arms & armour


Have you ever wondered exactly where all my armour is from and how much it cost and weighs? Well now you can find out!

@resilient-facade and @counter-part this is for you guys :)
And the lovely fellows over at @bikiniarmorbattledamage if you’re interested.

A Szyszak.

Made in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, circa 1640.

In the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK.

And I can tell you this photograph does not do it justice, it’s an incredible helmet.


At last the BBC has picked this up! Cheers to my sisters in arms who are kicking arse and taking names internationally. This doco covers a few of the great women in this fast-growing sport of full-contact, armoured medieval battle, including several close friends. Fight on, all!


Georges “Rush” St-Pierre (

The famous staircase interior of the Royal Armouries (well just one small section of it).

The Royal Armouries in Leeds is one incredible museum of arms and armour. I think it does one excellent job of presenting the objects and stories associated with them in both an educational and entertaining way.

The Royal Armouries is an institution that makes me love museums and today was launched on twitter and Instagram the #ilovemuseums. This is a campaign to help inform local and national government why we love our museums. So if you have a story to tell on your favourite bit of a museum then don’t forget to #tag it #ilovemuseums. Let’s make it a trend on Tumblr too.

xenzen-thewholeshebang  asked:

So there's a lot on the Internet about what goes on before a battle, and even during battle (at least, after you wade through all the video game information), but what happens after? Did the losers or winners bury their dead comrades, or was that left to the people who live on the land they fought on? Did anyone think to conduct funeral rites of some sort? Or did they just lah-de-dah off into the sunset and hope the opponents didn't follow?

A quick Google for the term “medieval battlefield graves” brought up plenty of info. Here’s one useful page

Though some battlefields were left littered with bodies, either if the battle was fought far from human habitation or to make a point

…there were plenty of recorded mass burials, like these at Culloden.

One of the best known is at Visby, where hot weather and fast decomposition meant the winners buried - or ordered the locals to bury - a lot of enemy casualties not from altruism but to prevent disease. They were already getting too unpleasant to strip or loot (given the stronger medieval stomach, that says how nasty the bodies had become) so ended up providing lots of archaeological evidence of what “low-to-mid-level” armour like coats-of-plates looked like.

It also gave graphic evidence of what medieval weapons were capable of doing.

Even the fairly sober “Blood Red Roses” documentary about Towton had people expressing shock about this. It’s as if the scientists came to their work in a haze of fictional chivalry and knights-in-shining-armour (or possibly just the supposed “bluntness” of European medieval swords) and were surprised when they discover that hitting a man in the face with what was more like a three-foot-long razorblade did the same then as it would do now.

A modern sniper’s head shot makes just as much mess - check the famous Zapruder film, and that involved just a 6.5mm round, not the massive Barrett .50 (14.5mm) which can go most of the way to the Dirty Harry thing of “Blow your head clean off”. Yet injuries from hot lead don’t seem to provoke the same surprise as those from cold steel.

There may have been funeral rites of some sort; in fact, it being a fairly religious age, there probably were. It would have been as easy for a priest to say a funeral mass over a hole with 100 or 1000 corpses in it as over a hole containing one.

Not doing so probably involved religious differences, as in the Crusades, or was just putting the spiritual boot in to interfere with the enemy’s afterlife, like this incident in the classic John Ford / John Wayne 1956 western “The Searchers”…

[Brad Jorgenson smashes the head of a dead Comanche warrior with a rock]

Reverend Clayton: “Jorgenson!”

Ethan Edwards: “Why don’t you finish the job?”

[He draws his gun and shoots out the dead Comanche’s eyes]

Reverend Clayton: “What good did that do ya?”

Ethan Edwards: “By what you preach, none. But what that Comanche believes, ain’t got no eyes, he can’t enter the spirit-land. Has to wander forever between the winds. You get it, Reverend?”

I don’t know how viewers of sixty years ago would have responded to this; maybe they weren’t shocked, maybe they thought “the murderin’ redskin had it coming”. Or maybe, since Ethan was played by a noted “good guy” like Wayne, they’d have felt properly uncomfortable since it proves that the character isn’t a hero but an anti-hero, with a corrosive level of hatred that goes beyond the grave.

A brief scene of a grave-marker near the beginning shows that Ethan’s mother was killed by Comanches - the death of a family member is one of “the usual reasons” for any revenge-driven movie character - and Martin Scorsese writes

(Ethan) hates Comanches so much that he actually has bothered to learn their beliefs in order to violate them.

(Ethan can also speak the Comanche language, going oddly far given his attitude which is that, quoting another film character entirely, “(I am) distrustful of language. A gun means what it says.“)

IMO this hatred at a spiritual level would have been equally shocking in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, at least among people of the same religion - you tried not to treat the enemy too badly either alive or dead in the hope that their side would do the same to yours.

It didn’t always happen - and still doesn’t, so we shouldn’t do any back-patting on that score  - but sometimes it did even when not expected. A mass grave from the Battle of Lützen in the Thirty Years War, which was a really nasty religious war between flavours of Christianity, revealed that…

A few facts have already come to light. For example, the corpses…were, at least, carefully laid to rest. The bodies were gathered from the battlefield and placed in a grave next to the street, arranged in two rows with their legs facing each other.

Several layers of dead probably lie within these two blocks, although researchers have only uncovered the first. The burials were not taken care of by the surviving soldiers, who were already on their way to the next battle. Instead the good citizens of Lützen had to take on the unpleasant job. They asked 200 soldiers in the neighboring garrison of Weissenfels for extra support.

If there was care taken over laying out the bodies, it seems reasonable to assume that someone “said words” over them. Quite possibly the wrong words (Catholic service over Protestant corpses or vice versa) either because of what clergy was available, or maybe as a form of post-mortem conversion. It’s the thought that counts.

At least nobody said “Buzzards gotta eat, same as worms…

xenzen-thewholeshebang  asked:

Do you know who actually painted the heraldry on shields and/or armor? (I'm not certain armor was painted for any reason other than to prevent rust, but I could be wrong.)

This turned into a far longer reply than you were probably expecting - or, knowing me, maybe not… :-) but I hope it helps answer the question!

“Who did the painting” is something I’d never thought about. @dduane is acquainted with Alastair Bruce, Fitzalan Pursuivant Extraordinary at the College of Arms, who should know the proper answer. I’ll get her to ask and meanwhile, I’ll guesstimate.

As far as I know there wasn’t an official “Guild of Heraldic Painters”, though I could be wrong, there were guilds for so many things, and they may have had a less-obvious period name. It’s likely that anyone doing this sort of work would either consult with a professional herald or have access to a list of who was already using what symbols, patterns, colours etc., since getting your knuckles rapped in the Middle Ages could involve a big hammer.

A country knight probably gave the job to anyone good with a paintbrush – his priest, maybe, or the man who painted the local tavern sign – but great magnates like the Earl of Warwick, Duke of Gloucester, Earl of March and so on may have had an arts-and-crafts section. (Badges were embroidered and cast in metal as well as painted.) This section would maintain the accurate appearance of their principal “brand and logo” (Bear And Ragged Staff, White Boar, Sun In Splendour etc.) as worn on the livery of their retinue.

Warwick himself had an impressively elaborate coat of arms, reflecting a family history of marriages, alliances and titles, but as portrayed in the Rous Roll with his wife Anne Beauchamp, he’s using the much less complicated arms of the Earldom of Salisbury.

Heather Child (“Heraldic Design” © 1963), says that coat of arms were first used by the great nobility, but by the thirteenth century were commonly used by lesser nobility, knights and gentlemen. Less than a century later it had been established in law that no man could use another’s arms, while Royal command prohibited the wearing of arms without proper authority. Even then, it wasn’t until 1484 that Richard III established the College of Heralds.

In “The Complete Book of Heraldry” (© Anness Publishing Ltd 2002), Stephen Slater quotes the Anglo-Norman poet Robert Wace, who claimed that “at Hastings, the Normans had made cognizances is so that one Norman could recognise another.” I’m not so sure.

There’s no rhyme or reason to the shield crests in the Tapestry, which makes me think they were no more than patterns and images the wearer liked, rather than identification heraldry. Duke William famously had to raise or remove his helmet to counter a rumour he’d been killed (on the left, shown complete with the label “Hic est Dux Willem” - Here is Duke William.)

Once heraldry was established as a military and social skill, illustrations in manuscripts (here the German “Codex Manesse”, early 1300s) could look like this…

…and interested readers would have been expected to recognise each coat of arms, blazon them properly (i.e. describe them in correct technical language, so that anyone who had never seen a particular coat of arms would know exactly what it looked like) name every combatant in the picture and quite possibly give their tournament scores as well… 

Here’s an interesting detail from another illustration:

I’m guessing, but I think the paint used for the crests on shield and helmet contained real silver, which would have looked impressive when new but has tarnished down to grey. The smaller crests on surcoat and horse-caparison were just white paint, and have stayed that way.

Mail was essentially self-cleaning in use, since the rings scrubbed together as the wearer moved, but plate armour would indeed have been painted as rust protection as well as decoration. It was also painted with oil then heated, a process like seasoning a cast iron pan and creating the same sort of protective layer. Painting and “seasoning” was often done rough from the hammer, not polished smooth, since the “keyed” surface helped the oil or paint stick in place.

I’ve written already that the “knights in shining armour” concept was Victorian rather than mediaeval. Many armours displayed in museums are missing their engraved details because of overenthusiastic polishing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Period illustrations do show “white harness” as it was called (polishing gave idle squires something to keep them out of mischief)…

…but just as often plate armour is shown in shades of dark blue and even black, with painted highlights to show it was meant to be a polished surface.

This painting, from a box of wargaming figures, gives a modern version of what  the dark armour might have looked like. An army made up entirely of Darth Vaders.


Had the pleasure of running with The North a few weeks ago. Had a great time with lighter armour and running around. Being a Viking is fantastic, even if I was a tad too fancy. Can’t do leg wraps for shit though.

Arm armour, boots, some tunics from ArmStreet
Vest, some tunics by me.
Mythalon pants.

Swordcraft Friday battle in Melbourne, Australai. Photo by Portrait Photography Melborne, Tony Delov.