THE HISTORICAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COSTUME
THE CLASSIC WORK OF THE 19TH CENTURY
EUROPE FROM BYZANTIUM TO THE 19TH CENTURY - EUROPE
THE MIDDLE AGES - ARMOUR
1.1 A Norman knight of the 10th century, wearing a protective coat made of a strong material - sometimes leather - on to which have been sewn iron rings. The basic coat consists of a tunic with short sleeves that ends in a pair of leggings.
The iron rings are simply laid side by side, and held in place by strong braid and stitches (see detail above). They are not inter-linked, as is the case with chain mail. Nevertheless, this type of mail was such an effective defence against blows that knights sometimes dispensed with the leather doublet that was usually worn beneath it to prevent bruising.
The helmet is made of iron and bronze, and has a fixed nose-piece.
1.2 A different type of mail (see detail above) consisting of strips of beaten iron and nails rivetted on to a leather coat. This dates from the reign of Hugh Capet, King of France at the end of the 10th century.
1.3 A 13th-century knight's equipment, consisting of a red tunic under a hauberk that extends over the head to form a hood, then a coat of chain mail (see detail above). A well-padded strip of material is placed on top of the hood, to support the cylindrical helmet, and the chain mail is covered with a coat of red silk.
The shield is still pointed, as in previous centuries, but is now much smaller and more manoeuverable.
1.4 A soldier from the beginning of the ninth century - the time of Charlemagne. His armour consists of flat plates of iron rivetted on to a base of thick leather. Below this is a skirt, like a kilt, of thick leather.
His helmet is made of four plates of iron, which form a protective edge at the temple. His breeches are made of leather, and strips of iron have been sewn on to them for extra protection. The brass-handled sword has grooves cut all the way along its blade, following a custom that persisted until the 13th century.
1.5 A 12th-century knight, carrying a shield made of painted wood that is long enough to protect his whole body. A long chain mail coat is worn over a long robe made from yellow and blue wool. He is also wearing leather gloves and shoes, gilded spurs and a helmet of painted iron.
Back to Racinet - The Middle Ages - Armour