Literally, »double-pay-men«. In the bands of the Landsknecht mercenaries, a man accredited master of the long sword, or zweihänder — which, incidentally, ought really to be considered a type of polearm, judging from the instructions on their plying in period manuscripts — could demand double pay, because his services were considered so valuable. The Brethren of St. Mark, a guild of swordsmen, called the Marxbrüder in German, were long the only group possessing the privilege to perform this accreditation; by wealth and strength of arms they grew powerful, and nobody dared mock them for their shoe-polish moustaches and silly horns.
There was a second kind of double-pay men: the enfants perdus of the Landsknechte, those who volunteered to take the van in assaults; it was understood that the first waves of men to clash, especially when breaching fortifications, were basically dead men walking, so extra benefits had to be accorded those who were willing to take the job. In the standing armies of Europe, once this insight had spread to them, the rewards for forlorn hope squads were promotions, honors and pay raises for those who lived; acquitting yourself well was a made career, a ticket to ride for the rest of your life. The mercenaries of the Renaissance were desperate men for the most part; they had none of these things to give, so what the poor or foolhardy got were doubled wages.