The Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I had originally authorised the creation of the Landsknecht soldiers in 1486. For most of the next eight decades the Landsknecht formations took part in the majority of the battles and the military campaigns in central as well as Western Europe. Frequently different units of Landsknecht troops would fight against each other in those battles. They were a significant factor in the almost fighting of the Italian Wars, with only the Spanish infantry possibly being more important.
The Landsknecht built up a reputation for being formidable fighting men, some of the best that money could buy. However their loyalty could never be entirely counted upon, especially when they had not been paid at all, or any arrears of pay had built up. The high level of inflation through the course of that century did not help either as the pay scales of the Landsknecht were not raised at all. The Landsknecht units that had been paid were prone to become unruly, and likely to steal from, or even sack the cities of their paymasters, or the places they had been hired to attack. Probably the best known example of such units sacking a city was in 1527 when considerable was done to Rome.
As the Sixteenth century progressed the reputation of the Landsknecht soldiers and their units for being law – abiding, and not attacking innocent non – combatants declined. Arguably that decline was matched by a similar decrease in the over all firepower of the Landsknecht soldiers. Indeed such was the odious reputation of these motley collection of mercenaries that many civil authorities within the Holy Roman Empire and also the Swiss Confederation banned them from their territories. Not only did the discipline of the Landsknecht decline markedly, so did their fighting effectiveness. New weapons and tactics had drastically reduced their usefulness long before they were disbanded in 1590.
Richards J (2002) Landsknecht Soldier 1486 – 1560, Osprey Publishing, Wellingborough