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Castles & knights

Knights' armour

A 15th-century suit of armourA 15th-century suit of armour The first knights wore chainmail coats, made from thousands of metal rings joined together. Plate armour offered much more protection than mail, and so by the 1400s complete suits of armour were worn. They were designed to make the sharp edges or points of weapons glance off their smooth surfaces. Armour was no heavier than the mail suits and quite flexible to wear. The suits were jointed together with metal rivets or leather straps so the knight could still bend his legs and swing his sword or mace. On his hands he wore gauntlets, metal gloves that were also jointed so he could move his fingers.  A shield was no longer needed to fend off the blows of a hand-held weapon, although a crossbow bolt or metal-tipped arrow from a longbow could still penetrate the armour.

Hauberk

Knights in the 1100s and 1200s wore a hauberk, a tunic made of chainmail—small iron rings linked together—over a padded jacket called an aketon. The combination of the two gave some protection from sword blows, but a direct hit from an arrow or a lance could still be fatal. For a helmet, knights of this period wore a pointed metal cap with a noseguard.

Armour of the 1200s (left) and the 1300s (right)Armour of the 1200s (left) and the 1300s (right)

Plate armour

In the 1300s, mail coats were shorter. Steel plates were added to protect the arms and knees. Wealthy knights had plate armour specially made by an armourer to fit them. Each piece was cut and shaped to the right size. They were jointed together with metal rivets or leather straps so the knight could still bend his legs and swing his sword or mace.

A full suit of armour of the 1400s weighed about 20–25 kg (45–55 lb). A fit man would have no trouble mounting his horse unaided while wearing armour.

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