Targe?

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Thor Ewing
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Targe?

Postby Thor Ewing » Wed Nov 24, 2010 10:18 pm

I've often-enough seen it written that Gaels of this period used targes, but I've never seen any real evidence.
Of course, the Viking-age Gaels used small round shields and the Jacobite-style targe goes back at least to the 1600's, but I wonder if anyone knows of any evidence (no matter how slight) for small round shields in Scotland or Ireland in the High Middle Ages.
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Re: Targe?

Postby Brother Ranulf » Wed Nov 24, 2010 10:43 pm

I have studied all the various period and modern accounts of the Battle of the Standard, fought just north of Northallerton in 1138 between forces of local Yorkshire militia and Norman troops on one side, and a very mixed bag of Scots/displaced Saxons/rebel Normans/colonising Scandinavians and others on the other. Descriptions of the men of Galloway contradict each other and some accounts may be influenced by much later battles, but the Battlefields Trust description states:

"The infantry forces from Galloway, described as Galwegians, are suggested as having numbered as many as 7000, armed with spears about 12ft long and a few with axes, possibly with a helmet and a small round shield of wood or leather. They are said to have considered themselves the best fighters in Scotland but these unarmoured and ill-disciplined troops would be no match for the English longbow and heavily armoured men at arms. There were other similarly armed troops from the Highlands."

The reference to longbows casts serious doubts on the accuracy of this description, since there is absolutely no evidence for anything except "bows" being used (and even less evidence for who exactly was using them on the "English" side). On the other hand it is difficult to see how Galwegian troops armed with full-sized kite shields could have been so comprehensively cut to pieces by the archers, as was certainly the case. My own view (for what it's worth) is that their lack of armour and undersized round shields contributed to their rapid destruction and the ultimate defeat of King David's "Scots" army, although controlling such a linguistically and motivationally diverse and motley rabble must have played a huge part.

Ailred of Rievaulx had earlier been present at the court of King David and was familiar with the Scots and their varied racial types. His contemporary account says: "Like a hedgehog with its quills, so would you see a Galwegian bristling all round with arrows, and nonetheless brandishing his sword and in blind madness rushing forward now smite a foe, now lash the air with useless strokes. The Galwegians faltered and the entire Scots line began to recoil."

It should be said that other troops on the Scots side undoubtedly used kite shields, almost certainly round-topped at that date.


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Re: Targe?

Postby Thor Ewing » Fri Nov 26, 2010 7:05 pm

Thanks, Good Brother.

I rather suspect these Galwegians had no shields at all. I know of just two manuscript illustrations of Scottish medieval infantry and in these, six out of seven individuals are shieldless and armourless, wearing just a shirt and hood. The final division of Scots at Bannockburn seem to have been similarly lightly armed.

I have dug up some literary evidence which, though open to interpretation is certainly relevant.

Firstly, William Dunbar (c.1460-1513) has a poem known as 'The Goldyn Targe' in which he uses the word 'targe' for a shield protecting him from allegorical assaillants. Perhaps its 'goldyn' colour comes from brass or gilded mountings?

Secondly, Gaelic poetry uses the word 'targa' (=targe) from at least the beginning of the fourteenth century, when the poet Artur Dall describes every warrior of Eoin Mac Suibhne as carrying one as they board their ships. Elsewhere he uses the commoner word 'sciath' (=shield); he goes on to describe Eoin's shield as 'mboillsgeach mbreacdhonn' (=brown-specked/-pied, gleaming) which could well describe contrasting areas of leather and metal, as on a later targe.

Another poem describes shields hung along the sides of a ship in the 'Sasanagh' (=English) manner, though this might not refer to contemporary practice.

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Re: Targe?

Postby Brother Ranulf » Fri Nov 26, 2010 7:21 pm

I did a bit more digging around on this but came up with nothing, beyong another account which gives the Galwegians small round shields, short spears rather than ones 12 feet long, short kilts that "barely cover the buttocks" and feathers tied into their long hair. Again finding empirical evidence for any of this is frustratingly difficult.

Those beautifully-carved medieval grave stones from Argyle, the western Highlands and islands are packed with detail for swords, helmets and aketons - but strangely not a shield anywhere.

It's not really connected, but the Welsh were certainly using round shields (size not specified, but probably quite large) in the late 12th century. Giraldus Cambrensis is very specific on that point, as he is with hairstyles and facial hair. He links the styles of his own time to those of the Celts at the time of the Romans, so it could potentially help the case for continuity of styles in Scotland - I guess without more evidence it's another case of "not proven", as they say in Scottish legal circles.


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Re: Targe?

Postby Thor Ewing » Fri Nov 26, 2010 7:43 pm

"Not proven" does seem to sum it up.

There are in fact quite a few effigies with 'heater' shields. But not all of them have shields as you say, and the effigies represent what was used by the chiefs rather than the wider clan.

I also found this online about Northallerton (see http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/content/imported-docs/k-o/northallerton.pdf). It's from Ailred's chronicle and it has the Galwegians as shieldless and armourless:
King [David] gathered together his earls and the highest nobles of his realm,and began to discuss with them the array of battle. And it pleased the greater number that all the armed men, knights and archers whom they had should go before the rest of the army, so that armed men should attack armed men, and knights engage with knights, and arrows resist arrows.
The Galwegians [men of Galloway] opposed this, saying that it was their right to fill the front line, to make the first attack upon the enemy, to arouse by their courage the rest of the army. The others said it was dangerous if at the first assault unarmed men met armed men; for if the first rank sustained not the brunt of battle but yielded to flight the courage of even the brave would be readily dispelled.
Nonetheless the Galwegians persisted, demanding that their right be granted to them. 'For why art thou fearful, O King,' said they; 'and why dost thou so greatly dread those iron tunics which thou seest far off? We surely have iron sides, a breast of bronze, a mind void of fear; and our feet have never known flight, nor our backs a wound. What gain were their hauberks to the Gauls at Clitheroe? Did not these men unarmed, as they say, compel them to throw away their hauberks, to forget their helmets, to leave behind their shields? Let then your prudence see, O king, what it is to have confidence in these, which in a strait are more burden than defence. We gained at Clitheroe the victory over mail-clad men: we today shall use as shield the valour of our minds, and vanquish these with spears.'
After this was said, when the King seemed rather to incline to the counsels of his knights, Malisse, earl of Strathearn, was greatly wroth, and said: 'Why is it, O King, that thou reliest rather upon the will of Gauls, since none of them with their arms today will advance before me, unarmed, in the battle?' And Alan de Percy, base-born son of the great Alan - a most vigorous knight, and in military matters highly distinguished - took these words ill; and turning to the earl he said, 'A great word hast thou spoken, and one which for thy life thou canst not make good this day.'
Then the king, restraining both, lest a disturbance should suddenly arise out of this altercation, yielded to the will of the Galwegians.


Where was that other reference to Galwegians from? I love the idea of them with feathers in their hair - fitting adversaries for John Wayne's early ancestors!

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Re: Targe?

Postby Brother Ranulf » Fri Nov 26, 2010 10:42 pm

I have seen that account in Ailred of Rievaulx's Chronicle - the problem is that he is reporting speech he can not possibly have witnessed, since he was not present at the time. He is typical of many such chroniclers in putting fine speeches into the mouths of army comanders just prior to battle (Shakespeare did much the same thing) for the sake of presenting a good story.

None of the other period accounts (the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Peterborough manuscript, Richard of Hexham's Historia de gestis regis Stephani: de bello Standardii and a couple of others) include this debate between king David and the men of Galloway, merely saying that they insisted on being at the front of the army as was their ancient right. The men who would certainly have known what kit those Galwegians used were the York, Ripon and Beverley militias who dug the pits for their burial (there is still a Scotpits Lane on the battle site), but they had no opportunity to report the facts. As far as I know the site has never been studied archaeologically and there is even a debate about its exact location. One for Time Team, perhaps?

The "short kilts and feathers in their long hair" came from the Northallerton Online website (it may not still be running), again it's frustratingly difficult to verify.


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Re: Targe?

Postby Lindsay » Fri Nov 26, 2010 11:17 pm

From the Records of the Scottish Parliament 19 October 1456

And that no poor man nor unprovided be charged to come to any raids in England, and that each man whose goods extend to 20 merks be furnished at least with jack, with sleeves to the hand or else a pair of splints, a sellat or a pricking hat, a sword and a buckler, a bow and a sheaf, and if he can not shoot that he shall have an axe and a targe either of leather or of board with two hands on the back. And throughout all shires they are to be warned to provide for such things and to come and make their wappenschaws before the sheriffs, bailies or stewarts of regalities on the morning after the law days after Yule. And whoever comes not bearing as appropriate, after his fault, is to be punished in his goods, and so forth their wappenschaws is to be continued from 30 days to 30 days, etc.

Taken from http://www.rps.ac.uk/

Or in its original form:
And at na pure man nor wnbodyn be chargyt to cum till ony radis in Inglande, and at ilk man that his gudis extendis to xxti merkis be bodyn at the lest with jak, with slevys to the hande or ellis a payr of splentis, a sellat or a priking hatt, a suerde and a buclare, a bow and a schaif, and gif he can nocht schut that he haif ane ax and a targe othir of leddir or of burde with twa handis on the bak. And throu out all schyris thai be warnyt to prowyde for sik thingis and to cum and mak thar wapinschawing befor the shrefis, bailyeis or stuartis of regaliteis on the morne eftir the law dais eftir yule. And quha that cumis nocht bodyne as efferis eftir his faltyss to be punyst in his gudis and sa furthe thar wapinschawing to be cotinuyt fra xxx dais to xxx dais, etc.

Hope this is of some use.


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Re: Targe?

Postby Brother Ranulf » Sun Nov 28, 2010 8:39 am

That's interesting for the late medieval period, and it also links with the "garbae" thread with regard to sheaves of arrows.

I looked at Pictish carvings of warriors, mainly dating between the 7th and 9th centuries. They are shown with a mix of small square, rectangular or round shields typical of the earlier Celts. The "Lords of the Isles" gravestones do indeed include some small heater shields as Thor mentioned and these must relate to people with status - they are generally 13th to 15th century in date and so overlap with the bucklers and targes in Lindsay's post.

For me, the outcome of all this is essentially a "continuity of variety" - in other words several different styles of shield were always used in Scotland simultaneously, reflecting mixed racial backgrounds, status and so on.

The evidence seems to support this kind of time-line for small, round shields:

7th to 9th centuries: definite use by some Picts, alongside other shapes.
10th to 11th centuries: unknown
12th century: possible/probable use by Galwegians (not proven)
13th to 14th centuries: unknown
15th to 16th centuries: definite use alongside bucklers, for at least the lower status troops.


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Re: Targe?

Postby Alan_F » Mon Dec 06, 2010 1:16 pm

Short Kilts - there seems to have been a fashion in the 11 - 12th centuries for Scots wearing a shirt that went to just above mid-thigh, I wonder if this could be a reference to it? The only evidence I have is in Fergus McCann's Scottish Arms and Armour, although he seems convinced that this is all the Scots wore during the entire medieval period.


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Re: Targe?

Postby Fox » Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:00 pm

The Middle English Dictionary list usages for targe , in the context of it being some type of shield, through the 14thC and 15thC, and gives the definition "a light shield, often small and round in shape; a buckler, targe".

It also lists target, which I assume is simply a variation, with the same definition.

Later George Silver refers to the target it in Paradoxes of Defence [Elizabethan] and in doing so distinguishes it from a buckler, implying that it is a larger type of shield.

I'm not sure if that's at all helpful; but might provide you some clues to be pursued.



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Re: Targe?

Postby Hobbitstomper » Tue Dec 07, 2010 6:01 pm

Not Scottish but:

"as brood as is a bokeler or a targe"- Chaucer, referring to a big hat.

There are pictures in a 12th century manuscript of "vikings" with short tunics and bare legs. (Also toeless shoes and socks and wooly hats :lol:). No kilts.



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Re: Targe?

Postby Thor Ewing » Mon Dec 13, 2010 3:48 pm

Looking at all this, I think the word targa/targe probably does describe a small round shield throughout the period, harking back to small round shields like the one shown in The Book of Kells.

Of course, the Book-of-Kells-type shield would have had a single hand-grip, but Lindsay's trawl of the RPS website shows that the classic two-handled targe known from the seventeenth century examples goes back at least to the mid-fifteenth century. As the act specifies that the targe must have two handles, we can assume that the one-handled type still survived in some form; I don't know of any evidence for the central shield boss specifically from this period, but the design of later targes is often based around a central non-functional boss (they don't all have central spikes).

The word is apparently Germanic in origin; it's thought to have originally meant a 'border' or 'rim' (cf OHG zarga), but it is used to mean 'shield' in Old English. I guess it entered Gaelic through Old Norse.

Thanks to everyone who has helped.

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Re: Targe?

Postby Hobbitstomper » Mon Dec 13, 2010 11:33 pm

Re the Glaswegians. In terms of practicality, wooden handled, centre grip bucklers are rubbish with long 2H spears. Metal handled ones might be better if they had thin grips. Strapped small shields might be most practical as they would allow both hands to grip the spear properly with only a leather handle in the left hand from the shield. Might need some experimentation.



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Re: Targe?

Postby Phil the Grips » Mon Dec 13, 2010 11:46 pm

Simple square targe(t)s were improvised for used at Flodden by the Scots- two short planks laid side-by-side with rope handles


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Re: Targe?

Postby lucy the tudor » Tue Dec 14, 2010 12:18 am

Phil, it is a favorite line of mine, from a Victoria Wood song, that I have waited many years to use,

"Whenever I see two short planks, I'll think of you..."

Thank you, kind Sir, for the opportunity :thumbup:


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Re: Targe?

Postby Hobbitstomper » Tue Dec 14, 2010 10:34 pm

Cheers Phil. It would be a good equivalent pike/spear block to Scottish Schiltrons much earlier. At least it shows strapped targes can work with pikes or big spears.



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Re: Targe?

Postby Phil the Grips » Tue Dec 14, 2010 10:49 pm

IIRC the targes were to be carried by fellows who had long, two-handed rattles (think: giant mararca) with which to scare English horses, seemingly these rattles were not deployed.


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Re: Targe?

Postby Hobbitstomper » Wed Dec 15, 2010 12:28 am

Theory blown then.
Can't see horses who are used to cannon being too bothered by rattles. But i don't do horses.



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Re: Targe?

Postby Alan_F » Tue Dec 21, 2010 3:46 am

Hobbitstomper wrote:Theory blown then.
Can't see horses who are used to cannon being too bothered by rattles. But i don't do horses.



It was one of those strange theories that someone came up with that probably made a lot of sense to the inventor but which wasn't up to scratch when you think about it. A bit like the Sinclair C5. :D


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Re: Targe?

Postby Thor Ewing » Fri Dec 24, 2010 12:03 am

Hobbitstomper wrote:Re the Glaswegians. In terms of practicality, wooden handled, centre grip bucklers are rubbish with long 2H spears. Metal handled ones might be better if they had thin grips. Strapped small shields might be most practical as they would allow both hands to grip the spear properly with only a leather handle in the left hand from the shield. Might need some experimentation.


The use of shields in schiltrons is another interesting question. Most descriptions of the schiltron focus on the long spears (though not everyone necessarily carried a spear in all schiltrons), but at least one mentions shields and of course the word itself suggests shields were used. As you say, for a shield to work well with a long spear, it really ought to be two-handled with a leather hand-grip. Even so, the schiltron must have been somewhat different from its shieldwall ancestor.

I'm still unconvinced though when it comes to Glaswegains and shields. Of course, I take Ranulf's point that what Ailred reports as direct speech cannot possibly be an accurate account of the conversation before the battle. But Ailred wasn't such a fool that he thought his readers would take him literally here. As I read it, he's just using this semi-fictional converstaion to get accross the point that the Glaswegains spurned armour. The literary ploys of a medieval historian were different from those used by historians today, and this use of 'reported' speech is a common enough device to enliven historical narrative. Ailred's assertion that the Glaswegians did not use armour is in line with Giraldus Cambrensis on the Irish (the Galwegians might have had an especially close affinity with their Irish cousins).

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Re: Targe?

Postby Alan_F » Thu Jan 06, 2011 4:01 pm

Hobbitstomper wrote:Re the Glaswegians. In terms of practicality, wooden handled, centre grip bucklers are rubbish with long 2H spears. Metal handled ones might be better if they had thin grips. Strapped small shields might be most practical as they would allow both hands to grip the spear properly with only a leather handle in the left hand from the shield. Might need some experimentation.



Not Glaswegians, Galwegians, inhabitants of Galloway.


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Re: Targe?

Postby Hobbitstomper » Thu Jan 06, 2011 5:04 pm

Sorry Alan. Stupid mistake. Should have realised as Glaswegians prefer knives and samurai swords.



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Re: Targe?

Postby Alan_F » Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:53 pm

Hobbitstomper wrote:Sorry Alan. Stupid mistake. Should have realised as Glaswegians prefer knives and samurai swords.



So instead of the Battle of the Standard, Battle of the Buckie? :D


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Re: Targe?

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Fri Jan 07, 2011 1:32 pm

Fandabedozee.


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Re: Targe?

Postby Hobbitstomper » Fri Jan 07, 2011 4:01 pm

The Battle of Buckie is a good enough concept to get its own wikipedia entry.



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Re: Targe?

Postby Alan_F » Fri Jan 07, 2011 5:32 pm

Hobbitstomper wrote:The Battle of Buckie is a good enough concept to get its own wikipedia entry.



Re-enactment of it would be interesting - everybody dons tracksuits and hangs around the bus stop all day shouting abuse at passers by! :D


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Re: Targe?

Postby KedlestonCraig » Mon Jan 10, 2011 1:56 am

Alan_F wrote:
Hobbitstomper wrote:The Battle of Buckie is a good enough concept to get its own wikipedia entry.

Re-enactment of it would be interesting - everybody dons tracksuits and hangs around the bus stop all day shouting abuse at passers by! :D

and as a "real" Glaswegian I could watch and berate about authenticity levels, or lack thereof :wink:


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Re: Targe?

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Mon Jan 10, 2011 8:58 pm

Youse be heading for a good shoeing if you do.


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