By Duncan Head
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The knights who burst through might turn and strike the rear of the enemy line. The reserve was also quite often the position of the commander, with subordinates controlling the forward battles. Sieges were more prevalent than set-piece battles. There was less worry of losing all in a single engagement, though a protracted siege was expensive and it became increasingly difficult to hold troops together. Great keeps, or donjons, were by their size difficult to take, as Kingjohn found at Rochester in 1215 when he arrived to confront the rebel barons.
Edward does not seem as yet to have developed his tactic Detail showing the strapped cuirass worn under the surcoat but over the mail. 49 50 LEFT The late 13th-century wooden effigy of Robert of Gloucester in Gloucester Cathedral, after Stothard. The surcoat was painted red. His knees are protected additionally by poleyns. LEFT INSET The 13th-century Conyers falchion. (Reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Durham) RIGHT A late 13th-century copper-alloy aquamanile, designed to carry water, found in the River Tyne near Hexham.
Harrying the lands of one's enemy was sometimes a prelude to a siege, and was a way to deny food, kill peasants and so his economy, and insult his lordship. Sieges could be costly and involve much organisation, sometimes drawing craftsmen from all over England, as that of Bedford by Henry III in 1224 shows. The king summoned much of the kingdom's resources, with carpenters, miners, stone-cutters and quarriers brought to the scene together with all sorts of equipment, such as timber, ropes and tallow for siege engines.