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Being struck by a springald

If a soldier was caught by one of their attacks, it would likely mean a swift death. But not in every case, as the following story will explain.

Scalacronica is a chronicle written in the mid-fourteenth century by Sir Thomas Gray. While the bulk of this work is a general account of the warfare between England and Scotland in the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, it sometimes offers anecdotes and more personal stories  involving the adventures of Thomas and his own father, also named Thomas. One of these tales comes the siege of Stirling Castle in Scotland in the year 1304.

The Scalacronica at first has the briefest mention of this siege: "King Edward, who had the submission of nearly all the Scots, and possession of the strongholds, came up to Stirling Castle and besieged it, attacking with various siege engines; and he took it by force, by a nineteen week siege."

However, then Thomas adds this interesting detail involving his father:

At this siege, Thomas de Gray, knight, was hit by a bolt from a springald through the head beneath the eyes; he was thrown to the ground as though dead, underneath the castle barricades, just as he had rescued his Master Henry de Beaumont, who had been caught at the barricades by a hook thrown from an enemy engine and was already almost across the barricades, when Thomas snatched him out of trouble.

While the situation looks bleak for the English soldier, the next line states:

Thomas was carried away, and a troop got ready to bury him - at which point, he started to move and to look about, and afterwards he recovered.

Thomas’ father did survive, and perhaps it is not surprising that he adopted a ram's head as the crest of his coat of arms. One can imagine that he would later tell this story of bravery and near-death to the younger Thomas, and likely had the facial scars to prove it.

If you are wondering what a springald is, you can read up about this siege machine in the next issue of Medieval Warfare. The issue itself is focusing on sieges, with a feature article on Ten Ways to Capture a Castle.

Scalacronica, 1272-1363, was edited and translated by Andy King and published by The Boydell Press in 2005. Click here to learn more about it.

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