Category:Later plate armour

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In the later thirteenth century, the wealthiest knights began to wear sections of plate armour on top of their hauberks. Armour plates seem to have started off on the leg, especially to protect the knee - perhaps understandably, since the leg is an obvious target on a mounted knight!

As a rough rule of thumb, the most powerful lords should wear limited plate armour in the late thirteenth century and considerably more in the fourteenth century. Less wealthy knights (those closer to the £40 threshold for knight service) might wear very limited plate in the late thirteenth century (perhaps just poleyns over their knees or elbow couters) and may wear more as the fourteenth century progresses.

The armoured surcoat seems to have come into use somewhere in the thirteenth century (though the exact chronology is unclear, as few examples are visible in depictions), to be replaced by the coat of plates in the fourteenth century.

Development of plate armour

Plate armour was only just coming into use in the late thirteenth century, initially covering the vulnerable joints, and gradually expanding to cover the limbs more generally. Analysis of English tomb-effigies from 1300-1450 ( shows that only 20% of the men buried in the first decade of the 1300s wore partial leg armour (i.e. knee poleyns), with the remainder just wearing maille chausses; in the 1310s the proportions had reversed. The full range of poleyns, greaves and sabatons are found in under 10% of effigies of the 1320s and 1340s, rising to 70% in the 1340s and 90% in the 1350s. Schynbalds (covering only the front of the leg) appear in the 1310s, with fully-enclosing greaves becoming common in the 1330s and ubiquitous in the 1350s. However, fully-articulated leg armour does not appear in effigies until the 1370s.

By contrast, arm defences seem to have followed later. Around 10% of tomb effigies in the 1320s and 1330s showed plates over the hauberk on the arms, jumping to 70% in the 1340s and over 90% in the 1350s. Fully-articulated arm armour accounts for 30% of depictions in the 1340s and 50% in the 1350s.

Segmented gauntlets (made from multiple plates similar to those found at the battle of Wisby) appear in under 10% of effigies from the 1320s and 1330s, rising to 55% in the 1340s. Hourglass gauntlets (with a wide bell cuff) are found in 30% of effigies of the 1350s and become the norm thereafter.

Even allowing for artistic convention lagging behind military use, and the ages of knights dying, there seems to be a clear trend.

  • Limited plate armour for the legs (poleyns over maille chausses) is encouraged for all knights in the fourteenth century.
  • Full plate armour for the legs (poleyns, greaves, sabatons, cuisses) is encouraged for the lordly elite rather than knights in the first quarter of the fourteenth century.
  • Limited plate armour for the arms (elbow couters) is permitted for knights in the first quarter of the fourteenth century.
  • Full plate armour for the arms is permitted for the lordly elite in the early fourteenth century, and for any knights from the 1330s.
  • Segmented gauntlets are encouraged for lords in the early fourteenth century, and for knights in the second quarter of the century. Hourglass gauntlets should be restricted to the mid-fourteenth century.

Plate armour for the arms

  • Gauntlets, often with articulated finger-joints, protected the hand.
  • Couters covered the elbow (sometimes informally called "elbow cops").
  • Vambraces were plate defences for the forearm.
  • Rerebraces were armour for the upper arm.
  • Ailettes were decorative leather or wooden boards tied to the upper arm, which displayed the knight's heraldry. They were used in the thirteenth and early fourteenth century.
  • Spaulders protected the shoulders, and seem to have replaced aillettes in the mid-fourteenth century.
  • Besagues/besagews were plates (often rondels) to protect the armpits.
  • Rondels were circular plates of armour, sometimes protecting the elbow (attached to couters) or the armpit.

Plate armour for the legs

  • Poleyns were cup shaped plate defences for the knee, introduced in the later thirteenth century, worn over maille chausses (sometimes informally called "knee cops"). In the fourteenth century they were usually equipped with a side wing of heart shape. Poleyns were perhaps the earliest form of plate armour.
  • Schynbalds were plate defence for the lower leg from knee to ankle, initially protecting the front (like modern shin pads), but later the whole lower leg (greaves, constructed of 2 plates hinged together and shaped to the contours of the muscle). Schynbalds are sometimes found in the mid-thirteenth century; full greaves only came into use in the early fourteenth century.
  • Sabatons were shoes of laminated plate, usually pointed. They did not become common until the fourteenth century. Confusingly, 'sabatons' can also mean the maille covering the foot as part of chausses.

Images of later plate armour

This powerful lord wears armour typical of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. He has armoured gauntlets, elbow couters and rerebraces over his hauberk.

Early 14th century knight armoured.jpg

This mid-fourteenth century knight wears a full set of armoured plates on his arms - gauntlets, vambraces, couters, rerebraces and rondels.

Mid-14th century knight armoured.jpg

Pages in category ‘Later plate armour’

The following 4 pages are in this category, out of 4 total.