Lances fournies

The Lances fournies was a medieval army squad, that would have surrounded a knight in battle, consisting of a four to ten man team built of squires (man-at-arms, (usually mounted swordsmen), archers, attendants (pages) and the knight himself. These units formed companies under a captain either as mercenary bands or in the retinue of wealthy nobles and royalty.

A Lance was usually led and raised by a knight in the service of his liege, yet it is not uncommon in certain periods to have a mounted swordsman, such as a serjeants-at-arms, lead a lance. More powerful knights, also known as a knight bannerets, could field multiple lances.


Sources on the exact composition of a Lance are few and often centuries apart, one example of the Lance consisted of a knight, two pages or squires (or one of each), three men-at-arms and a single archer.

At the onset of the French compagnies d'ordonnance, the Lances Founies were formed around a knight with a retinue of a page or squire, three archers and two men-at-arms (known as the serjeants-at-arms or coutiliers (lightly armed followers, translated as "dagger men")). All members in a lance were mounted for travel but only the knight and the men-at-arms would fight on horse back, although the men-at-arms would generally act as infantry.

Lances would be further organized as Companies, each company numbering about 100 lances, effectively 400 plus fighting men and servants. These companies were sustained even in peace, and became the first standing army in modern Europe.

The last Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold tried to organise his army in 1250 lances of 9 men : A knight, a non-combatant page and seven fighting men, be they either archers, men-at-arms or squires. In all, his army would have numbered 10,000 men, in 10 companies had he not died prior to its rearrangement.


The lance had no consistent strength of arms through out its usage as a unit. Different centuries and different states gave it a fluctuating character. This can readily be seen in its origins, which lie in the retinues of medieval knights. When called by the liege, the knight would command men from his fief and possibly those of his liege lord or in this later's stead. Out of the Frankish concept of knighthood, associated with horsemanship and its arms, a correlation slowly evolved between the signature weapon of this rank, the horseman's lance, and the military value of the rank. In other words, when a noble would speak of his ability to field forces the terms of knights, lances became interchangeable.

The term itself of Lance Fournies appeared much the same way as the Compagnies d'ordonnance "Les Lances fournies pour les Compagnies d'ordenance du Roi." or The lances furnished for the Companies ordered by the King.

Citations and notes


  • Goubert, Pierre & Ultee, Maarten, The Course of French History, Routledge, 1991

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