Medieval soldiers

In the medieval period c.485 – c.1500 wars were very common and kings in order to protect themselves and dominate and expand their kingdoms had many soldiers other than just medieval knights such as *crossbowmen *Longbowmen *Pikemen.

Medieval King William the Conqueror

Medieval Soldiers played a vital role on the battlefields throughout the medieval period. Different styles of fighting were introduced in later medieval periods and permanent professional armies became the norm.

Battle of Crecy longbowmen

Battle of Crécy – Longbowmen defeat the French

The size of armies became bigger as the medieval period progressed.  In the early medieval period, peasants used to fight, without having any formal training. Later skilled armies and paid soldiers called ‘mercenaries’ were commonly employed.


Crossbowmen fires a Bolt

There were many specialized soldiers such as *long-bowmen *crossbowmen *halberdiers, who all had their own special skill set and could be deployed in different ways on the battlefield.

Medieval longbowmen armour and helmets

Longbowmen fires a Bodkin tipped arrow

Medieval Infantry Weapons

On the battlefield, there were many different kinds of soldiers that used various kinds of weapons.  Foot soldiers (infantry) could wield a wide variety of close-range, medium-range, and long-range weapons.

Foot soldiers used a wide array of weaponry such as *axes *short maces *two-handed maces *polearms *swords *Daggers. A long polearm weapon called the halberd that was wielded with two hands was a commonly used weapon during the 14th and 15th-century by medieval infantry.

Halberd Weapon

Halberd Weapon *innovative *effective *cheap to produce

Archers *Crossbowmen *Longbowmen

Crossbowmen were usually employed in advanced positions, they shielded themselves from enemy fire with large oblong pavise shields during battles of the 14th to early 16th centuries.

Large Pravise Shield

Crossbowmen *Large Pavise Shield

A crossbowman could fire up to 2-3 bolts a minute which could be effective from a distance of around 300-400 yards.

Medieval Crossbow Weapon

Crossbowmen could perfectly pick off enemy foot-soldiers and knights, whilst being out of range of close combat weapons and spears and with the added protection of their large pavise shields. Infantry such as Pikemen would be sitting ducks for the bolts fired. 

*The Genoese Crossbowmen of Italy were deemed to be the best archer in this class of Archer!


Many military historians believe that the English Longbowmen were the most effective medieval foot-soldiers and with good reason. Whilst the Crossbow was a powerful and accurate weapon at distances of around *300-400 yards only 2-3 bolts could be fired per minute, whereas longbowmen could fire around 10-12 arrows in the same time frame.

Medieval Archers firing arrows at the enemy

Longbowmen fire Bodkin tipped Arrows

The bow itself was a similar height to the archer *a six-foot bow made from yew wood that had an effective range of around 300 yards. The arrow fired from the longbow had a metal bodkin head that could penetrate chain-mail and seriously injure a knight wearing a full suit of plate armor.

Medieval Longbow used by Longbowmen

Longbowmen were much more highly skilled than crossbowmen and it took many years of dedication to master and become skilled enough to fire around 10 – 12  arrows a minute in the heat of battle, against the crossbowmen’s inferior 2-3 bolts a minute.

Bodkin Arrow Head

Famous victories attributed to longbowmen were the ‘Battle of Agincourt 1415’ and the ‘Battle of Crécy 1346’ both during the hundred years’ war. In the Battle of  Crécy English and Welsh Longbowmen completely routed a force of France mercenary crossbowmen.

Battle of Crécy

Edward III counts the dead Battle of Crécy

Battle of Crécy Froissart

Battle of Crécy


Halberdiers were medieval foot-soldiers who used a long-handled pole weapon that was very popular in medieval times called the ‘Halberd’.


Halberd Polearm  *Axe *Spike *Curved rear blade

Halberd Weapon


Halberdiers were very deadly and as effective as any other type of medieval soldier.

Medieval Soldiers *Mercenaries

In the late and post-medieval periods mercenary forces who were trained professionals and received payment for their services expanded to a greater extent. These types of soldiers were free from any bindings and were unanswerable to any king and would simply fight for the person who paid the most.

Three well-known examples of this new class of soldiers were *Swiss pike-men *Italian Condottiere *German Landsknechts.

Swiss Mercenaries soldiers marching

Swiss Mercenaries *Pike Weapons

Due to competition among kings the size of the infantry troops consistently increased and kings had to generate funds in order to maintain these larger and better-skilled armies. During this period the Europeans, especially the Italians started to depend on the mercenaries who were paid at a fixed rate for fighting.

Landsknechts German Medieval Soldiers

Landsknechts German Mercenary Soldiers