Bloodied Banners: Martial Display on the Medieval Battlefield

Bloodied Banners: Martial Display on the Medieval Battlefield

By Robert W. Jones

Boydell Press, 2010
ISBN: 9781843835615

The medieval battlefield was a place of spectacle and splendour. The fully-armed knight, bedecked in his vivid heraldic colours, mounted on his great charger, riding out beneath his brightly-painted banner, is a stock image of war and the warrior in the middle ages. Yet too often the significance of such display has been ignored or dismissed as the empty preening of a militaristic social elite.

Drawing on a broad range of source material and using innovative historical approaches, this book completely re-evaluates the way that such men and their weapons were viewed, showing that martial display was a vital part of the way in which war was waged in the middle ages. It maintains that heraldry and livery served not only to advertise a warrior’s family and social ties, but also announced his presence on the battlefield and right to wage war. It also considers the physiological and psychological effect of wearing armour, both on the wearer and those facing him in combat, arguing that the need for display in battle was deeper than any medieval cultural construct and was based in the fundamental biological drives of threat and warning.


Introduction: Martial display and the peculiar death of  Sir John Chandos

Heraldic display and the role of identification on the battlefield

The banner as a symbol of identity, authority, and status

Badges and communal display

Audible display on the battlefield

The practical function of armour on the battlefield

The psychological role of armour on the battlefield

The display value of the sword and horse on the battlefield

Religious symbolism in martial display

Martial display and the case for a fourteenth-century military revolution

Interview with Robert W. Jones What inspired you first of all to study this particular aspect of medieval history? I’ve been interested in military history for a long time. When some excellent lecturers at Cardiff University kindled a love for the medieval period in me, a combination of the two was inevitable… Click here to read the full interview

Review by Anne Curry: “As Jones observes, today’s soldier dresses in a way to hide himself from the enemy. He therefore poses the question: why did medieval warriors dress themselves in such a colourful, even flamboyant, manner?”

Review by David Bachrach: “this work makes an important contribution to modern understanding of medieval warfare, and the efforts by medieval men to prepare themselves for the terrors of battle. Nevertheless, this is a highly problematic work and Jones would do well to reconsider a number of matters…”

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