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This scene is of the Battle of the Sluys, which occurred on 24 June 1340 and was the first major battle of the Hundred Years War; as one can see, it was a naval battle, and it was an astounding victory for the English. The French had chained many of their ships together to form a floating fortress crossing the entry to the river which the English fleet wanted to enter, but the English ships managed to overwhelm this formation in vicious hand-to-hand fighting on the decks of the ships and from the crows-nests and rigging. Missile troops, such as crossbowmen and archers, must have played a vital part also. This representation is from the Chroniques De Jean Froissart, made a century later. All of the men wear armour typical to French or English soldiers of the mid-15thC, and it is worth noticing that all the armour is blued; none of it is bright-polished. Also, none of the troops wear uncovered breastplates; they all have covered ones or brigandines. Some wear bevors/mentonnieres with their sallets, and many have the rondel plates on the sides of their sallets that appear a lot in art of this period. One man is using a buckler, and one has a large centre-bossed shield, held like a buckler. Another man can be seen with a large sword of war, and there is a soldier to the right preparing to board another ship with his glaive held at the ready. Just to the left of this soldier, a struggle is occurring where one man has grabbed his opponent's sword by the middle of the blade.
This extraordinary painting shows men, possibly squires, in martial training exercises. It is a rare subject for art of this period, and dates to the middle of the 15thC. Two men in the centre practice with sword and buckler, while to the left of them two men practice grappling skills. To the right and behind, it appears that a man is practicing balancing on his head on a table, while another man is either support the table for him, or perhaps shaking it, to make his feat harder! It is possible that he is practicing falling/rolling from this position. Another man is preparing to do something with a staff, but he is facing the sparring, so maybe he is waiting to spar. In the background a man is apparently weight-training with a rock, while next to him a man with a hat is doing some kind of training with a spear, perhaps flexibility exercise, or maybe he is going to throw it, though he may impail one of his collegues if he did so!
This painting dates to the middle of the 15thC, and once again is a perfect illustration of how armour was so often blued, rather than burnished steel. During the 19thC, much armour in collections was polished because it had oxidized, and some blued armour must have lost its original colour as a result of this. Modern literature, media and art has perpetuated the mith that armour was always 'shiny'. From art, it does seem that some armour was burnished to a steel colour, but not predominantly so. This painting also shows that armour was frequently fabric-covered, in this period particularly the breat/backplates and faulds, though covered helmets, arms and legs can also be found. Some of the armour here is embellished with gilt edging and decoration, and one leader has completely gilt armour. Gilding was gold-leaf that was applied to the surface of the steel armour. Decorative parts were often made of latten (like modern brass) which was then gilded. Note the mounted grappling going on here.
This scene from Froissart shows the plundering of a city after a successful siege. It is a good source for showing varied types of armour and weaponry used amongst common soldiers in the 1440's-1460's. Several different types of visored and open-face sallet are shown, two examples which have visors with two occularium for the eyes, instead of the more common single slit. Covered breastplates or brigandines rule here. Legs are usually minimally protected, and none of the men wear bevors - one possibly wears a gorget of some kind. The swords are of the standard mid-15thC style arming sword, with straight quillons and recessed-wheel pommels, a rondel dagger can be seen in the middle, and there are at least 5 glaives, most or all of which are of the type like a 'sword-on-a-stick', with straight pointed blade and quillons!
A retreat of French men-at-arms, in the face of English archery during the Hundred Years War. This crisp painting shows many different forms of various items of equipment at about 1440-60. Yet again, the armour is 'composite' style, with Gothic German and Italian types present. The figures to the front wear northern forms of the Italian sallet; this type of sallet, with a pointed top was only popular in France, the Low Countries and England (eg. Coventry Sallet), exceptions being rare. This indicates that the painting is probably French, Flemish or Burgundian. Notice some of the knights wear what we consider to be frog-mouthed jousting helms. All the men have fabric-covered breastplates, some with un-covered plackarts overlapping, and the King of France wears a blue tabard, with the Fleur de Lis of his coat of arms. Notice that longbow arrows are shown penetrating plate and horse alike. In the distance there are cavalry engaging in skirmishing; note the positions of their weapons and shields. Unusually, one skirmisher uses his sword two-handed while mounted.

Once again, all the plate armour in this French, Flemmish or Burgundian painting of the mid-15thC, is blued. The armour is predominantly of Gothic German type, though quite obviously of a more north-western origin, with its Italian influences, such as the tassets, giving a slight composite appearance. The strong fluting on several items of armour still leaves the impression of Gothic plate though, and although the couters are more Italian, the spaulders are more German. The two central helmets are of the north-western European type (like the Coventry Sallet), with their pointed skulls, and could be found in France, Burgundy, the Low Countries and England. Note the central figure; is this a demi-plackart over a brigandine, or is the upper part of the breastplate just fabric covered?
French or Flemish 1460-80. This extract shows what is predominantly German gothic-style armour, although interestingly, the sallets are of a more Italian form, with their cusped napes and one-piece reenforced visors. This may not have been unusual however, as from written sources, we know that Italian helmets were highly rated. The other feature of these harnesses that it not typical for gothic armour, is the presence of large pauldrons.
This extract from a larger picture in a chronicle shows part of a siege, where some men-at-arms are attacking a gate. It also shows some interesting bits of equipment, for example the details of a crossbow windlass are very clearly represented. Many of the soldiers are lightly or not armoured on their legs, compared to their upper body - a feature seen often in art of this period. All the soldiers wear sallets in the Italian style or chapelle-de-fer's, with composite style armour. Two glaives, of not-common type are shown, as well as a martel-de-fer, which is of a type often shown in the mid-15thC, and seen extensively in Froissart's Chroniques. The pavices shown are of types seen commonly elsewhere also.
Another extract from the same scene as the besiegers and crossbowmen. These archers wear brigandines, with the rivets clearly visible, mail shirts and Italian-style sallets. One has no armour on his legs, a common trend at this time, while the other two have varying degrees of protection on their legs. I believe the archer to the rear to be rather anachronistic, as he has arms and legs fully encased in plate, which is most unlikely for an archer, if only for practicality in shooting. None of the archers wear bracers. They all have their arrows on the side of the bow that is the same as the hand they hold it with, as with most western archers. Two are right-handed, one left. As was the norm, their arrows are kept either stuffed through the belt or placed on/into the ground (we hear of this at Agincourt). The archer to the right has a standard arming sword, worn in a normal way, while the man on the left has what could be a large baselard. These short swords were usually worn hung in the middle of the belt, either at the back or on the front, in front of the groin.
This battle scene is from Queen Mary's Psalter, and dates to around 1300. All the fighting men are wearing full mail hauberks that cover their arms and legs entirely, ending with mittens and socks, the palm and soles of which would most probably have been leather or just open. Three men wear small bascinets, not developed much from the cervelliere, one with a visor, three men wear great helms, at least one of which has a liftable visor, and one man has a chappelle-de-fer. The two fallen men have no visible helmets. The only plate (or possible cuir-boulli) defences shown are knee-cops, on the all the knees that can be seen. Though one figure, between the 'kings' has something on his shoulder, possibly a defensive plate or possibly an ailette (heraldic shoulder-mounted disc/square). The left-hand 'king' carries a two-handed cleaver, like a short glaive, and on the far left, is another large cleaver that looks like a de-shafted bill, with its strange hook. Two of the axes have short blades and back spikes, while the other axe has a long edge and no spike. The swords shown are typical of c.1300. Only one man (a fallen one) has a shield. All the hits being carried out are to opponents' helmets, though the fallen man on the right has had his hand and wrist severed.









This painting of St.George is dateable to the 1430's or 40's by the type of armour being worn by the Saint. He wears a German harness, featuring the type of breastplate called a Kastenbrust (Casket Breat). It was called this because of it's box shaped front, which presented a wedge-shape to lances and other pointed attacks. The Kastenbrust is usually accompanied by a fauld (the skirt) like this, which starts very high up, and so is very long; this being a fauld of 6 or 7 lames. To this fauld, the scabbards for the dagger on the right and the sword on the left were attached directly via rivets, with no need for a belt. Also noteable are the small oblong besagews (the small hanging plate in front of the arm-pit), and the mitten-style gauntlets. The couters (elbows) are constructed in the articulated fashion, rather than the later Gothic German style.
This beautiful painting is also dateable by the German Kastenbrust (Casket Breast) harness on the right, to the 1430's or 40's, and was in fact painted by Hans Multscher in 1437. This figure has Gothic type couters rather than articulated couters; these consist of one larger plate that overlaps the rerebrace and vambrace above and below. He, like the St.George in Kastenbrust, also has mitten-gauntlets, but with offensively pointed protrusions. He has expertly fluted besagews and long articulated spaulders on his shoulders. Also in this painting, one can see a variety of weapons, including several types of spear, an early halberd, and a voulge. There are two longswords, one with a pear-shaped pommel, one with a wheel pommel; notice the large proportions of their hilts. On the ground, you can just see a flanged mace. The soldier on the left has an unusual type of Chappelle-de-Fer, and a small breastplate only covering the upper part of his chest.



Dieric Bouts, the Elder, 1440's



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