The old feudal system of the Middle Ages ended with the Tudor era. Henry VIII decreased the power of the nobles and increased the power of the monarchy replacing existing feudal concepts with imperial concepts of Kingship. The King was no longer dependent on his nobles for support and nobles were no longer expected to provide the clothes and weapons for soldiers. Tudor weapons were changing with new technology and the musket was introduced in the Tudor era. The threat of war from abroad was continuous during the Tudor period due to the possible invasion from either the Catholic Spanish and French. Weapons from the Medieval period were therefore still of use and vital to the safety of the realm. Tudor England did not have a standing army and relied on the strength and weapons of the 'Trayned Bandes', or Trained Bands, who acted as a National Guard.
Tudor Weapons from the Medieval Period
The threat of the Spanish and the French ensured that many of the tried and tested weapons used during the Middle Ages were still in use. The following Tudor weapons were available during this era of English history:
- A variety of swords including the Broadsword, rapier and the Cutting sword
- The Battle Axe - A variety of single and double-handed axes
- The Mace - The mace was an armor-fighting weapon and had developed into an elaborately spiked steel war club
- The Dagger - a variety of daggers were used as Tudor weapons including the Basilard which was a two-edged, long bladed dagger
- The Lance - A long, strong, spear-like weapon. which was designed for use on horseback
- Bill - A pole arm with a wide cutting blade occasionally with spikes and hooks added
- Billhooks which were capable of killing knights and their horses
- Bows and Arrows
- Caltrop: Sharp spikes on 12 - 18 feet poles which were used, in formation, to maim a horse
- Crossbow - The crossbow range was 350 – 400 yards but could only be shot at a rate of 2 bolts per minute
- Longbow - The Longbow could pierce armour at ranges of more than 250 yards - a longbowman could release between 10 - 12 arrows per minute
- Halberd - A broad, short axe blade on a 6 foot pole with a spear point at the top with a back spike
- Pike - A long spear measuring between 18 feet and 20 feet
- Poleaxes - A group of pole-mounted weapons. Were all variations of poles measuring 6 feet long with different 'heads' such as spikes, hammers or axe
- Spears - Used for thrusting
Tudor Weapons - The Rapier
Skill in Fencing during the Tudor era was a requirement of all Upper class Nobility. The rapier was used by nobles in preference to the older, clumsier cutting swords. A sword was an important part of a nobles apparel and it was important that he had adequate fencing skills. The wearing of swords with civilian dress was a custom that had begun in late fifteenth-century Spain. The use of the sword and the acquisition of fencing arts changed as new technology was introduced and firearms replaced the traditional weapons used in military warfare.
Tudor Weapons - Guns, Canons and Firearms
By the end of the 1500's firearms were in common use. The musket was invented in 1520 and by 1595 all bows were ordered to be exchanged for muskets. The most popular firearm was called a Matchlock but it was inaccurate, slow to load and expensive. The matchlock was eventually replaced by the Flintlock. Canons were developed which replaced the heavy artillery used during the Middles Ages such as the ballista, trebuchet and the mangonel. These early canons were made of bronze or iron and fired stone or iron canon balls. These massive guns were made in different sizes and were used on both land and on sea.
The armor of the Tudor period was used mainly for decoration in parades and ceremonies - not for protection purposes in war. Armor became more and more expensive and elaborate. But Knights and armor still had a part to play in the Tudor Tournaments which featured in Tudor entertainment. The tournaments kept the knight in excellent condition for the role he might need to play during warfare and his skill in using Tudor weapons. There were different types of Tudor Tournaments, joust or melees, which each had a different type of combat method involving fighting on foot or on horseback which reflected many of the fighting practises and weapons used during the Tudor period. The early armour of King Henry VIII showed a waist measurement of waist of about 34 to 36 inches but the last set of armour owned by him showed a waist measurement of waist of about 58 to 60 inches.
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