I have a situation when a kingdom is invaded by two armies. The king leads the bulk of his army (10,000) against the main invading force, and sends his son with 4,000 light cavalry to harass and slow down the 2nd army.

The king faces one enemy army (of 15,000) and barely wins the battle, paying with heavy casualties. But it turns out that main enemy army (with 40,000) is the one the King's son faces. His son pulls off an insane underdog victory paying only light casualties.

The king doesn't like his son and neither does the majority of the population. Is there any way for the king to hide or minimize the degree of victory his son accomplished?

I want the king & people to doubt the scope of the son's victory. Something like 'you might have won that battle, but there's no way you were outnumbered 10:1'.

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    $\begingroup$ "insane underdog victory paying light casualties" I feel like this makes it extremely hard for him to be disliked $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Dec 3, 2016 at 14:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Zxyrra His choice of recruits & equipment is against the tradition at best, and dangerous to existing order at worst. youtu.be/mlYBiTiXB_U?t=13s $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Dec 3, 2016 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ So a reformer that questions the old order? $\endgroup$
    – Raider
    Dec 3, 2016 at 14:56

5 Answers 5


How many of those 40,000 were soldiers, really? That was a feint, a barely trained peasant levy reinforced by camp followers. Of course they broke against our fine cavalry, nothing surprising about it. All the good enemy troops were with the main force.

And those 20,000, who counted them? Light cavalry. Not a honest knight among them, just hunters and borderers. Nothing wrong with their courage, of course, as long as they have proper officers to keep them in line, but none of them can count to 20, not with their boots on. Let alone 20,000.

So the prince defeated 10,000 light troops. Well, I fought 30,000 heavies out of the 40,000 total enemies. (Everybody knows there were 40,000, and surely as many got away from my battle as we've slain.)

Make the kingdom great again! Who cares about facts, except for those nit-picking chroniclers. Off with their heads! And that ungrateful prince, too.

Follow-Up for John and Root: So you fought the battle for the prince? Splendid, man, splendid. Did you get any valuable loot from the battlefield for yourself? Capture any nobles who could be ransomed? Well, here, have a shilling and buy yourself some ale. A gift of the king.

Say, did you hear about the scout who captured a dozen of the enemy spearmaidens? He had only one arrow left, but it seems none of them wanted to be the first to die. Either that, or well, I hear none of them are maidens any more.

  • Admit that the prince's soldiers fought a battle.
  • Honor the soldier for fighting it.
  • Question if it was all worthwhile for him.
  • Change the topic and churn out lies.
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    $\begingroup$ ROFL "Light cavalry. Not a honest knight among them, just hunters and borderers, none of them can count to 40, let alone 40,000" $\endgroup$ Dec 3, 2016 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ @om LOL I'm giving you a reputation bounty as soon as it's available, for making my day. I could hear John Cleese saying this wearing knightly armor c8.alamy.com/comp/ETTX8J/… $\endgroup$ Dec 3, 2016 at 14:08
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    $\begingroup$ Remember how news is spread at the time, the king can get town criers to announce whatever he wants within reason, there will be lots of witnesses especially from camp supporters/ hangers on but the further away the battle occurred the fewer of them will be able to contradict anyone. Is the kings purpose to discredit his son in front of the populace or the nobility. If its the nobility he just needs to play up the cowardly tactics. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Dec 3, 2016 at 16:15
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    $\begingroup$ well consider the town crier will be heard months or years before a soldier returns, And most soldiers in such a battle won't have any idea about odds, tactics, or justification. the nature of melee combined with how drum and flag communication means most of soldiers are basically just going to know I'm alive and I got paid. plus soldiers likely will not be widely dispersed from a small force. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Dec 4, 2016 at 0:50
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    $\begingroup$ @John Light cavalry is very mobile, that's what makes them so useful as scouts, messengers, harassment and hit & run tactics think about : Parthians, Arabs, Mongols, Mamluk, Hussar, Cossacks, Comanche. They have good idea how battlefield looks. Also they have a the largest range of all the troops in the history before mechanization and airplanes. Those guys would visit many places and they will talk a LOT. $\endgroup$
    – Root
    Dec 5, 2016 at 1:44

1. Immediately re-call the Prince's force.

By direct order, have the Prince gather his troops and return to the capital. No pursuits, no SSEs (Sensitive Site Exploitation - basically gathering intelligence like maps, documents, etc from dead enemy officers), no taking EPWs. Tell the Prince that the force escorting the messenger who carried the order will deal with the prisoners. Of course as soon as the Prince is out of site, the prisoners are butchered.

2. Send in another force to police the battlefield.

These don't have to be trained troops. Matter of fact, these shouldn't be trained troops. The King orders some of his most trusted Generals to raise a levy of peasant troops. They don't know what's going on. Send them in, have them gather enemy bodies, horses, arrows, discarded equipment, and other detritus. Burn the majority of the bodies and dead horses. Destroy most of the equipment. Clean up as best they can. Then leave.

3. Break up the Prince's force and redeploy them far away.

The King then re-organises the Prince's army. Battalions are broken up and companies are redeployed to reinforce the furthest reaches of the kingdom. Have them man border forts, reconnoiter remote areas etc. This will reduce the possibility of them coming into contact with the population or the majority of the army, further slowing down the spread of their stories and allowing the King to establish his narrative.

4. Have agents and 'experts' spread the King's story in as many pubs, bars, brothels, social gathering, and bath houses in the capital.

This to make sure that the dominant narrative among the population is the King's.

Of course rumors will rise. Troops garrisoned with the Prince's troops will hear the stories. But this is the medieval. It's not like those troops can just log into Facebook and tell their side of the story and have people share their posts. It can take months for that story to reach anywhere important from the border areas, during which the story will be altered and distorted by retelling.

Meanwhile the King continues to reinforce and establish his narrative. And buys himself at least a year to deal with his son.

The interesting part is this opens the possibility of these troops being disenchanted with the King and begin to plot an uprising to install the Prince. Or maybe the Prince himself plans this. So I guess that can at least be a part of your story.


Surprise background on the army of 40,000:

This army's nation had been allies of the kingdom for many years, dating back to the king's father's father. Their nation however, had fallen upon poor times, their agricultural capacities having been severely limited by a drought. Growing food had become impossible and the ground water was drying up, rendering wells unproductive.

In trying to feed their people, this other nation had attempted, after years of suffering, to strike a deal with the nation who's army was smaller (army faced by the king's men, not the son's). They were promised food and water clean water.

One week after the larger nation's aide had begun arriving, the larger nation presented the recovering nation an ultimatum: "Help us overthrow the kingdom, or we will besiege your nation until every last one of you have starved to death."

Seeing little option, this smaller nation begrudgingly accepted. The larger nation was to send 4,000 men to ensure that every man, woman and child took up arms, and fought to the best of their ability (the larger nation, seeing a nation of 36,000 farmers who were only just recovering from starvation, felt that 4,000 would be more than enough to keep the weak and primitively-armed smaller nation in line).

Already weak from lack of nourishment and marching through treacherous winter conditions, with 80% of this newly amassed "army" suffering from pneumonia and frostbite, the men of the nation approached the 4000 soldier contingent of this "army", asking to allow the women and children to return to the village. The response: a swift and heartless "no".

Upon seeing this 40,000 person army amassed just miles from the kingdom's walls, the king's son zealously and indiscriminately slaughtered all 40,000 men, women and children among their ranks, not recognizing them as the humble, hard working member of their neighboring nation. A nation that once helped feed the kingdom.

The basics (if you're trying to further cement the population's hatred of the son): grant the son the glory of having killed them all with his light cavalry against insane odds. But then announce, in front of all the people and the king's soldiers:

"Though you may have slaughtered your opponents on the field of battle in the face of 10 to 1 odds, you've failed to realize one thing. That is, 9 of the 10 foes your men slaughtered... those were our neighbors, our friends, our allies, our fathers' allies. And worse, the women and children among their ranks. You and your men are certainly brave and powerful warriors.

Tomorrow, YOU and your cavalry will lead us into battle." (Just doesn't seem like medieval days were the days where you wanted to first into battle).

The End.


I would suggest placing the battle somewhere far away from population centers, and use snow for temporary coverage or landslide for the permanent one.

If 4,000 horseman were present at the battle and most of them survived they will talk. Everyone of them will tell tales in every tavern how they heroically saved the kingdom, trying to impress the ladies and get free drinks and meals from the awed patrons. And I'm sure they all get some souvenirs from the fallen enemies to prove their tale like: standards, rings, weapons, jewelry.

If you want to stop them you should probably send them somewhere where they will unable to do it, perhaps send them in counter offensive, and betray them so they will be ambushed and killed.


Today we stand triumphant. Our enemies and their 50,000 soldiers were defeated by the hands of our 20,000 brave brothers

Your highness, I hear that the prince's force did most the work

This is no time to care about who gets credit. Need I remind of our thousands of deaths? The orphaned children are what we should think about.

Yes, but did not the prince overcome some 40,000 troops with a force of 4,000?

The enemy troops were divided into two legions. I've trained and prepped a force of several thousand to fight one legion, while personally commanded the fight against the other legion at our home. Once me and my troops won the first and crucial battle and won the battle for the momentum of the war, the road was paved to beat the second legion, and we did.

Can't you say anything about the prince?

I did and I will commend every soldier that fought in this war, and the families of the ones we have lost.

If everyone dislikes the prince, such spins would be accepted easily. After a while no one would remember that which no one wants to remember.


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