Arms and Armor
England in the fourteenth century was enjoying a period of relative peace. The civil wars of the thirteenth century were far in the past, and the Wars of the Roses of the fifteenth century had only a brief prelude in Henry Bolingbroke's seizure of the throne in 1399. Aside from occasional Scottish incursions in the north and French raids on coastal towns in the south, very few military actions were fought on English soil. Yet warfare was never very far from daily life in the Middle Ages. Many people had either served in person friends or relatives who had served in the wars against Scotland or France. Even men who had stayed home might be liable for service in the militia and were by law supposed to practice the longbow regularly to ensure the king had a ready supply of skilled archers. At a fundamental level, military structures pervaded medieval society--the entire feudal system was theoretically a form of military organization.
The fourteenth-century army consisted of various types of soldiers, with sharp distinctions of class and income among them. At the top of the military hierarchy was the "man-at-arms," a horseman armored from head to toe, who formed the backbone of the English army in the period. The man-at-arms was by definition a man of means. He was expected to provide his own equipment, and this equipment was expensive. A full "harness," or set of armor, cost upwards of £2, as much money as a laborer made in a year. An ordinary warhorse cost £5, and a good one could cost ten times as much. The man-at-arms' pay was correspondingly high--at a