Illustrations of Welsh Soldiers from
Littere Wallie,
Preserved in Liber A in the Public Record Office, 1280s



Source: Open University Board of Celtic Studies, University of Wales History and Law Series No.5
This forms part of a manuscript book which was originally among the archives of the exchequer: it is now Volume 274 in the series of 'Books' of the treasury of the receipt, but it has long been generally known by the title 'Liber A'. It belongs to a very common species of medieval archive: it is a register of miscellaneous documents which were thought to be of interest and importance to the department concerned. It served much the same purpose as the monastic cartulary or the memoranda books of borough archives: it provided a handy repertory of transcripts which, being collected together in book form, were much easier to refer to than original documents, for the originals would be of various shapes and sizes, and would often be preserved in a number of different receptacles within the department. For specially solemn purposes, of course, the original documents would have to be produced, but for the practical workaday purposes of the department, the transcripts in the register were sufficient, and very much more convenient. Liber A consists of 459 folios of parchment, of approximately 14 inches by 10 inches (36 cm. by 26 cm.), and it has been recently rebound in oaken covers. There is more than one foliation. It has been published in: Edwards, J. Goronwy ed. 1940. Littere Wallie. University Press Board, Cardiff.


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Illustrations in 'Chapter House Liber A' from pages 327, 401 & 410.
Reference: E 36/274
Description: Table of contents, with references to the chests etc in which the original documents were deposited.
Note: With pictograms against each section of the content, repeated with some variation at the head of each register section; ff 12-39v
Date: c 1282-c 1292
Held by: The National Archives, Kew

These images of Welsh soldiers date from the 1280s. They were used by the clerks of the English Exchequer, in a book containing copies of important letters, submissions and homages from Wales and other countries. Pictograms (or drawings) like these were used in the margins to denote the papers relating to diplomatic relations with different areas: they matched up with a similar pictogram on the particular chest that contained the original documents. The Welsh archer and spearmen were chosen for pictograms as being - for the crown servants who used them - typical of Wales. The spearmen have a sword as well as a spear. No visible armour is worn by any of the three and they have bare legs.
Source: National Archives U.K.



Not only the nobles, but all the people, are trained to war. They anxiously study the defence of their country and their liberty; for these they fight, for these they undergo hardships, and for these they willingly sacrifice their lives. They make use of light arms, which do not impede their agility, small coats of mail, bundles of arrows, and long lances. Gerald of Wales, Description of Wales, Everyman, 1908, ch. 9.



A Flemish observer wrote of Welsh soldiers, in around 1300:
Edward, King of England, came to Flanders. He brought with him many soldiers from the land of Wales. In the very depth of winter they were running about bare-legged. They wore a red robe. They could not have been warm. The money they received from the King was spent in milk and butter. They would eat and drink anywhere. I never saw them wearing armour. I studied them very closely, and walked among them to find out what defensive armour they carried when going into battle. Their weapons were bows, arrows and swords. They also had javelins. (Lodowyk van Velthem, Spiegel Historiaal, Book IV, c. 5 (ed. Le Long, 1725).


The archer is referenced on p67, Arms and Armour of the Crusading Era, 1050-1350, Western Europe and the Crusader States by David Nicolle
153 'Welsh warrior', manuscript, England, 13th century
(Public Record Office, Chapter House Liber A, London, England)

Although this is a comical sketch of a 'wild Welshman' drawn by an Englishman, a number of features may reflect reality. These include the man's long hair, bare foot, substantial cloak and short bow of simple rough wooden construction.



A Welsh Archer by Ian Heath, based on Littere Wallie in Chapter House Liber A
A Welsh Spearman by Ian Heath, based on Littere Wallie in Chapter House Liber A
The Latin text of Littere Wallie
Great Seal of Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, b.1194-d.1240
Illustrations of a Welshman from a 13th century Latin text of The Laws of Hywel Dda
Illustrations of Welshmen from a 14th century Welsh text of The Laws of Hywel Dda
The Welsh Longbow by Jeremy Spencer
The Welsh soldier: 1283-1422 by Adam John Chapman

13th Century Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers