Sunday, March 09, 2008

...I think I need some landsknechts... way of a slight break from the campaign (and normal service will be resumed soon), I just happened to spot this amongst all the usual drivel in the Sunday colour supplements today, and was seized by an almost insatiable desire to paint large regimental blocks of landschneckt pikemen - all slashed doublets and finery, some of them carrying the huge two handed swords (the famous "zweihander") or halberds... can't think why! J

...magnificent picture, isn't it..? This is a detail from the "Martyrdom of St. Catherine" painted by a guy called Lucas Cranach the Elder, who was a German painter (of course) who lived from 1472 to 1553 - bang in the middle of the period when the landsknechts were in their prime... I can't help thinking that Cranach must have seen a few of these famous soldiers, and who knows he may have even got one to pose for him for this picture..

...being a wargamer of course, apart from the immediate urge to rush off an buy little metal men to represent these furious fighters on the table top, I also had to find out a little but more about them.

The first landsknecht regiments were formed by Maximilian I, known by many as the father of the Landsknechts, to uphold his claim to the Burgundian Legacy of the Netherlands. They typically came from Swabia, Alsace, Flanders, and the Rhineland, but ultimately the regiments were made up of men from all parts of Europe. They were modelled on the halbadiers and pikeman of the Swiss Confederation. Their regiments often numbered from 4,000 to 10,000 men according to circumstances, and sometimes even larger - the 'Black Band' (brilliant name!) raised by the French in 1515, were 17,000 strong !

The landsknechts fought in almost every 16th century military campaign, and sometimes on both sides of the engagement! They contributed to the defeat of the equally well known Swiss, who had become overly-dependent on hand to hand fighting, whereas the landsknechts were more open to the tactical employment of firearms. Landsknechts relied less on the precipitous rush to close combat and, as Imperial soldiers, they also often fought in formations mixed with Spaniards & French, who made widespread use of the arquebus and artillery.

Their battlefield behavior was pretty variable. At the Battle of Pavia, they performed well and were instrumental to the Emperor's victory, on many other occasions (such as in the later Italian Wars, French Wars of Religion and the Eighty Years War) their bravery and discipline came under severe criticism...

....I still feel the need for just a few pike blocks! J

1 comment:

  1. My understanding is that the halberdiers and zweihanders were in front of the pike block (which was considered the weapon of decision).

    Their job was to cut off the pike heads of the enemy formation -- thus rendering it vulnerable to their own pike block.

    And, yes, they were among the most colorful "uniforms" of all history.

    -- Jeff