Landsknecht and Whore

The Landsknechts were German mercenary soldiers who excelled on the battlefields of Europe from approximately 1487 to 1556.

Hopfer, Daniel (ca 1470-1536): Landsknecht wit...

The 15th century landsknecht with his wife

Landsknecht literally means ‘servant of the country’. They were originally created as a force to support the Holy Roman Empire, but they soon began hiring themselves out to the highest bidder.

Men who joined a Landsknecht company (known as a Fähnlein) usually brought along a sister, wife, or daughter to care for them. These women were called Hure – which literally means ‘whores’, but they were not quite prostitutes.

The women of the landsknechts cared for the men between battles; some even participated in battles, looted the dead or killed the almost-dead. Some of the women even assisted with the heavy artillery, and stripped enemy houses of wood that was used later for earthworks.

Despite the assistance, the life of a landsknecht was not easy – punishment for breaking contract was swift and violent, battles were bloody and fierce, and the living conditions were usually very poor and uncomfortable. The primary benefit of landsknecht existence was the pay; a Landsknecht earned more in a month than a farmer earned in a year. If he survived, he could retire wealthy.