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  • Body Armor for Medieval Knights

    Posted on April 28th, 2011 admin No comments

    Medieval HelmetTemplar Chainmail Shirt

    You’ve likely seen pictures depicting the body armor worn by knights during medieval times. They wore chain mail and plate metal armor. They also wore padded clothing as protection underneath. They needed all the protection they could get while in battle. However, the very best in body armor was the most expensive available–much like today. (Some things never change.) Outfitting yourself with armor for battle was costly for a knight. Thus, a knight of means had an advantage as he could more fully protect his body prior to battle. This definitely gave the knight the upper hand. Plate armor was constructed of large metal plates. Plate body armor was less flexible than chain mail, however, it guarded against both slashing blows as well as stabbing. It was practically invulnerable to swords altogether. The knight had far greater protection while battling it out. This certainly gave him a psychological edge as well.

    Chain mail is designed as hundreds of tiny metal rings hooked together to create a mesh-like covering for the knight. Knights did not refer to it as "chain mail." That term came into use much later. Knights referred to it as "mail." Chain mail was effective, but how effective depended upon the material used to construct it, how tightly woven it was, the thickness of the material and weave, and lastly the method used to hook or weave the metal rings together. Although chain mail was more flexible and provided some effective protection, it could be penetrated by a stabbing blow. Slashing blows were not much of a match, but a stabbing action could certainly penetrate the rings. As a result, many knights of means opted to don both plate armor and chain metal, thus effectively doubling their protection. Plate armor looks heavy, but it was surprisingly light. The reason is that the distribution of weight was spread evenly over one’s body. We’ve all seen the caricatures of knights having to be lifted onto their horses due to their plate armor, but that is a myth. In fact, even the plate armor worn for jousting–which was much heavier than battle armor–would not have required a knight to be lifted onto their horse. Jousting armor was heavier to avoid dying from an injury during a game. But it was not used during battle, when different skill sets were needed, including speed.

    Knights wore helmets, which were arguably one of the most important pieces of their ensemble. Knights worse differently designed helmets over the course of history. Depending on the time period, he might be wearing one design or another. For example, in the very early days, a knight’s helmet looked a bit like a cap. It had a piece of chain mail attached to it. But later on, helmets were made of plate armor. The face was protected by a visor, that was somewhat frightening to gaze upon. This may have also served as psychological edge. No knight was completely outfitted without his shield. Their shields were wooden underneath a piece of animal hide and rimmed with a piece of metal. This helped the knight to protect himself from incoming arrows, sword thrusts, and other weapons.

  • A Brief History of Medieval Knights and Warfare

    Posted on March 10th, 2011 admin No comments

    During the Middle Ages, the most terrifying weapon an army had was the knight, whose weapons, combat skills and armor made him nearly impossible to stop.

    For nearly five centuries, from about the 10th century to the 15th century AD, knights were the epitome of death and destruction – on horseback, a knight could skewer the enemy with a lance, while his heavy armor, either plate or chain mail, protected him from most weapons; on foot, he could battle long and hard with a battle ax, long sword or heavy mace and his shield would protect him from hard blows from his opponent (shields were usually painted with the knight’s coat of arms so that knights could easily identify friend from foe). Any European leader who wanted to be successful on the battlefield needed a cadre of knights.

    On a level field, a line of charging knights would easily overwhelm an enemy’s defenses simply through the sheer weight of the assault. For example, the famed English king Richard the Lionheart led the Christian knights to a victory against the Muslim armies at the battle of Arsuf in 1191, relying heavily on the advantages of the armored and well-trained knights of Europe. This defeat was one of the first ever suffered by the great Muslim commander, Saladin, who prior to Richard’s arrival in the Holy Land, had won victory after victory. King Richard I, the Lionheart

    King Richard I of England earned his nickname the Lionheart during his crusades in the Holy Land, where he displayed an exceptional strategic mind and amazing bravery on the battlefield. Though he would only rule England from 1190 to 1199, Richard I is still revered today as one of England’s greatest warriors. Richard I’s reputation reached it’s pinnacle during the Third Crusade, when this tall and majestic leader led the campaign against the great armies of Saladin. Richard’s victories included such famous battles as the Battle of Arsuf and the Siege of Acre. Though Richard was never able to seize control of Jerusalem from the Islamic army, he did convince Saladin to sign a treaty that would allow Christian pilgrims to travel safely to the Holy Land. Like many great men, Richard was complex, sometimes appearing deeply sensitive and charismatic while at others displaying a dangerous sense of recklessness. After the Siege of Acre, Richard demonstrated a cruel and inhuman side when he ordered the massacre of Muslim prisoners. Yet for all his swagger, Richard’s success on the battlefield was largely due to the heavy armor and fierce weapons that he and the other Medieval knights used.

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