“Engineers of the Angevin Empire (1154-1242)”

SESSION III: The Medieval Experience of Siege

“Engineers of the Angevin Empire (1154-1242)”

Nicolas Prouteau (CESCM-Poitiers)


The intent of this paper was to sketch and describe the rise and status in engineers during the Angevin period. Prouteau used chronicles, accounts, and judicial sources, and archaeological excavations to learn about the functions of these men. The main purpose of this paper is to put into perspective the technological innovations of the time and this can be split into three sections: Part I: The Angevin Engineer, Part II: Ditchwork and Part III: The King’s Hands a paradoxical position.

Part I: The Angevin Engineer
The term “Engineer” became more common in the latter half of the twelfth century. Not much is known about the professional background of these men but some were mentioned as carpenters, miners or crossbow men. Who was the Angevin Engineer? Proteau looked at the expert and his entourage: A Master-Engineer and four “fellows” compromised his team. Master-Engineers were recruited by kings, constables, rich lords and seneschals. During the reigns of Henry II and Henry III, engineers wore many hats, not all were solely siege engineers and many oversaw the building of castles and managed the financial obligations surrounding the build. As military technicians, they were also technical advisors on many projects during this period.

Part II: Ditchwork
The importance of this area cannot be overlooked. It is the beginning of the build and the defensive seat of fortifications. The moat and bailey system was improved during this period as well as other lines of defence in masonry. Corridors were built with loopholes – a development during the Third Crusade. The purpose was to shoot directly into the ditch. Master engineers received good salaries and even lands as compensation for their work.

Part III: The King’s Hands a paradoxical position
Unfortunately, Engineers often had difficulty hanging onto lands or fiefs bestowed on them. Prouteau used the example of Master Uricus (1184-1216) who gave all his lands to Sutton, Wicford and Canewdon to his niece Matilda Urry. Matilda was mentioned with her husband Richard in 1216 and 1218. Uricus’s lands fell back to the king when he died instead of remaining with his family.

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