Joan of Arc’s lesson on Medieval weapons

(Camera shows a table with swords, axes, clubs and maces lined up on it. Joan of Arc, wearing plate armor, comes out and stands behind the table. She looks at the camera with serious expression on her face. Addresses audience with a French accent.)
Joan – Welcome to Minimum Wage Historian. I am the maid, Joan from Domremy. Zach is busy…(looks off camera and then shakes her head.) I will not lie. Sorry, God forbids it. Zach can’t be here today because he is writing a silly fantasy novel. Today I will be going over the weapons used in Europe during your so called Middle Ages. In particular I will be discussing the weapons used during the Hundred Years War. But first we shall start with a prayer. (folds hands and begins praying. Fifteen minutes later…)
Amen. Now we shall commence with a hymn…(looks off camera again.)
What? What do you mean, ‘no hymn?’ Of course we will sing….What?…..Very well then! Have it your way, heathen! I hope God forgives you. Apparently we do not have “time” for a hymn. (Mumbles something about Godless heathens.)

The first weapon we will look at today is also my favorite, the long sword or bastard sword or hand-and-a-half sword.

This was the standard issue for knights all over Christendom. It is distinctive from swords outside of Europe for its distinctive cross shape. (raises sword up and kisses the hilt) It is called the bastard sword because it is in between a two- handed sword and a one handed. (she grips sword with one hand.) It can be used one handed and this is how it was used while mounted or with a shield. However, if you’re knocked of your horse or loose your shield there is enough space to use a second hand. It is long enough and balanced so a knight can easily wield it while on a horse. The blade is straight and double edged and can be used for hacking, slashing or stabbing. Also, the pommel, the end of the handle, is great for bashing heads. Knights were not barbaric thugs that smashed and hacked. There was quite a lot of training to go along with being a knight and each trainer had a slightly different style. The Germans used different styles than the Italians or the filthy English for example. I used mine without a shield and relied on my armor and God’s protection. When I wasn’t carrying my banner I would hold the sword’s handle in one hand, and hold the blade with the other. In that way I had much more control and I can attack with either end in any direction. Another way to use it, if you have good gloves or gauntlets, is to use the long sword as a club or hammer. The pommel and cross guard are great for hitting English with.

The next weapon is the often overlooked Halberd.

part spear, part axe, all awesome.

This was a weapon used by foot soldiers and man-at-arms…why are you laughing…I don’t get it…what’s a She-Ra? I will ignore those silly people. A halberd is a pole arm with an axe head, a long spike and either a spike on the back or a hook to latch onto mounted knights and pull them down. It is a defensive and offensive weapon for unmounted soldiers. The Swiss used them to go after the mounted Nobility in the Burgundian War. As fire arms became more common on the battlefield, the halberd was eventually replaced by the pike but some units continued to use them, including the Swiss Guard of the Vatican. (genuflects and gets back up) There are other weapons similar to a halberd such as a glaive.

a pole arm with a long blade at the end, similar to a Japanese Naganita or a Chinese guan doa.

No! Not that glaive!

A bardiche or “poll axe.” The blade is offset of the pole for the gunners to rest their guns on as they fire, a kind of mono-pod that helped with stability and aiming. The Polish loved them.

A wicked weapon that was favorite of the Poles and the Russians.

Another halberd type weapon is the lochaber axe, a Scottish weapon…by the way, the Scotts were a great help in our wars against the English. They dislike the English as much as us French!  The lochaber axe was made by the Scottish to counteract English cavalry because they didn’t really have cavalry of their own. It has a little hook on the back they got from their own shepard’s nooks and used it to pull vile Englishmen off of their horses.

Scotts weren't fond of being told what to do.

Next up is the war hammer

No! Not that war hammer! Why is Zach's staff giving me such a hard time? I'm starting to think they may be Englishmen.

Yes!! This war hammer! The kind for bashing!

There’s also the billhook, but I’ll let you look up that one on your own.
The war hammer is…well…a hammer. It came in two varieties, long handled, like a halberd for taking down mounted foes, and a short one for close combat. The reason the war hammer came about was due to plate armor. Let me side track here a little bit and talk about plate armor. Look at the armor I am wearing. (beats breast plate ) It is full plate and there are many incorrect ideas about plate armor that I have seen in your silly movies. For one, a person can get back up when knocked down. Quite easily actually. The suit of armor is tailored to the individual and the weight is distributed evenly along the body, unlike chain mail which hangs on the shoulders. It actually allows a good deal of freedom of movement.

(runs around the training ground swinging her sword.  Comes back to table slightly winded.)

Now, here’s the good part. Not much can penetrate plate armor. Arrows from bows cannot. Swords cannot. Not even heavy battle axes. no, at best you will dent the armor. There are only two ways.  One, you can get in close with a dagger and try to get in a gap such as the neck, armpit or groin. The other option, and far less likely to get killed, is to bash them. This is what a war hammer is for. You dent the armor and crush the bones beneath. Hit the helmet and ring his head like a bell. Also, this is what maces are good for. Same theory. If you go at knight if full plate armor, be prepared for a lethal challenge. It is the most dangerous foe you can face on a battlefield.
Next up is the flail.

Flail, a former farmer's tool.

Morning star, NOT a farmer's tool.

The flail was a farmer’s tool and was often used in peasant uprisings all across Europe. In Japan, the flail became what you call the nunchaku, or “nunchucks.” A flail was easy to make and devastating when it hit, but it was hard to use and impossible to use in a tight formation. Aside from hitting power, it could also flail around the enemy’s shield and still hit them. The other version is called a “morning star” or “ball and chain.” I will ignore’s Zach’s crew. No, I don’t know why they’re laughing. the morning star is difficult to use, but very powerful. Not a weapon for the timid.
Next weapon is the battle axe.

Favorite of Minotaurs, Dwarves and bad guys.

There were all kinds of battle axes: two handed, one handed, double bladed, short, long and even thrown. The Franks, my blessed ancestors, were famous for their throwing axes, the Francisca. Vikings loved axes.
Next up is a Belgian (back then, Flanders) weapon, no, not an FS2000, but a “Godendag,” which means “Good Day!”

"So simple, a peasant can make it!"

Another Belgian weapon, though not so simple as the Gotendag.

The Godendag is a weapon the Flemish peasants made to go up against our French armored knights. The name, “good day” possibly comes from when the Flemish rebelled, they went around saying “Good day,” to people and if they responded with a French accent, they would get killed. The Godendag is basically a cross between a club and a spear. It’s thicker at the end to club people and it has a long spike. They would use the spike to defend against cavalry charges or to attack mounted knights and then club them when they got their enemy on the ground. Simple to make, simple to use and very dangerous.
And lastly, we have my favorite weapons, the “Culverin” and “bombard.” These are black powder weapons, one is hand held, the other is mounted on wheels. Culverins were basically small cannons with a wooden pole.

Didn't know Joan used guns? She was actually famous for her talents in black powder weapons and how quickly she learned them. She was the Magpul of her day. Dynamic art of the culverin!

At the siege of Calais, I used bombards, most of them captured, to drive the English out of the city. They were noisy things that made a lot of smoke, but they were effective against castle and town walls! Guns and cannons showed up fairly early in the Middle Ages, since the 1300’s. Often their use is ignored, but they often played a major part in the battles.
I hope you learned something today. I enjoyed being here and I enjoy teaching about how to kill Engli…how to use weapons responsibly.

Now we will end this session with a prayer, some hymns and mass.
(camera fades out as she kneels to pray.)

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9 comments on “Joan of Arc’s lesson on Medieval weapons

  1. Glenda says:

    Oh very well done. I liked the format. Her doing a demonstration, and you being absent. Kinda funny. Really well done. Bravo!

  2. Dahigi says:

    Nicely informative, and still retaining a good level of humor. Well done.

    Yet, not a single mention of William Preston or Theodore Logan. Ah, well. Can’t have everything.

  3. zacharyhill says:

    I see that my staff remained professional while I was gone. I hire only the best!

  4. Joan of Arc performed her greatest deeds before the age of eighteen and, beginning at about the age of twelve or thirteen, heard voices telling her what to do. The surviving records from her first trial indicate she was intelligent and knowledgeable in Church doctrine and legal sophistry. More so than would normally be expected for an illiterate peasant girl. She was a remarkable woman. I am sometime struck by the irony that in most of 21st Century America she would be pumped full of anti-psychotics under a court order and be legally considered too young and too crazy to even be allowed to touch a deadly weapon.

    • zacharyhill says:

      Indeed. Everything I’ve read about her shows her to be completely sane and HIGHLY intelligent. The trial records show her turning her accusers questions back against them, often with humor and a very sharp tongue. The more I read about her the more I’m impressed. She wasn’t a raving fanatic but a very smart, aggressive and dedicated person.

  5. Bonaparte says:

    Ha ha! But of course you go to the French to ask about warfare, no? Second best only to a Corsican! Where is Zach? Writing a little book, yes? I wrote a book once, it was magnificent! Best book in a hundred years. Your books are nothing!

  6. leslie williams says:

    I’ve always had a fasination (sp) with Joan of Arch. This was a very informative article. Do you have an interest in 14th or 15th century England?? I’m obsessed (also obsessed wity creole culture in Louisiana). I am reading a historical fiction series by Philipia Gregory about the Tudors, it is fasinating. In the Red Queen which i just finished Lady Margerate Stanley compares herself to Joan of Arch and believes she has a calling to do anything to get her son Henry Tudor on the throne of England. I believe this history co-insides with the War of the Roses.

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