Hungarian black army, and soldiers pay

History and Historical European Martial Arts in the Codex Martialis

Hungarian black army, and soldiers pay

Postby Galloglaich » Mon Feb 04, 2013 2:35 am

My friend Krisztina translated another passage from the Hungarian Wiki on Matthias Corvinus, including a couple of excerpts from his letters. It's interesting because as opposed to contract mercenaries, who typically had very short contracts and often didn't get paid (which offsets their astronomical salary), the "Black Army" of Corvinus was a full-time professional force, (albiet also comprised mostly of mercenaries) who remained in the field for years at a time, and they were paid a regular salary. So it gives us a bit more insight into the economy of the period.

„(...) the military here divides to three orders: the first of these orders consists of the heavy cavalry; these wish for 15 golds [gulden / guilder] every quarter of a year after every horse, otherwise they won't come here. The other order of the light cavalry, whom we call hussars; these want 10 forints [florins] a quarter of a year after every horse, otherwise they won't come here. The third order consists of the infantry, and there are different classes distinguished: as there are light infantry, others are heavy infantry, and again others, the shield-wielders. The light infantry requires 8 golds per person a quarter of a year, the heavy armed and the shield-wielders, since they can not carry the weapons [I think he means crossbows here] and shields [pavises?] without varlets [valets / valetti] and servants and since they must keep these children [sic.] out of necessity, they want to keep these to the weapons [crossbows] and shields with the payment of two people. Apart from these, there are gunmen, who know their way around guns and pistols [I think this means Pistala, which is a Czech word for an early type of handgun], but neither can they be used for shooting affairs so sedulously, nor as well as the infantry, thus only after the shield-wielders, in the beginning of the clash, (...) and also, they are the best for the siege or protection of castles.”

– ( Mathias' report to his father in law, Ferdinand, king of Naples, 1481.)

If I'm reading this correctly, he is saying the heavy infantry and crossbowmen get paid double, because of all their servants and assistants. That means the pay breaks down as follows:

Type Quarterly/Annual pay
Heavy cavalry / lancers 15 / 60 florins
Light Cavalry / hussars 10 / 40 florins
Light Infantry 8 / 32 florins
Heavy Infantry 16 / 64 florins
Shield Bearers (Crossbowmen?) 16 / 64 florins

Which means the more elite among the infantry are actually paid more than heavy cavalry, which is a surprise to me.

But it does make sense because the Black Army was mostly built around it's infantry and war-wagons. This is also, interestingly enough, how guild - masters were paid: they would be paid as if they were two or three people and then they in turn would pay their apprentices and journeymen a fraction of that amount. Presumably this would also be the case with the 'varlets' and 'servants' of the heavy infantry.

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