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The Fish Speak French!

As the French fleet assembles in the harbor near the town of Sluys (pronounced: SLOYZ) in preparation for another raid on the English coast, the English pounce on them like a lion on a wounded gazelle. Without use of the cannon, the way you win a sea battle is with archers. The English have fewer ships, but a new type of weapon: the long bow with a shorter arrow. At 200 yards it just can't miss and they can fire 20 arrows a minute as compared to 2 arrows a minute for the crossbow. On the deck of a ship, one can't escape unless one jumps overboard. The sea runs red with blood, causing many people to quip that the fish drank so much blood that they now speak French! No one dared tell King Philip the Fortunate of France of this disaster until the court jester was pushed forward to say in a squeaky voice, "Oh, the cowardly English, the cowardly English! They did not jump overboard like our brave Frenchmen!" King Edward III of England will control the Channel maritime traffic for some time to come. [1] [2] [3] [4]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Even though the crossbow of the Middle Ages is a powerful weapon, the arrows are large and it is difficult to get more than two shots off a minute. The advantage is that with its penetrating power it can slice right through the armor of the day. The advantage of the long bow is the number of arrows it can rain down on the opposing force. As Tom Clancy often said, "Quantity has a quality all its own." You can't get a second shot off when you look like a pin cushion after you loose your first arrow into the other guy. The crossbow archers are eaten up so fast it doesn't matter how powerful the crossbow is. To put it in modern terms: AT CLOSE RANGE it doesn't matter if you have a massive 50 cal, single-shot sniper rifle when you are facing 100 guys with rapid-fire 22s. You are going to die the death of a thousand cuts.

Muslims Zero, Christians Won

Granada is the last stronghold of Muslim rule in Iberia which is present day Spain. Granada wants to expand its territory so 100 war galleys from Morocco have crossed the straights of Gibraltar and head up the Salado River where they lay siege to the city of Tarifa. King Alfonso XI of Castile is incensed and arrives with 1,000 Castilean cavalry and 4,000 infantry to reinforce Tarifa. Amazing as it may seem, they slip right past the Muslims, sight unseen and that pretty well decides how this battle is going to go. As Portuguese troops make a frontal assault, and cross the river, the Castileans come barreling out of the city in a surprise attack. The Muslims break and run. It's a rout: an ugly and absolutely merciless rout. The Muslims will never try anything like this again. [5] [6] [7] [8]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The aftermath of this battle was not pretty. The leader of the Muslim forces was Abu al-Hasan and while he managed to make it back home, his various wives did not, including his first wife, Fatimah. The Castileans and Portuguese forces showed very little mercy. Fatimah was put to death. Abu al-Hasan must have had a lot of confidence if he brought his wife along, and for a while it looked as if his confidence was justified. Had his troops held their ground, he might have pulled this one out of the fire, but it was not to be. [9] [10]

The Last Knight

John of Gaunt is born. The future Duke of Lancaster and richer than kings, he will see the beginnings of the Renaissance, the roots of the Reformation. He will be a leader in the Hundred Years War and he will preside over the passing of a institution. The last knight of the Middle Ages is born and when he dies, the Middle Ages will pass with him. Look well upon him. All that come after will be his pale reflection. [11] [12] [13]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Over the years we have seen an erosion in the power of the knights. From a practical standpoint, it's much quicker and cheaper to train and equip large numbers of archers and pikemen. Outfitting a knight and maintaining him is expensive. Also the tactics are changing. With the proper use of pikemen, a knight's charge can be thwarted unless he has supporting infantry. The archers can kill a knight's horse and the supporting infantry if they can rain down enough arrows quickly enough, so the archers practice every day.

See Also


  1. Tuchman, Barbara Wertheim (Barbara Tuchman, bio). A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. Ballantine, 1979. pp. 70-71. (BOOK)
  2. 1300-1400 AD, from History Central, Multieducator, Inc.
  3. Grun. Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991. p. 188. (BOOK)
  4. Battle of Sluys - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  5. Battle of Río Salado - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  6. Granada History, DonQuijote.org, 2014 [last update]
  7. Battle of Rio Salado (Spanish history). Encyclopedia Britannica. 2014 [last update]
  8. Battle of Rio Salado (1340). Medieval Times. 2013-Apr-20 [last update]
  9. Afonso IV of Portugal - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  10. Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Othman - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  11. Cantor, Norman F., The Last Knight: the Twilight of the Middle Ages and the Birth of the Modern Era . Harper Perennial. 2004. (BOOK)
  12. Armitage-Smith, Sydney. John of Gaunt. New York: Barnes and Noble, Inc. 1904. p. xxv. (PUBLIC DOMAIN)
  13. John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]

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