of Artois, Charles of Anjou and Alphonse of Poitiers.

Alphonse was the third oldest of the brothers (of those who survived childhood) and was given a sizeable amount of power and responsibility. He helped command against the English in the Saintonge War while still in his early twenties.

His mother was Blanche of Castile and this is represented in his arms.
Robert bore a label with the Castilian fortress on it and Charles initially had a bordure, also with the castle marked aroundit.
Blanche was seemingly a pretty formidable woman and made her mark through her sons. She was regent both in Louis's minority and again when he was abroad. He showed his respect to her in the decoration of the Sainte Chapelle in Paris- while the current decoration is a 19th century restoration it follows the likely original and for much of the surface the arms of France and Castile are scattered evenly across the walls. This chapel, incidentally, is well worth a visit. I went to watch a classical concert there and night which gives a chance to absorb the atmosphere and gaze at the decoration.

Alphonse's seal shows how the arms were portrayed on the caparison - France at the front, Castile at the back.

This layout, more than anything else, was the reason I wanted to paint the figure.

Alphonse was married to the heiress of the County of Toulouse and when his father in law died, Alphonse gained control of the county. This shows an interesting banner with the arms of Toulouse added to those of Alphonse, each portion of equal size. 

Alphonse seems to have been rather more level headed than his brother Robert. He fought well in the Seventh Crusade and returned to France to be co-regent when his mother died and Louis was still in the Holy Land. He took part in further campaigns to consolidate the gains from the English in France and then accompanied Louis on the Eighth Crusade to Tunis. This ended disastrously for the French but in a different way to the Seventh Crusade. This time, disease took many of the crusaders including Louis. Alphonse made it back to Europe where both he and his wife died.

One of his legacies was to leave the Holy See a grant of land which became the seat of the Avignon Papacy.  

Sunday, 27 May 2012

St Louis and the 7th Crusade

The latest Slingshot (281) has an article about the 7th Crusade so I thought I would put up some pictures of figures I have painted for this campaign. I won't say very much about the background of the crusade - the article covers the main points. For more detail you can go to the eyewitness account of de Joinville .  Bartlett's 'The Last Crusade' is essentially a retelling of de Joinville with some additional information.

All the figures are 15mm Mirliton.

Firstly, the king - Louis IX.
 Suffice to say that if you ever ch
oose to paint these arms then you do indeed need the patience of a saint or a liking for fleurs-de-lys.
The figure with the plain red banner is painted with the arms of Clement as shown in a stained glass window in Chartres cathedral.

He was actually marshal of France a generation before this crusade, but I liked the arms and kept his association with the flag, the famous Oriflamme.

There are various descriptions of the Oriflamme through the years and it is possible that it was replaced over the years. This site gives a potted history of its appearance and the battles where it is thought to have been carried.

Since first painting the flag I added a bit of 'brocade' effect, just to add a bit of interest.

Next is de Joinville, whose account gives us so much detail about this crusade.

 This is a slightly later illustration of de Joinville from a 14th century edition of his memoirs. It is useful for showing how the arms were carried on the horse bard.

I have chosen a figure with a kettle hat rather than a full helm. De Joinville recounts how he gave the king his own to allow the king some relief from the heat.

The figure next to him, Hughes de Trichatel, lord of Conflans, is mentioned as carrying his banner at Mansourah.

I'll put some more pictures of personalities from this crusade in my next post, including some non-French.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Persian Era Egyptians

It's been a long time since I've posted, so something quite quick...

A good while back, I bought a few packs of Xyston Egyptian spearmen largely because I liked the look of them rather than any hope that they'd be a worthwhile addition to a Persian army. They had sat in the lead mountain for a couple of years but I thought I'd try and get them painted in time for the Plataea Society of Ancients game.
As it turned out, I didn't get them done in time but as they were nearly finished I carried on with them rather than add them to the nearly-finished-but-not-ready-to-put-on-the-table pile.

This is how they turned out.

The figures are a straight rendition of the reconstruction in Duncan Head's Achaemenid book.
 Much of this is based on the description in Herodotus
"The Egyptians furnished two hundred ships. Their crews had plaited helmets upon their heads, and bore concave shields with rims of unusual size. They were armed with spears suited for a sea-fight, and with huge pole-axes. The greater part of them wore breastplates; and all had long cutlasses. "

There is also the description in Xenophon's Cyropaedia (7.33) which describes the use of long spears and large shields which they lock together as they advance on the Persians. The whole passage has many suspect features but some of what he writes may represent Egyptian practice in his own day.

The shape of the shield may have been the inspiration for Assyrian shields, replacing their earlier large roud shields. They certainly resemble earlier Egyptian shields though greatly enlarged. Alternatively the Egyptians may have adopted an Assyrian shield which resembled their own earlier shields; sort of convergent evolution.

The same  figures would probably be suitable for Saitic Egyptians - the 26th to 30th dynasties - though finding matching figures might be a problem. One of the reasons I painted the shields in different ways was to be able to pick out Guard infantry if I ever decided to expand the force.

I also wanted to try out different styles of shield. One pair of elements have a basic rawhide look but these have the traditional spotted cowskin look as was traditional in earlier times.

As for the men's skin, I did use a darker tone than usual but the photos make them look lighter than they are. When I did my New Kingdom Egyptians I found it difficult to get a tone I was happy with.

Coincidentally, two recent TMP threads on Egyptians are useful, with links to pictures of Egyptian cowskin and to the way that the Ancient Egyptians showed their own skin colour

Friday, 20 January 2012


As with various other projects, these started largely because I bought a couple of packs just because I liked the look. I was spurred on because I didn't have a suitable army for Warfare 2011, the theme for DBMM being the 'Horrible Huns'.
I decided to use the figures to form an Early Hungarian army which covers the period from the foundation of the kingdom until the Mongol conquest. The competition only allowed armies until 1150 so this directed me to the style of heavy cavalry to paint.

Unlike the slightly later period I have concentrated on, the amount of source material is pretty scanty for 11th century Hungary. There is the Chronicum Pictum - see the picture on the right - which shows events from the early kingdom, but this is actually 14th century. It does, however, show various figures in top coats and is some guide to reasonable colours.

For the mass of the Magyar horsemen I used these figures from Donnington's New Era range.
The shooting archers are 'break waist' allowing a nice range of poses. It means you can get a lot of movement on the bases.

Pechenegs formed a part of the army from before
the foundation of the kingdom. They may possibly have been settled by the kings in colonies to help to maintain royal control. A paper called 'Pechenegs, Cumans and Iasians' gives some interesting background if you like the academic detail - it is available on scribd but I'm never sure of the copyright status of such things so won't link to it!
These are the Donnington Pechenegs. The beards are supposed to have been a particular feature of these tribes. Again, some of the figures are break waisted.

I also have a few of the Donnington 'Bulgar' figures. Over time, the costume of the Hungarians became similar to this - in fact you can see elements of what would become the traditional hussar outfit. You can see this outfit in such as Mirliton's later period Hungarian cavalry.
This shows some Bulgarians facilitating the martyrdom of some Byzantines. Other pictures from the same period show other trouser colours incluidng red. The Donnington figures have these long trousers but I decided to keep the look similar to the Magyars and painted them as if tucked into longer boots.

This shows Donnington figures compared to Black Hat figures including one of their Hungarians. I used my Black Hat figures - mostly a mix of their Cumans and Hungarians - to stand for the Szekelers in the Hungarian army.
The figures are a pretty good match for size and style.

These are the Donnington cavalry. I use them for the traditionally armed heavier cavalry. I like the
figures though perhaps a couple of different armoured archers would help with variety. The bowcases are separate and I'm afraid I left them off most of the figures.
The horse tailed banner was used by the Magyars and other steppe origin armies. They seem to have continued to use them for a while after occupying what became Hungary.

The first king of Hungary, Stephen I, was helped in his struggle for leadership by Germans. Bavarians provided the bulk though over the next couple of centuries the origin of these troops became more varied; they were know as 'Saxons' though there origin was from various parts of Germany, especially the Rhinelands. There were also Flemish, French, Spanish and English immigrants.
This later portrayal of Stephen shows the apostolic cross which was sent to him by the Pope. It is debateable whether he used this as his arms - this was before true heraldry. It does form part of the modern arms of Hungary and Slovakia. The stripes may date back to this period, being replaced as the main symbol by the cross but later returning to pre-eminence.

This is my first go at a Hungarian general, carrying the striped flag and shield. The three figures on the central base are part of the Donnington Norman range. The figure on the left wears a helmet which is shown in the Osprey book on the Normans though he is supposed to be 12th century. I think he looks better as a semi-westernised Hungarian. The bird is the earlier, re-Christian symbol of the Arpad dynasty.

The possibly 11th century Legenda Maior of St Stephen* says that  he carried the banners of St George and St Martin (...sub vexillo Deo dilecti pontificis Martini Sanctique martyris Georgii ducibus...) against his pagan uncle. I decided to paint one in a Byzantine style since there was some influence from there despite Stephen adopting catholicism. This can be seen in the decoration of the crown known as St Stephen's (which is fairly likely to post date him).
I already have a banner of St Martin on some of my Ghibelline cavalry, so I decided to do St George. There seem to be two traditions - one is the familar fight against the dragon but there is also a more portrait style which I decided to use.

The red cross on the shield may be from a slightly later period.

The figures are from QR Miniatures, a Polish compay which has lately added a couple of Early Medieval ranges. These are the Early Polish and Eastern Franks which can be bought as complete DBA packs. I only bought the cavalry. These are the East Franks and I thought they gave a nice mix of style representing the transition of gear. The previous picture shows that they mix pretty well with Donningon. The style of sculpture is slightly more basic than some other recent ranges but I like them and there are some great poses. The Poles are not quite so well posed but there are some very nice figures amongst them. The middle figures of each of these bases is from the Polish range - the pointing 'general' on the left is particularly nice.

*Incidentally, St Stephen is, amongst other things, patron saint of brick layers...