William Godwin, The Master At Arms

15th century mercenaries, master at arms
William Godwin, master-at-arms for the Willensstark Company.

My name is William Godwin and I am the master-at-arms for the Willensstark Company.

I was born on the 19th of June in the year of our Lord 1461 to James Godwin and Gertrude Kidnie. My dear mother and father reconciled the nature of my birth by promptly getting married the following week. We lived on the estate of Caister in Norfolk in England, where my father was an armorer. My uncle Harry Godwin was a man-at-arms in the employ of the good Sir John Fastolf, God rest his soul.

I was a somewhat rambunctious child prone to fighting and the recipient of frequent beatings for stealing honey from the local clergy or playing pranks on other children. I was once let known in no uncertain terms that I was behaving poorly by way of a trivet to the head from another local boy. Be that as it may, I grew up strong and quite bright for my age. I worked with my father as an unofficial apprentice though my primary fascination had always been with the blade. My Uncle Harry saw to it that I was educated in the manly arts of fighting and combat, particularly swordplay in the manner of Lichtenauer and Ringeck, and my mother tried to gentle my spirit with reading, writing, poetry, and philosophy. Nevertheless I like a good drink, a good jape, and a good fight.

15th century mercenary company, historical reenactment, deer river mn
My primary fascination had always been with the blade…

I lived at Caister until 1476 when I decided to travel abroad as a journeyman smith and cutler. I’ve been to Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and even Jerusalem. In France I married Abigail Taylor in 1478 but lost her and the child as well when she was giving birth.  In 1483 I came back to England. While in the village of Horstede in the south of England I got into a fight with the reeve at the tavern and accidentally killed him. I fled north back to Norfolk. In August of 1485 I joined the forces of John de Vere, the 13th Earl of Oxford. On August 22nd I marched into battle on the side of Henry Tudor of the Lancastrian red rose against Richard III and his Yorkists. Richard was slain and my good lord Henry became the seventh to bear that name in kingship. Two years later I found myself once again on the field of battle at Stoke helping to re-affirm good King Henry as our sovereign lord. I was given a Charter of Pardon for my service to the King, freeing me from prosecution in the killing of the reeve.

15th cnetury mercenary, mater at arms, willensstark
A bit of sport between campaigns…

In 1488 I found myself impatient and uneasy and decided that my fortune could be made fighting the wars of others. Spain was hiring Englishmen to help free Granada. The pay wasn’t outstanding and I never grew accustomed to the rigid religious devotion of the Spanish. In 1490, still working for the Spanish at Granada, a German Captain by the name of Lothar von Degen brought his company of mercenaries to Granada and made it known, quietly, that he was looking for good soldiers for his company. As the pay was better and the military focus far outweighed the religious one I decided to sign on. Lothar is a might younger than myself, as I am old war dog of 34 years, but I like his drive and discipline. The daughter of my younger brother George has joined me and works for the company as a washer woman. She made the mistake of marrying a Frenchman, though she is lucky to now be a widow.

15th century mercenaries
I decided that my fortune could be made fighting the wars of others…

Well, after Granada, we made for Italy and the Neapolitan wars. I loved the country but fighting in the employ of the League of Venice was not ideal. At least I was able to kill more Frenchmen. Because of the French Disease we soon left. Across the Alps through the Brenner Pass and then Innsbruck. Captain got us a contract to kill Russians for the Swedes in October. We’ve been back up north near Calais working for my good King Henry VII as extra swords, in case the French decide they want Calais back, recruiting and getting supplies for the October Campaign.

As the master at arms for the company, in addition to fighting alongside the troops it is my responsibility to see that they are properly trained and to help manage the equipment of warfare. Being the most experienced man in the company it is also my responsibility to help the Captain manage the mercenaries on the field and to take command if he is unable to.