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KNIGHT c.1100

An extract from Armies of Feudal Europe 1066-1300
by Ian Heath

2.      KNIGHT c.1100

The next 15 figures are intended as a guide to the development and diversity of 'knightly' armour during this era. As with many other illustrations in this section they are shown dismounted for clarity. Inevitably, innumerable variations are to be found in the countless surviving contemporary sources and certainly at no time during this era was there any such animal as a 'typical' knight or any such thing as typical armour. This figure (an Italo-Norman knight from a relief of c.1099-1106 in Modena Cathedral) is practically identical to those described under 124 and 125 in Armies of the Dark Ages (second edition), basic equipment undergoing very little real change during the first 100 years of this era. Those developments which did take place centred principally round the design of helmet and shield.

The mail hauberk (contemporary sources record many variant names, including aspercote, ausberg, hausberc and haubert) remained the principal form of body armour in Western Europe throughout this period. The mail could be single or double as described above, sometimes being recorded as so closely interwoven that not even a dagger point could penetrate its links. Quilted tunics (later called aketons and gambesons - see note to figures 26-30) were usually worn under, and very occasionally over, the hauberk. The mail was sometimes gilded or silvered, more often blackened (a practice which continued up until the 17th century). In fact the painting or enamelling of armour appears to have been more common than is usually credited. Even at the very beginning of this era the Bayeux Tapestry depicts many helmets with coloured panels which may indicate that they were painted. Certainly a large number of ms. sources of the l2th-13th centuries show coloured helmets and depict mail in unusual colours such as red and green; as with blackened armour, this was undoubtedly an attempt at protection against rust. Nasal helmets of the pattern worn here survived throughout this period and lasted in use until the 14th century, though they had become decidedly 'old-fashioned' by the mid-13th century.

Principal weapons throughout the period under review were the lance, sword and mace. At the end of the 11th century the lance was usually about 7-8 feet, sometimes up to 9 feet, in length, and was most often of ash or pine according to Wace, though aspen and sycamore are also recorded in later sources. By the 12th century at the latest the lance was often if not usually painted.

[Based on Italian Knights on the Modena Archivolt]

Next: 3. KNIGHT c.1160 in Armies of Feudal Europe 1066-1300, by Ian Heath