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FRENCH MEN-AT-ARMS c.1398

An extract from Armies of the Middle Ages, Volume 1
by Ian Heath



33 & 34.      FRENCH MEN-AT-ARMS c.1398

From the same source as 16, these figures are typical of both French and English men-at-arms of the late-14th century. Figure 33 wears a loose, baggy-sleeved civilian garment slit at the sides and called a houpeland. Such gowns concealed most of the wearer's armour, Froissart actually describing a companion deliberately hiding his armour under a houpeland in an incident of 1357. The wearing of houpelands over armour became popular among both men-at-arms and the common soldiery during the 1380s, and this ms. is full of such figures. This particular man wears a dark blue one, has latten poleyns, a light green saddle and red reins and harness. Note his shield, an old-style heater type 'modernised' by the top right-hand corner having been bouched.

Figure 34 shows the type of armour that was probably concealed beneath the houpeland. The jupon is quilted here and should therefore be described as a juppe de wambeson (see note 21); the Black Prince's jupon, described under figure 7, is of this type. Another surviving example, that of the Dauphin Charles (later Charles VI) dating to c. 1380, is similar to that depicted here but has wrist-length sleeves and an opening down the front secured by 25 close-set buttons. It is made of white linen padded with wool and vertically quilted, and has a slit for the sword at the left as depicted in figure 35. Originally there was also a ring on the left breast for the attachment of a guard-chain for the sword.

The only other feature worthy of notice here is the dagger of figure 33. Daggers begin to appear frequently in knightly monuments from the 1330s onwards, the most common type being the misericorde, which had a straight, one-edged blade triangular in section. The fashion of wearing it horizontally or even hilt-downwards as here began during the 1380s but lasted only until the beginning of the 15th century.

[Based on the Chroniques de France ou de St Denis, British Library MS Royal 20 C VII, c.1398]



Next: 35. DISMOUNTED FRENCH MAN-AT-ARMS c.1398 in Armies of the Middle Ages, Volume 1 by Ian Heath