Women Warriors of the 14th Century
Women Warriors of the 13th Century << . . . . >> Women Warriors of the 15th Century

"Isobel, Countess of Buchan: (A.D. 1296-1358) Isobel MacDuff left her husband, the Earl of Buchan (Taking the finest warhorses with her), to fight for the Bruce, a cause of which her husband did not approve. The earl went as far as to issue a warrant for her death. Captured by Edward and taken to England, the countess of Buchan was imprisoned in a small cage for four years. She afterwards retired to convent life."
(information given by Geoff Cook - geoff.cook@btinternet.com)

"Jeanne de Danpierre, Countess de Montfort: (Abt. 1300 - 74). (also known as Jane, Countess of Montfort) During the defence of Hennebont (in which she'd had the misfortune to be besieged by her & her husband's enemies), she wore armour, rode a warhorse, and sorted out the defence of the city by observing the enemy from the walls. Jeanne also mobilised the townswomen to defend the ramparts with makeshift missiles. She broke out from Hennebont at the head of 300 horseman, during a French assault on the walls, and successfully fought her way to Brest. She later returned with 600 additional men to reinforce the town. Later that same year, she is reported to have taken part in a sea-skirmish off Guernsey; wearing a suit of armour at the helm of her ship, and wielding a sword. Salmonsson, in _The Encyclopaedia of Amazons_, quotes that Jeanne de Montfort "performed prodigies of valour; clad in complete armour, she stood foremost in the breach, sustained the most violent assaults, and displayed skill that would have done honour to the most experienced general",without actually telling us where she got that quote. However, she does give us Froissart, describing Jeanne 'with a very sharp sword to hand, fighting with great courage' "
(information given by Geoff Cook - geoff.cook@btinternet.com)

"Isabelle of England: (A.D. 1285?-1313?) Daughter of Phillippe le Bel of France, wife of Edward II of England. She took up arms against her husband and his supporters. When Edward III came to the throne, he forced Isabelle to flee to Scotland, where, during the ensuing war, she travelled with a defending troop of like-spirited women including two sisters of Nigel and Robert Bruce (Christian, Lady Bruce and Isobel, Countess of Buchan). Against this troop of noblewomen, Edward issued a formal proscription. He did capture several and imprison them. Isabelle he forced to retire to a convent life lest she try further conquests."
(information given by Geoff Cook - geoff.cook@btinternet.com)

Queen Isabella of England
"Christian, Lady Bruce: Sister of Robert I. During the Wars of Independence and the reign of Edward I, Lady Bruce defended Kildrummy Castle when it was besieged by David of Strathbogie, who served English interests. Strathbogie fell in battle, and it was left to his widow to defend (for seven months) the island fortress of Lochindorb against three thousand vengeful Scots." (information given by Geoff Cook - geoff.cook@btinternet.com) Queen Isabelle of England
"Christian's sisters Marjory Bruce and Mary Bruce were also warlike, as was that grotesquely punished Bruce supporter Isobel, Countess of Buchan."
(information given by Geoff Cook - geoff.cook@btinternet.com)

"Phillipa of Hainault: (A.D. 1314?-1369) Queen of Edward III. In 1346, she led twelve thousand soldiers against invading Scots, capturing their king, David Bruce. She was patroness of Chaucer and founded Queen's College."
(information given by Geoff Cook - geoff.cook@btinternet.com)

"Black Agnes: Lady Agnes Randolph (A.D. 1300?-1369?), wife of Patrick the fourth earl of Dunbar and the second earl of March. In her youth, she fought for the Bruce, but is better remembered for the later defense of her castle. In 1334, Black Agnes daughter of the great Randolf, earl of Moray, successfully held her castle at Dunbar against the besieging forces of England's earl of Salisbury for over five months, despite the unusual number of engineers and elaborate equipment brought against her. After each assault on her fortress, her maids dusted the merlins and crenels, treating her foes and the dreadfuls seige as a tiresome jest. She is celebrated in a folk song attributed to Salisbury:
She kept a stir in tower and trench,
That brawling, boisterous Scottish wench;
Came I early, came I late
I found Agnes at the gate.
Sir Walter Scott said, 'From the record of Scottish heroes, none can presume to erase her.' "
(information given by Geoff Cook - geoff.cook@btinternet.com)

In 1342, King Edward III of England's troops commanded by Robert of Artois captured part of the town of Vannes in Brittany. The following day they were removed from the town by the garrison troops and citizens of the town, including a mob of furious women.
(source "The Hundred Years War" - Jonathan Sumption - Faber and Faber - 0-571-16697-0)

"Agnes Hotot, (A.D. 1378? - ?). The coat of arms of the House of Dudley shows a woman in war helmet, dishelved hair hanging out, and her breasts exposed, commemorating a female champion. In the fourteenth century A.D., Agnes Hotot's father, of the House of Dudley, quarreled with another man and agreed to a lance fight to settle the affair. Upon the appointed hour, Agnes's father fell seriously ill. Agnes put on a helmet and disguised her sex, mounted her father's horse and set out for the tourney grounds. 'After a stubborn encounter,' Agnes dismounted her father's foe. When he lay on the ground, 'she loosened the stay of her helmet, let down her hair and disclosed her bussom,' so that he would know he had been conquered by a woman."
(information given by Geoff Cook - geoff.cook@btinternet.com)

"It can never be known how commonly women fought in the tournaments we are all so familiar with from tales of knights and damsels. One thing is certain, the damsels were sometimes the knights, and Agnes was not the lonesome example. Tourney exercise would seem to have been essential or women such as Adelaide Ponthiey could never have gained the required expertise for her succes in the Crusades. Hunting with hound or hawk and equestrian arts were encouraged in the aristocratic lady of the Middle Ages; it is not a far leap from there to the tourneys."
(information given by Geoff Cook - geoff.cook@btinternet.com)

A 1348 British chronicle tells of women 'free from matrimonial restraints' whose behavior startled the public: When the tournaments were held, in every place a company of ladies appeared in the the diverse and marvelous dress of a man, to the number sometimes of about forty, sometimes fifty, ladies from the more handsome and more beautiful, but not the better ones of the entire kingdom; in divided tunics, with small hoods, even having across their stomachs, below the middle, knives which they vulgarly called daggers placed in pouches from above. Thus they came on excellent chargers or other horses splendidly adorned, to the place of tournament. And in such manner they spent and wasted their riches and injured their bodies with abuses with ludicrous wantoness.'

Jeanne de Belleville (mid 1300s)

Pope Boniface VIII wrote several letters in 1383 in which he mentioned Genoese ladies who were Crusaders.

Margaret of Denmark (1353-1411)

Maria of Pozzuoli
from "The Voice of the Middle Ages in Personal Letters 1100-1500" Edited by Catherine Moriarty ISBN 1 85291 051 8, Lennard Publishing.
"From Petrarch to Cardinal Giovanni Colonna. 23 November 1343
Of all the wonders of God,'who alone doeth great wonders,' he has made nothing on earth more marvelous than man. Of all we saw that day, of all this letter will report, the most remarkable was a mighty woman of Pozzuoli, sturdy in body and soul. her name is Maria, and to suit her name she has the merit of virginity. Though she is constantly among men, usually soldiers, the general opinion holds that she has never suffered any attaint to her chastity, whether in jest or earnest. Men are put off, they say, more by fear than respect.
Her body is military rather than maidenly, her strength is such as any hardened soldier might wish for, her skill and deftness unusual, her age at its prime, her appearance and endeavor that of a strong man. She cares not for charms but for arms; not for arts and crafts but for darts and shafts; her face bears no trace of kisses and lascivious caresses, but is ennobled by wounds and scars. Her first love is for weapons, her soul defies death and the sword.
She helps wage an inherited local war, in which many have perished on both sides. Sometimes alone, often with a few companions, she has raided the enemy, always, up to the present, victoriously. First into battle, slow to withdraw, she attacks aggressively, practises skilful feints. She bears with incredible patience hunger, thirst, cold, heat, lack of sleep, weariness; she passes nights in the open, under arms; she sleeps on the ground, counting herself lucky to have a turf or a shield for pillow.
She has changed much in a short time, thanks to her constant hardships. I saw her a few years ago, when my youthful longing for glory brought me to Rome and Naples and the king of Sicily. She was then weaponless; but I was amazed when she came to greet me today heavily armed, in a group of soldiers. I returned her greeting as to a man I didn't know. Then she laughed, and at the nudging of my companions I looked at her more closely; and I barely recognized the wild, primitive face of the maiden under her helmet.
They tell many fabulous stories about her; I shall relate what I saw. A number of stout fellows with military training happen to have come here from various quarters. (They were diverted from another expedition.) When they heard about this woman they were anxious to test her powers. So a great crowd of us went up to the castle of Pozzuoli. She was alone, walking up and down in front of the church, apparently just thinking. She was not at all disturbed by our arrival. We begged her to give us some example of her strength. After making many excuses on account of an injury to her arm, she finally sent for a heavy stone and an iron bar. She then threw them before us, and challenged anyone to pick them up and try a cast. To cut the story short, there was a long, well-fought competition, while she stood aside and silently judged the contestants. Finally, making an easy cast, she so far outdistanced the others that everyone was amazed, and I was really ashamed. So we left, hardly believing our eyes, thinking we must have been victims of an illusion.
The story goes that Robert [of Naples], that noblest of kings, was once sailing along these shores with a great fleet, and, tempted by the stories of this woman, he came ashore at Pozzuoli only to see her. This does not seem very likely, since, living so nearby, it would seem easier for him to summon her. But perhaps he landed for some other reason and was eager to inspect this great novelty. He has a very curious mind.
Let the tale-tellers bear the responsibility for the truth of this story, as of many others we have heard. For me the sight of this woman makes more credible not only the tales of the Amazons and their famous feminine kingdom, but also those of the Italian virgin warriors, led by Camilla, whose name is celebrated above all. For what hinders us from believing of many what I could hardly have credited of one, if I had not seen it? And that ancient Camilla was born not far from here, at Piperno, at the time of the fall of Troy; while our modern girl was born at Pozzuoli. I wanted to give you this report in my little letter.
Farewell and Prosper."
(info given by Jim Deakin)

source: "Chivalry" by Maurice Keen (Yale University Press, ISBN 0-3000-03360-5) p193
Ladies were admitted to the Order of the Dragon by Count of Foix, and if various deeds of arms had been achieved they were allowed to decorate their badges in the same way as Knights.
The Order of St Anthony in Hainault admitted women.
Order of the Garter admitted women.
(references given in the book are:
1. P.S.Lewis "Une devise de chevalerie inconnue, creee par un Compte de Foix?: le Dragon" Annales du Midi, 76 (1964) 77-84
2. BR, MS Goethals 707, fo 33 vo (regulations concerning the device to be worn by knights, squires and ladies of the Order of St Anthony), and fo 39 ff (names and in some cases the arms of the knights, squires and ladies of the Order)
3. G.F.Beltz, "Memorials of the most noble Order of the Garter" (London, 1842), CCXXI-IV

(see also Women in the Knightly Orders)

Women Warriors of the 13th Century << . . . . >> Women Warriors of the 15th Century



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