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An extract from Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096-1291
by Ian Heath

[Based on Matthew Paris’ drawings of crusade battles:
Saladin Capturing the True Cross at Hattin, 1187,
Battle of Damietta,
Defeat of the French at Gaza &
Battle between the Crusaders and Khorezmians, 1244 (La Forbie)]

In addition to knights there were also armoured horsemen of lesser status available to the Frankish host, referred to variously in the sources by the terms milites gregarii, milites plebei, equites levis armaturae, serjans à cheval and servientes loricati among others; all refer to mounted men of less than knightly status including sergeants (servientes), the non-knightly elements of noblemen’s retinues and probably the wealthier burghers of the towns. They are not always easy to find in the sources, which often list only the number of knights present, ‘excepting,’ as Fulcher of Chartres admits in one passage, ‘those who were not counted as knights although they were mounted.’

They were less heavily equipped than the knights (hence ‘levis armaturae’), wearing lighter or old fashioned armour but carrying the same armament of lance and sword. This mid-13th century figure from Matthew Paris’ drawings of crusade battles is probably fairly typical.

In strict feudal terminology the sergeant was, by the late-12th century, the holder of a grant of land called a sergeanty (in Europe usually half the size of a knight’s fee), but contemporary chroniclers more often tended to use the word ‘sergeant’ and its variants as blanket-terms for all non-knightly soldiers, often not even distinguishing between mounted men and infantry. Turcopoles too are sometimes described as sergeants.

Next: 10, 11, 12 & 13. FRANKISH INFANTRYMEN in Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096-1291 by Ian Heath

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