An independent band of mercenaries formed for the Hundred Years' War but later found throughout Europe.
Free companies first appeared after the battle of Poitiers in 1356, composed of soldiers from several European countries, including England and France, and they were often led by younger or illegitimate sons of the nobility. Established in castles, they sometimes dominated whole regions and caused widespread destruction through pillaging, especially during lulls in the fighting. Attempts by successive French kings to eradicate free companies, which both they and the English employed, were only temporarily successful; it was not until the final establishment of peace made that they became redundant.
Related term(s): Mercenary; Nobility; Castle
Category: Military - General
Last modified: 10.08.05
Contributor(s): Alan Chanter
Source information: Wise, Terrence. Medieval Warfare. New York: Hastings House Publishers, Inc., 1976. 12; Kenyon, J.P. The Wordsworth Dictionary of British History. Wordsworth Editions, 1998.