However the threat of war was constant during the Elizabethan era due to the Catholic Spanish and French. Many weapons from the Medieval period were therefore still of use. England did not have a standing army during the Elizabethan era and relied on the strength of the 'Trayned Bandes', or Trained Bands, who acted as a National Guard.
Elizabethan Weapons - The Rapier
Skill in Fencing during the Elizabethan era was a requirement of all Upper class Nobility. The different types of swords ranged from the smallest Broadsword measuring from 30 inches to the Greatswords which measured up to 72 inches. The weight of swords used during this era are usually presumed to be a lot heavier than they actually were. The use of the sword and the acquisition of fencing arts changed as technology increased and firearms were introduced and used for military warfare. The elegant rapier was used in preference to the older, clumsier cutting swords. A sword was an important part of a nobles apparel and it was important that he had adequate fencing skills. The wearing of the sword with civilian dress was a custom that had begun in late fifteenth-century Spain.
The armor of the Elizabethan period was used mainly for decoration in parades and ceremonies - not for protection purposes in war. Armor became more and more expensive and elaborate. But Knights and armor still had a part to play in the Elizabethan Tournaments which featured in Elizabethan entertainment. The Tournaments were the favorite sport of Elizabethan Knights. The tournaments kept the knight in excellent condition for the role he might need to play during warfare. There were different types of Elizabethan Tournaments, joust or melees, which each had a different type of combat method involving fighting on foot or on horseback. These tournaments reflected many of the fighting practises and weapons used during the Medieval period.
Elizabethan Weapons from the Medieval Period
The threat of the Spanish also ensured that many of the tried and tested weapons used during the Medieval period did not disappear. The following weapons were available during the Elizabethan era:
- A variety of swords as well as the rapier including the Broadsword and the Cutting sword
- The Battle Axe - A variety single and double-handed axe were in use throughout the Medieval period
- The Mace - The mace was an armor-fighting weapon. The Mace developed from a steel ball on a wooden handle, to an elaborately spiked steel war club
- The Dagger including the Basilard, a two-edged, long bladed dagger
- The Lance - A long, strong, spear-like weapon. Designed for use on horseback
Weapons which could be used by Foot soldiers and Archers
- Arbalest - This is the correct term for a Crossbow
- Axe - Single and double-handed battle axes
- Basilard - A two-edged, long bladed dagger
- Bill - A polearm with a wide cutting blade occasionally with spikes and hooks
- Billhook - Capable of killing Knights and their horses
- Bow and Arrow
- Caltrop: Sharp spikes on 12 - 18 feet poles used, in formation, to maim a horse
- Crossbow - The crossbow range was 350 – 400 yards but could only be shot at a rate of 2 bolts per minute
- Dagger - A short pointed knife
- Halberd - A broad, short axe blade on a 6 foot pole with a spear point at the top with a back spike
- Longbow - The Longbow could pierce armour at ranges of more than 250 yards - a longbowman could release between 10 - 12 arrows per minute
- Mace - The mace was an armor-fighting weapon. The Mace developed from a steel ball on a wooden handle, to an elaborately spiked steel war club
- Pike - A long spear measuring between 18 feet and 20 feet
- Poleaxe - Polearm - Polehammer - Bec de Corbin - Bec de Faucon - A group of pole-mounted weapons. Were all variations of poles measuring 6 feet long with different 'heads' - spikes, hammers, axe
- Spear - Used for thrusting
Elizabethan Weapons - Firearms
By the end of the 1500's firearms were in common use. The musket was invented towards the end of the Medieval era in 1520. By 1595 all bows were ordered to be exchanged for muskets. The most popular firearm was called a Matchlock (this name derived as it was fired by the application of a burning match). It was inaccurate, slow to load and expensive. It was eventually replaced by the Flintlock. Canons were developed which replaced the heavy artillery of the Medieval years such as the ballista, trebuchet and the Mangonel. These early canons were made of bronze or iron and fired stone or iron. They were made in different sizes and were used on both land and on sea.