I just returned from a refreshing and delightful visit with some cousins in Florida. Granted, it's a long drive to get down there, but the swimming, amazing food, and connections with loved ones made it all worthwhile.
While there, I was deep into revisions on my current work. As I've been compiling my author's notes for this next book, I was astounded at how many people have already contributed to it. Whether helping me in translations, revision-work, beta-reading, or edits, the list is getting longer daily. This phenomenal group of people have all approached my book with both their personal duty and honor--offering their best suggestions, comments, and efforts to help me with a completed product.
Throughout history, people from countless backgrounds and cultures have had different ways of displaying codes of duty and honor. This week, author Griffin Brady shares the duty and honor of Polish Hussars--their training, diligence, outlook on battle, and what made them the toughened warriors so difficult to defeat in battle.
Griffin, welcome back to Brook's Journal, and READ ON, everyone!
Code of Honour Amongst Hussars
By Griffin Brady
Polish winged hussars were an elite cavalry that dominated the battlefield in the 16th and 17th centuries. But what were their ethics? Did they have a code of honor, and if so, what did that look like?
Let’s begin with some background on what it took to become a hussar, or towarzysz (meaning “companion”) They began training in the knightly arts as young boys on family estates, with fathers placing sons on horseback early to teach them the horsemanship aptitude that would be so vital to their military careers.
They were also taught to wield swords, war hammers, bows, and firearms. Their most crucial skill was handling their trademark kopia (a long, hollow lance used when they galloped in to crush an enemy’s defensive line) while controlling their mighty warhorses, and they were coached by masters who were often retired hussars hired by the noble fathers.
Instruction wasn’t limited to the practice field. Amid drills and combat maneuvers, the young men learned subjects like mathematics and Latin, the language of the Polish noble class. By the time they entered military service, they were well-educated, highly skilled warriors revered for their prowess, bravery, and ferocity, and much expense had gone into shaping them to be so. The cost only increased from there.
A hussar owed fealty and military service to his country and king, but I liken him to something of a volunteer. The towarzysz on campaign provided his own weaponry and armor, along with mounts—a number of which were expensive warhorses in case he needed replacements for his cavalry charges. In addition, he brought with him an entourage of camp servants and retainers (known as pacholiks). This group of support staff, the retinue—or poczet—numbered from two to seven men in addition to the hussar they served and were the small building blocks of banners, which were formed in the traditional chivalric manner of the medieval knights to be united into regiments. Provisions for the poczet, horses and the towarzysz’s camp were brought in wagons, which he also paid for.
The king did furnish one item at the country’s cost, and that was the winged hussar’s defining weapon, his kopia. The long lance was the only article the hussar did not pay for himself. While he also received some wages for his service while on campaign, the sum didn’t match his enormous outlay, which is why I think of the hussar as something of a volunteer.
With a hussar’s fulfillment of military service such a costly endeavor, this specialized cavalryman hailed from the country’s nobility—the szlachta. He had to! The nobility was the only class who could afford to raise this super soldier.
Having been brought up among szlachta, hussars learned the chivalric code from the Middle Ages. Highly religious, these noble sons were also taught to obey the teachings of the church and to defend it; to be guardian-protectors of the weak and innocent and to punish injustice with even-handedness; to war against “the infidel” without mercy (which automatically exonerated them and exempted them from the crime of homicide); to exhibit aptitude in warfare and physical resilience; to exercise largesse; and to uphold their pledges. Hardiness was also considered part of their moral virtues, as was loyalty to one another and their commanders—a practicality in their noble warrior culture.
Most important of all was love and defense of one’s country. They took pride in declaring Amor patriae nostra lex, meaning “Love of country is our law.” In fact, while they were extremely devout, they placed country first. That philosophy is reflected in another saying: “Born noble, not Catholic.”
Added together, these parts equaled honor and fostered the ideal of preudomme that sifted down into the hussars’ code of ethics, adding a layer atop the foundation of Golden Freedom (or Golden Liberty) on which their country existed. The practice of Golden Freedom conveyed privileges enjoyed by the Polish nobility. In addition, it declared all nobility equal, regardless of rank or status. That notion of equality transferred to military ranks.
Hussars did not use ranks that translate to those we are accustomed to. Since they were all equals, they were all designated as “junior officers.” A hierarchy of hetmans (generals), commanders, lieutenants, and deputy lieutenants existed, but those titles didn’t diminish their view of their equality among themselves. Though the arrangement might seem a bit chaotic to us, it worked for them. Hussars were reported to be fiercely loyal to one another and to exhibit high morale. Their success on the battlefield is more proof. Their presence often made the difference between triumph and defeat, and history has marked battle after battle where victory was achieved despite vastly lopsided odds against them.
All About the Book
Poland’s most valiant winged hussar is called to fight in a campaign ripe for disaster. But he must also protect those he loves from jackals waiting to pounce. How does he choose between duty and devotion when death is on the line? When Sultan Osman II sends Poland's envoy packing, the Commonwealth must prepare for war against one of the largest armies the Ottomans have ever assembled. Tasked with repelling the invasion is Grand Hetman of the Crown Stanisław Żółkiewski, and he knows who to turn to: Jacek Dąbrowski, the Commonwealth’s most valiant Polish winged hussar. Jacek has been idle far too long, and the call to arms is a siren’s song he can’t resist. But he has built a life far from the battlefield with his wife, Oliwia, and their children. If he pursues his quest for glory, who will safeguard them? Oliwia knows her husband is restless. In fact, she’s been sending Jacek on cross-country errands for years in the hopes of quelling his lust for battle. When she realizes her efforts are futile, she resolves herself to letting him go—after hatching a scheme to accompany him. Honor. Obligation. Devotion. These forces push and pull Jacek in different directions. His country needs him, but so does his family. Where does his duty lie? His choice will cause catastrophic ripples no matter which path he follows … and could very well bring the loss of his loved ones or his life. Will the cost of defending king and country prove too steep for this warrior? This is a standalone continuation in The Winged Warrior Series.
All About Griffin
Griffin Brady is an award-winning historical fiction author with a keen interest in the Polish Winged Hussars of the 16th and 17th centuries. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Her debut novel, The Heart of a Hussar, was a finalist for the 2021 Chaucer Early Historical Fiction Award and a 2021 Discovered Diamond.
The proud mother three grown sons, she lives in Colorado with her husband. She is also an award-winning bestselling romance author who writes under the pen name G.K. Brady.
Connect with Griffin
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