Tiny Siege Engines

The Memoirs of the Lord of Joinville is one of my favorite pieces of medieval writing. Jean de Joinville is supposed to be writing about St. Louis, but he frequently digresses into his personal memories with vivid detail. He is an engaging, entertaining writer. The first time I read his memoirs, I found this most interesting passage when Joinville describes the company that the king lodged him with in Sajetta:

And when we reached camp, we found that [King Louis IX] had marked out the sites in person, where our quarters were to be. My quarters he had chosen alongside those of the Count of Eu, because he knew that the Count of Eu liked my company.

I will tell you of the tricks the Count of Eu used to play on us.

I had built a hut, where I used to take my meals,—I and my knights—lighted through the doorway. Now the doorway gave onto the Count of Eu’s quarters; and he, who was very ingenious, made a little machine to throw into it, and used to watch when we went to table, and set up his machine in a line with our table and break our jugs and glasses. [1]

I’m terribly amused by this. My first thought is, what kind of machine is it? Surely it’s a tiny version of the siege engines they may have been using in actual warfare. A catapult? A trebuchet? Ballistas were known for their accuracy, but the passage specifically says “throw.”

This passage leaves me with the mental image of a grown man in armor gleefully plopping himself on the ground outside Joinville’s doorway and aiming a tiny catapult. Not only has Eu had the time and will to build this tiny siege engine, but he uses it repeatedly, enough times to really annoy Joinville. He has good aim, too. I’ll bet Eu likes Joinville’s company because Joinville is the only person willing to put up with him.

If you would like your own tiny siege engine, I recommend finding Siege the Day at a Renaissance faire. Their quality is superb and the staff is excellent. I would have purchased a catapult for my office, but I don’t have an office.

  1. Wedgewood, Ethel, The Memoirs of the Lord of Joinville by Jean de Joinville (London, Murray: 1906) 299-300.


Tiny Siege Engines — 1 Comment

  1. I must get one of these to take into work so I can hurl things at the Math tutors and scream “Yeah! Physics, punk!”

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