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  • Writer's pictureAdrian J. Boas

On Being Prepared

Updated: Oct 11, 2019

The thirteenth century Morgan Bible, the Morgan Library, New York

I would not say that I am a highly organised or particularly tidy person. If I was to say that it would no doubt raise some eyebrows among my closer acquaintances who certainly know better. My office at the university is so stacked with archaeological finds and excavation equipment that it is difficult to make my way in, let alone find a space to work. And, if that is not bad enough, books are pulled out and not placed back on the shelves, and despite all my hard efforts, term papers, photocopies of articles and correspondence pile up on my desk, seemingly of their own accord and in vast quantities (I'm sure we don't know everything there is to know about the reproductive capabilities of paper).

But if I am not organised, I can at least say that as a former boy scout, I have been raised with an understanding of the importance of being prepared. I take extra precautions when travelling. Admittedly, I do not carry a snakebite kit, and I have quite forgotten how to tie a reef knot, but I usually remember to cover most bases, choosing the appropriate electric plug adaptors, and packing the required number of socks, not forgetting my passports, and taking with me at least one good book... and of course my laptop. I actually possess three laptops as a precaution against my fear that two of them might simultaneously break down. And it is not an entirely unfounded fear. At the moment one of the three has gone into a deep coma, the second entirely ignores my intentions and does its own thing (I am almost certain that it holds a grudge against me), its cursor darting erratically from place to place on the screen and entirely on its own volition opening pages of long-closed documents. The third laptop on which I am writing this post is working at present, but it is so slow that I can take a short nap while it is saving.

Being prepared is always an advisable thing, and for those who live in threatening circumstances it is essential. The Templars realised this. They were splendidly prepared for daily life in the convent and, most importantly, for the battlefield. Here, from the Templar Rule*, is the list of possessions that a brother knight and a sergeant brother had for their basic equipment: horses (up to four), a hauberk (a shirt of mail, usually sleeved and reaching to mid-thigh) and a wire mesh bag to put it in, iron hose, a helmet, a chapeau de fer (a brimmed helmet made of iron or steel), a caparison (a cloth covering for a horse), a blanket for the horse, two shirts, two pairs of breeches, two pairs of hose, a jerkin with tails back and front, a fur jacket, two white mantles (one with fur), a hooded cloak, a tunic, a cloth cap and a felt cap, a belt, a sword, a shield, a lance, a Turkish mace, a surcoat - white for a knight, black for a sergeant brother, an arming jacket, mail shoes, three knives - a dagger, a bread knife and a pocketknife, three pieces of bed linen - mattress bag, sheet and blanket, a night shirt, a rug, a cloth for eating and another to wash ones head, a cauldron, a measuring bowl, an axe, a grinder, three saddle bags, two cups, two flasks, a horn bowl and a spoon, a tent and a tent peg (oddly enough just one, which in my mind conjures up a deranged, Monty Pythonesque vision of a crusader camp composed of half-collapsed tents).

And if one reads on, more items are mentioned. But we should not get the impression that a knight would go about carrying all these things. For that he had his squires. But he certainly did possess pretty much everything that he might need when in a castle or, most importantly, in the field. The ability of the brothers of the military orders to be prepared, both with regard to their equipment and their training was what made them the finest soldiers in the Frankish armies. The entire ethos of the military order was to equip and train their members to be ideal warriors** and the wealth of these orders was such that they could supply their men with virtually everything that was needed in order to live reasonably comfortable lives and be prepared for all the conditions of battle.

* Janet Upton-Ward, The Rule of the Templars, Woodbridge, 2002, pp. 52-55.

** As important as they were, the welfare activities of the hospitaller orders were secondary to their role as soldiers.

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