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11TH CENTURY NORMAN, FRENCH OR BRETON STANDARDS

An extract from Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066
by Ian Heath


[Based on the Bayeux Tapestry]
126.      11TH CENTURY NORMAN, FRENCH OR BRETON STANDARDS

This figure, from the Tapestry, portrays Eustace of Boulogne. Note the addition of mail protection for forearms and lower leg, which appear on only a few figures, one of whom appears to wear a mail sleeve on his right arm only (see note 55). It was probably this more complete armour which prompted Anna Comnena to call Norman knights kataphraktoi.

The standard is probably the Sacred Banner granted to William by the Pope, though there is evidence to suggest that it might represent Eustace's personal banner. Central cross, edging of main field, spots on the vertical panel, and the central tail are all ochre, probably representing gold; upper and lower tails and spots quartering the cross are dark green; the central field, vertical panel and tail extremities are white.

They are probably retainers of the better-armoured knights, comparable to such earlier types as are described under 54. By the end of the 11th century they were commonly called servientes, or sergeants, and a French document of 1133 still specifies their equipment as lance, shield and sword; there is no mention of armour, though it is safe to assume that quilted or mail body-armour was worn when available.

126a-h are representative of the lance pennons, called at this time gonfanons, carried by many of the knights in the Tapestry. They may be purely decorative or for recognition purposes; Wace, though writing in the third quarter of the 12th century, definitely implies the latter. They were probably carried only by the officer-nobility.



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