Medieval Terms and Definitions

a la Traverse - A term meaning a charge to the flank; sometimes meaning a group of knights charging the enemy from the side or flank.

Bourdonass - A hollow lance employed in tilting (around 1513); surviving examples average about 12 feet in length and are fluted.

Catapult - An engine for throwing stones and other objects. One design for a catapult used two steel springs, which are tensed as the arm (made of steel or wood) is brought down. On the end of the arm was some type of holder for the objects to be thrown. Some were fitted with an additional sling for a second missile.

Chevauchee - The French term for destruction by fire. This term was used during the 100 Years' War (1336 - 1565).

Collee - The blow made on the shoulders with a sword, which actually conferred Knighthood.

Conroy - A medieval group of mounted warriors who fought together as an effective tactical unit.

Courtesy - Politeness of manners; especially politeness connected with kindness.

Free Lancer - A medieval mercenary; literally, a knight owing no allegiance to any feudal overlord.

Gambeson - A quilted, skirted doublet of cloth, often made of linen, stuffed with tow, wool or grass. Worn by all classes either underneath a mail shirt, on top of it, or as a separate defense on its own.

Heater Shield - A form of knightly shield which appeared around 1270, shaped much like the base of a flat iron.

Humility - The state or quality of being humble of mind or spirit; absence of pride of self-assertion.

Jupon - A tight-fitting garment, usually padded, and worn over armour from about 1350 to 1410. This garment was much shorter than the surcoat.

Knight-Errant - A medieval Knight wandering in search of adventures, especially those in which to redress wrongs or show his prowess.

Pavise - Large usually rectangular shield carried by infantrymen and frequently used in siege operations to protect archers. THe largest pavises were equipped with a prop to support them.

Prudence - The habit of acting with deliberation and discretion; wisdom applied to practice.

Shieldwall - A defensive immobile formation with men standing shoulder to shoulder with overlapping shields.

Spear - The oldest form of staff weapon, intended primarily for thrusting. The war spear usually had a leaf-shaped or long, thin, triangular head.

Surcoat - A flowing garment worn over armour from the twelfth century. It could be sleeved or sleeveless, usually reaching the mid-calf.

Temperance - Self-restraint in conduct, expression, indulgence of appetites, moderation.

Tournament - A mock combat, useful both for practice and entertainment; introduced as a 'formal' occasion in the twelfth century.

Treb u chet or Trebucket - A medieval war engine for hurling large stones and other materials. A heavy weight on the short end of a lever was suddenly released, raising the light end of the langer arm containing the missile and discharging it with great force and speed.

Turcopole - Light cavalry auxiliary recruited by the Crusaders in the Holy Land. With their lighter horses, these turcopoles were very beneficial in protecting the Crusaders fighting the Saracens on their swift mounts.

Valor - Worth, hence worthiness, courage, fearlessness, bravery.

Vamplate - A circular plate of steel set in front of the grip on a lance, to protect the hand. Normally associated with the later style lance.

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