Writing about cavalry charges often uses the phrases ‘close order’ or ‘knee-to-knee’. But what do these actually mean, and how close can you keep charging horses? This post won’t necessarily answer these questions satisfactorily, but it will show that there are lots of different opinions in drill books and eyewitness accounts.
Francois de La Noue (1531-91) was a protestant commander in the French Wars of Religion. He wrote a military treatise that was translated into English by Edward Aggas and published as The politicke and militarie discourses of the Lord de La Nouue Whereunto are adjoyned certaine observations of the same author, of things happened during the three late civill warres of France. With a true declaration of manie particulars touching the same in 1588. I’ve referred to this book before because it has a lot of interesting things to say about lances and pistols. In the lance post, I mentioned that La Noue had a distinctive theory of shock. Now I’m going to look at it in more detail (or at least the version given in the English translation, which might not be exactly what La Noue wrote; for convenience I’ll be referring to it as ‘La Noue’).
Behind every Great Man there’s another Great Man who is supposed to have inspired him, even though he’s a unique genius. Whiggish narratives of progress in cavalry tactics often say that Prince Rupert and/or Oliver Cromwell got his brilliant ideas from Gustavus Adolphus. Back in the caracole post we saw how Michael Roberts credited Gustavus Adolphus with getting rid of the caracole and bringing back proper, vigorous, manly shock charges. These assumptions have had knock-on effects for historians of the English Civil Wars, who have often tried to classify various tactics as either Dutch (old and rubbish – how quickly they forgot that Maurice of Nassau was a Great Man) or Swedish (new and good). I’ve already discussed how Rupert and Cromwell weren’t necessarily doing anything new, when we can tell what they were doing at all. This week, see how their tactics don’t relate to national stereotypes.
Academics know Gervase Markham as a prolific hack who would write about almost anything for money. In the early seventeenth century he published a huge number of books on various subjects (an EEBO search gives 173 hits). Literary critics know him for his poetry. Food historians know him for his cookery books. Military historians know him for his drill books. Horse historians know him for his horsemanship and veterinary manuals. In 1617, the Stationers’ Company made him agree not to publish any more books about veterinary medicine because there were already too many! His desperation for money led him to do crowdfunded projects similar to John Taylor‘s: one was to walk to Scotland without crossing any water wider than he could jump across with a stick. Markham served as a soldier but very little seems to be known about his military career – I can’t even find out whether he served in the infantry or cavalry (although it was easier to move between them in those days, so they’re not mutually exclusive). He never mentioned his own experiences in his military books and seems to have copied a lot of them from older sources, including lots of unrealistic and outdated formations (Lawrence, Complete Soldier, 150, 177, 201-2, 291).
If you Google him, you’ll find a very different Gervase Markham who is ostensibly the same person (and also an actually different person who is a programmer). There seems to be a widespread assumption that he was an expert horseman. This probably follows from the fact that he wrote about riding, but we don’t have any direct evidence of his practical experience, and he wrote about lots of other things as well. There doesn’t seem to be any consensus on what his most well known work is, probably because he wrote about so many different things. encyclopedia.com says that ‘His chief work is Cavelarice; or the English Horseman (1607)’ but according to Wikipedia he was ‘best known for his work The English Huswife, Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman‘.
Wikipedia also says that ‘He was a noted horse-breeder, and is said to have imported the first Arabian horse’. The first part of that sentence is almost certainly false. There’s no evidence that anyone at the time noted him as a horse breeder. The second part is literally true because it is said that Markham imported the first Arabian horse, but the people who say it are wrong. According to William Cavendish, it was a merchant called John Markham (A New Method and Extraordinary Invention to Dress Horses, p. 73). The horse was named the Markham Arabian after him, and this has probably confused people who are aware of Gervase but not John. It’s unlikely that Gervase would have been able to afford an Arab horse or had the connections to source one. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography concludes that his ‘last years seem to have been spent in poverty’.
Moreover if your horse by wresty, so as he cannot be put forwards; then let one take a Cat tyed by the tayle to a long pole, and when he goes backewards thrust the Cat towards his stones, where she may claw him, and forget not to threaten your horse with a terrible Noyse: or otherwise take a Hedgehog and tye him streight by one of his feete to the inside of the horses tayle, so that he may squeake and pricke him.
At the time, I couldn’t work out why the horse and the hedgehog are male but the cat is female. Then in 2008 I came up with a possible solution: the gender of the pronouns could be derived from the grammatical gender of the Latin nouns for those animals. Now I think I’ve got the answer: Ward copied the passage from Frederico Grisone, who originally wrote in Italian, which of course is closely related to Latin. I first noticed the similarity in an essay by Pia Cuneo, although her translation of the passage is modernized and loses the gendering of the pronouns (Cuneo, ‘Bit of Control‘, 152). This is from Thomas Blundeville’s English translation published in 1561:
Let a footma[n] stand behind you with a shrewed catte teyed at the one ende of a long pole with her belye upwarde, so as shee maye have her mouth & clawes at liberty. And when your horse doth stay or go backward, let him thrust the Catte betwixt his thyes so as she may scratche and bite him, somtime by the thighes, sometime by the rompe, and often times by the stones. But let the footman and al the standers by threaten the horse with a terrible noyse, and you shall see it will make him to goe as you woulde have him. And in so doing be ready to make much of him. Also the shirle crye of a hedgehog beinge strayt teyed by the foot under the Horses tayle, is a remedye of like force…
I don’t have access to the original Italian text, but it looks like Blundeville probably translated the pronouns a bit too literally. This translation would probably have been available to Ward, although he may have gone back to the original as the title page claims that Anima’dversions includes ‘Sundry Collections taken out of the most approved Authors, ancient and modern, either in Greeke. Latine. Italian. French. Spanish. Dutch, or English’. Blundeville didn’t give a gender for the hedgehog, so I’m not sure if Ward got that straight from Grisone or made it up himself.
So it doesn’t look like anyone consciously intended the cat to be female, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore it. Lera Boroditsky has found that grammatical gender can influence people’s perceptions of real things (see summary at Babel’s Dawn). This effect could be even bigger when the gender of a noun is imported into a language like English that doesn’t normally have grammatical gender. And the maleness of the horse can’t be explained away at all because it’s explicitly described as having testicles. Blundeville refers to the horse as ‘he’ throughout his translation, but this isn’t just inheriting grammatical gender from Italian. Early in the book, Grisone discusses the best shapes and colours for dressage horses. In Blundeville’s translation, the description of the horse’s body includes ‘His stones & yard would be smal’, so this must be a stallion. There’s no discussion of why stallions are best for the manege or why mares or geldings apparently aren’t. It’s also interesting that although it has to be a stallion, it’s better if his testicles and penis are small.
That’s about all for my horses, war and gender project as it’s too hard and there are other things I want to do, but maybe I’ll revive it one day.