The "Demi-lancer" or demilancer was a type of heavy cavalry
Heavy cavalry
Heavy cavalry is a class of cavalry whose primary role was to engage in direct combat with enemy forces . Although their equipment differed greatly depending on the region and historical period, they were generally mounted on large powerful horses, and were often equipped with some form of scale,...

man found in Western Europe in the 16th and early 17th centuries.


Demi-lancer is a term used in 16th century military parlance, especially in England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, to designate cavalrymen mounted on unarmoured horses, armed with the heavy lance
A Lance is a pole weapon or spear designed to be used by a mounted warrior. The lance is longer, stout and heavier than an infantry spear, and unsuited for throwing, or for rapid thrusting. Lances did not have tips designed to intentionally break off or bend, unlike many throwing weapons of the...

 of a man-at-arms
Man-at-arms was a term used from the High Medieval to Renaissance periods to describe a soldier, almost always a professional warrior in the sense of being well-trained in the use of arms, who served as a fully armoured heavy cavalryman...

 but wearing three-quarter or half-armour, as opposed to the full plate armour
Plate armour
Plate armour is a historical type of personal armour made from iron or steel plates.While there are early predecessors such the Roman-era lorica segmentata, full plate armour developed in Europe during the Late Middle Ages, especially in the context of the Hundred Years' War, from the coat of...

 of the knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

 or gendarme
Gendarme (historical)
A gendarme was a heavy cavalryman of noble birth, primarily serving in the French army from the Late Medieval to the Early Modern periods of European History...

. The breastplate and shoulder defences of the demi-lancer were intended to be at least pistol proof. Often an open faced helmet, such as the burgonet
The burgonet helmet was a Renaissance-era and Early modern combat helmet. It was the successor of the sallet....

, was worn in place of the fully enclosing close helm
Close helm
In Medieval armor, the close helm was a military helmet worn by knights and other combatants in the late medieval and early renaissance era. It carried a visor that pivoted up and fully enclosed the head and neck area, unlike earlier helms such as the sallet and barbute, which sometimes may have...

. The armour for the leg was replaced by long, cuff-topped, riding boots. In addition to the lance the demi-lancer would be armed with one or two pistols, housed in saddle holsters, and a sword. Demi-lancers were representative of the early modern trend of reducing the coverage of armour while increasing its thickness to provide protection for the vital areas against the fire of gunpowder
Gunpowder, also known since in the late 19th century as black powder, was the first chemical explosive and the only one known until the mid 1800s. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate - with the sulfur and charcoal acting as fuels, while the saltpeter works as an oxidizer...

-based firearm
A firearm is a weapon that launches one, or many, projectile at high velocity through confined burning of a propellant. This subsonic burning process is technically known as deflagration, as opposed to supersonic combustion known as a detonation. In older firearms, the propellant was typically...

s of the time, such as the arquebus
The arquebus , or "hook tube", is an early muzzle-loaded firearm used in the 15th to 17th centuries. The word was originally modeled on the German hakenbüchse; this produced haquebute...

 and musket
A musket is a muzzle-loaded, smooth bore long gun, fired from the shoulder. Muskets were designed for use by infantry. A soldier armed with a musket had the designation musketman or musketeer....

. This abbreviated armour was also meant to increase the mobility of the men and horses, as well as reducing the expense inherent in equipping and maintaining them throughout a long campaign. In common with other 16th-century cavalrymen, the demi-lancers were frequently used to strike the enemy's flank and to chase down routing troops.


Demi-lancers were prominent in the English troops who fought in the Dutch War of Independence, and were mobilised as part of the defences of England against the invasion threat posed by the Spanish Armada
Spanish Armada
This article refers to the Battle of Gravelines, for the modern navy of Spain, see Spanish NavyThe Spanish Armada was the Spanish fleet that sailed against England under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia in 1588, with the intention of overthrowing Elizabeth I of England to stop English...

. In all 2,711 demi-lancers were raised in England in 1588, the Armada year. The English demi-lancers were raised using the "Trained Band" system, and from the feudal levy on nobles and ecclesiastics.


The demi-lancer was replaced by similarly armoured cavalry whose primary armament was pistols, variously termed pistoleers, cuirassiers or reiter
Reiters were a type of cavalry, which appeared in the armies of Western Europe in the 16th century in place of the outmoded lance-armed knights, at the same time that cuirassiers and dragoons began to attain typological distinction from other kinds of cavalry...

or cavalry with less armour using longer firearms (doglock
Doglock refers to the lock that preceded the 'true' flintlock in both rifles and pistols in the 17th century. Commonly used throughout Europe in the 17th century, it gained popular favor in the British and Dutch military...

A carbine , from French carabine, is a longarm similar to but shorter than a rifle or musket. Many carbines are shortened versions of full rifles, firing the same ammunition at a lower velocity due to a shorter barrel length....

s) called "harquebusiers." The trend towards the loss of the lance began in Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 in the mid 16th century, France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 had largely abandoned the lance by 1580, and England by 1600. The use of the heavy lance was found in military treatises up to the mid 17th century but its practical use had died out well before this date. The Battle of Coutras
Battle of Coutras
The Battle of Coutras, fought on 20 October 1587, was a major engagement in the eighth and final war of the French Religious Wars between an army under Henry of Navarre and a royal army led by Anne, Duke of Joyeuse...

 (October 20, 1587), between Henry of Navarre
Henry IV of France
Henry IV , Henri-Quatre, was King of France from 1589 to 1610 and King of Navarre from 1572 to 1610. He was the first monarch of the Bourbon branch of the Capetian dynasty in France....

, and the Duc de Joyeuse, during the French Wars of Religion
French Wars of Religion
The French Wars of Religion is the name given to a period of civil infighting and military operations, primarily fought between French Catholics and Protestants . The conflict involved the factional disputes between the aristocratic houses of France, such as the House of Bourbon and House of Guise...

 illustrated the demise of the heavy lancer. Navarre's cavalry were 1,300 armoured pistoleers whilst the Royalists under Joyeuse were 2,000 heavy lancers (gendarmes). Within a few minutes of combat the lancers had been routed, many being captured and held for ransom. Only the hussars
Polish Hussars
The Polish Hussars were the main type of cavalry of the first Polish Army, later also introduced into the Army of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, between the 16th and 18th centuries...

 of Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 retained the heavy lance into the late 17th century. The use of the heavy lance required great skill and constant practice, the use of pistols in battle was far less demanding. This is probably one factor behind the disappearance of the heavy lancer in Western Europe, another being the widespread adoption of the infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

Pike (weapon)
A pike is a pole weapon, a very long thrusting spear used extensively by infantry both for attacks on enemy foot soldiers and as a counter-measure against cavalry assaults. Unlike many similar weapons, the pike is not intended to be thrown. Pikes were used regularly in European warfare from the...

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