"Come the three corners of the world in arms,
And we shall shock them.
Nought shall make us rue,
If England to itself do rest but true."
— William Shakespeare, The Life and Death of King John (Act v, Scene vii)
There is nothing so horrifying and spectacular as the sight of Billmen and Retainer Knights marching across a field with weapons drawn and armour winking in the sun. These men-at-arms have eschewed horses and instead fight on foot. Set out from head to tail in heavy armour, and equipped with a sword and shield, they are slower on the march albeit harder to kill, unlike other normal sword units. With these units, England can easily mow its way to bloody victory with its medium infantry and archers. Accompanied by Billmen and Longbowmen, the English Retainer Knights, if not facing guns, can easily be the very bane of most armies.
On their own, however, Retainer Knights are not very impressive. They may have the benefit of added armour, making them stronger in a scrap, but their low speed on foot means that they are less effective against archers, and they will certainly not be that powerful against heavy cavalry, although they can be expected to hold their ground better than normal Espadachines against medium cavalry.
- Slow Going — Although they have better armour than most sword units, Retainer Knights are slower and so more vulnerable to enemy ranged infantry, particularly crossbows and arquebusiers.
The Hundred Years' War reshaped mediaeval English society in many ways, and one of the areas affected was the feudal social structure of England. The exigencies of prolonged conflict throughout the 15th century meant that there were fewer and fewer full-fledged knights, so requiring the English to recruit from lower social ranks to fulfill the military role played by the knight. In such an age, it was common for knights themselves to recruit soldiers of their own — retainers — and so in the military parlance of the day, it was more common to speak of "lances" or "men-at-arms" as opposed to "knights".
Such retainers recruited by the knights, despite being social subordinates, were nevertheless subject to the same training and equipment as their knightly superiors were. While horse-riding cavalry was often a vital part of mediaeval armies in Europe, the English preferred to have their knights dismounted and on foot. There were several reasons for this: it made them less of a target for archers (as opposed to the French who would charge English longbowmen head on with horrendous casualties), and also allowed them to stiffen the ranks of the infantry. This helped also to reduce the profile of a knight, making him less prominent and thus less likely of being spitted by armour-piercing crossbow bolts.