The Mercenary and his Motivation
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The Mercenary and his Motivation

In the late Middle Ages a new kind of warrior evolved. While in the early medieval times an army consisted mainly of the contingents of the different vassals of a lord or king, late medieval warfare required a lot more professionalism. The people who fought for their liege lords where often no professional warriors. There were the knights, of course. But the main body of the army consisted of persons who were more used to the ploughshare than the sword. With warfare getting more and more complex, the use of professionals became inevitable. New tactics, weapons (e.g. the cannon) and last but not least the length of the wars forced the rulers to pay for specialized and well trained warriors.

If a monarch wanted to recruit mercenaries he usually ordered his vassals to do so. Contracts were made in which every detail of the service was described. How many soldiers someone would bring with him, what their payment should be, what kind of equipment they should bring with them and how long they were supposed to serve. It is interesting that the mercenaries were even insured by the monarch. Should they be wounded, should they lose equipment or horses or should they be captured, the ruler promised to pay for it. They were also supplied with food and beer.

These mercenaries did not come from lower classes in a lot of cases. Many knights served as mercenaries. To do so was not considered to be dishonourable, as long as they behaved honourable. But what was their motivation?

A lot of knights were not blessed with a heritage. They had to earn their money by serving in wars. Maybe a noble had lost his lands. Ordinary people who knew how to fight maybe wanted to use their skills to earn money. Some might have been on the search for adventures. The right to plunder conquered cities also was a strong motivation. The reasons to become a mercenary where as different as the people who served under foreign banners.

The use of mercenaries was necessary, but there were disadvantages. First of all, they were expensive. Especially when you take the insurance into account. If a monarch was not able to pay them, a mutiny was very probable. The soldiers would also not fight to the bitter end. If a battle was lost, they normally laid down their weapons. Remember, their employee promised to pay for their freedom and the equipment should they lose it. So, they had no reason to fight until death.

Despite the disadvantages, mercenaries became common in late medieval warfare. But the armies of that time should only be the beginning of the large armies of mercenaries in the 16th and 17th century.

You goddamn communist heathen, you had best sound off that you love the Virgin Mary... or I'm gonna stomp your guts out!
2013 Jun 29 23:33
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