Sunset of the mounted men at arms

Cuirassier armor, presumably German, 1625-1635 Helmet weight 2500 g; breastplate breastplate 6550 g; back part 4450 g; gorget 1300 g; right shoulder pad and bracer 3500 g; left shoulder pad and bracer 3300 g; tassettes (legguards) 2650 g; right glove 750 g; left 700 Royal Arsenal, Leeds

I saw slaves on horses, and princes walking like slaves on foot.
Book of Ecclesiastes 10.5: 7

Military affairs at the turn of the eras. In a transitional era, military affairs always develop rapidly. However, it is influenced by two opposite trends. The first is the power of traditions and the established opinion that the old is good for what is familiar. Second, you need to do something, because the old techniques don’t work for some reason. So, Marshal of Henry VIII Thomas Audley demanded that none of the shooters should wear armor, except perhaps a Morion helmet, as he believed: “There can be no good shooter, be it an archer or arquebusier, if he serves dressed in armor.”

Sunset of the mounted men at arms
Many readers of “VO” ask why so plump legguards are on so many armor of this time. Here’s why: look what pants were in fashion at that time. Before you is a doublet of Elector Christian II of Saxony (1583-1611). OK. 1610 Waist circumference 120 cm. Chest circumference 111.5 cm. Weight 987 g. Inventory records show that this doublet was worn by Elector Christian II of Saxony when he received the feudal right to rule over the duchy from Emperor Rudolf II in Prague in 1610 year. This event took place on the morning of June 27, 1610, so we know for sure that such clothes were then worn (Vienna Armory)

19 years have passed, but the fashion has not changed. Doublet of Elector Johann George I of Saxony. OK. 1629. G. Sewn in Dresden. Pants length 70 cm, buttocks 51.5 cm, weight 1220 g (Vienna Armory)

As a result, when 40 soldiers were sent to France from Norich in 1543, 8 of them were archers who had a “good bow”, 24 were “good arrows” (the number from the time of the Battle of Bannkoburn!), “Good sword”, a dagger, but all the rest were “billmen”, that is, spearmen armed with a “bill” (“ox tongue”) – a spear 1.5 m long, with a knife-like blade, convenient in hand-to-hand combat. The sword and dagger supplemented the weapons, and they were all in armor, but in which ones, the document is not specified. By the way, this very “bill” was excluded from the armament of the British army by the decree of 1596. Now the infantry began to completely arm themselves only with pikes and arquebusses.

The development of military science in the 16th century gave rise to many amusing types of weapons. For example, here’s an infantry shield with a lantern, a plate glove and a retractable blade. The idea was to open the cover of the lantern on the shield unexpectedly for the enemy, blind him in the night and stab him without much difficulty. The blades on the glove were serrated to grip the blades of the enemy. However, most likely this shield would be more dangerous for its owner than for the enemy. After all, the lamp on it was oil, and it would have been as easy as shelling pears to pour over burning oil while waving such a shield! (Vienna Armory)

However, this is not entirely true. The Good English Bow was still in use. Moreover, there were military leaders who demanded and even sought the presence of infantrymen with two types of weapons in the British army – a lance and a bow. They were called that – warriors with dual weapons. Preserved illustrations depicting them and relating to 1620. They depict a typical pikeman in pikemen’s armor and a morion helmet, who shoots from a bow and at the same time holds his pike in his hand. It is clear that this required a lot of dexterity and serious training. Moreover, it seriously burdened the warrior. So the “double armament”, although it looked theoretically very tempting, in practice did not take root. Moreover, such British historians as A. Norman and D. Pottinger report that after 1633, pikemen’s armor was not mentioned at all, that is, they did not wear anything except a helmet to protect them!

Drawing by English artist Angus McBride. It shows two British pikemen and a musketeer from 1620. The one on the left is precisely one of the “double-armed” warriors. By the way, their armor is by no means a fantasy of the artist, but is most carefully redrawn from samples from the Royal Armory of the city of Leeds.

At the same time, the number of arquebusses was constantly growing, and at the time of the death of Henry VIII, there were 7,700 of them in the Tower’s arsenal, but there were only 3,060 bows. Knightly armor still existed, but in fact turned into a fancy metal costume. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the development of knightly armor continued, but it was mainly worn by her courtiers. In fact, battle armor at that time was only cuirassier armor, which was described in previous articles of this cycle, but they also underwent changes in accordance with the requirements of the time. True, back in 1632, the English historian Peter Young noted, the English cavalryman was still the same knight, although he did not have plate shoes, which were replaced by boots to his knees. He was armed either with a spear, but somewhat lighter in comparison with the knight’s, or with a pair of pistols and a sword.

Equipment of the English equestrian armor of 1632 by Peter Young

Muskets and helmet from the castle of Český Krumlov on the Vltava

And then came the time of the civil war of 1642-1649, and the problem of the price of cuirassier armor became of decisive importance. The armies became more and more massive. In them, more and more commoners were called up, and it became an unaffordable luxury to buy them expensive plate gloves, plate legguards and fully closed helmets such as an armé with a visor. Armament all the time became simpler and cheaper. Therefore, it is not surprising that at this time such simplified types of protection as the “pot” (“pot”) helmet for ordinary riders of the parliamentary army and “cavalier” helmets, which looked like a wide-brimmed hat with a sliding metal nose, popular in the king’s army, appeared.

Cuirassier armor of King Charles I, made in 1612 when he was Prince of Wales. Manufactured in Greenwich. They entered the Tower in 1650. Full height: 169 cm, weight 33.2 kg, gloves weight – 0.59 / 0.578 (left / right) kg, gorget weight – 1.09 kg, leggings and sabatons – 1.44 / 1.39 (left / right ) kg, weight of tapes (legguards) 1.59 / 1.66 (left / right) kg, left vambras (bracer) and half-drone (shoulder pad) weigh 2.95 kg, back plate – 4.23 kg, chest plate – 4 , 45 kg, helmet – 4.9 kg (Royal Arsenal, Leeds)

Very heavy sapper helmets with a strong metal visor also appeared, which, as it is assumed, were worn not so much by the sappers themselves as by the military leaders who watched the course of the siege and fell under enemy shots. The “sweat” taken away on the helmets generally turned into a lattice of rods, that is, even the village blacksmiths could forge such “equipment”.

Cuirassier armor “three-quarters from the museum” in Glenbow (Museum in the city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada)

Breastplate of Equestrian Arquebusiers of 1620 (Royal Arsenal, Leeds)

Shoulder pad of the same cuirass, close-up. (Royal Arsenal, Leeds)

The breast and back began to be covered with a cuirass to the waist, and the left arm was covered by a bracer, which protected the hand to the elbow, and was worn with a plate glove. But in the parliamentary army, such details of armor were considered “excess” and her “maiden cavalry had only helmets and cuirasses.

Bohemian two-handed saber, c. 1490 Also depicted in a series of miniatures depicting the “triumphal procession of Maximilian I” by Hans Burgkmayr (1473-1531). The blade is Italian work. Hall number 3. (Vienna Armory)

One of two swords solemnly handed over to the imperial embassy by Pope Julius II on January 24, 1509 on the occasion of the erection of Maximilian I and his grandson, later Charles V, to the knighthood of St. Peter. Under the name of the manufacturer “Master Ercole” may be hidden Jewish jeweler Salomon da Sesso, who after the change of faith called himself “Ercole dei Fidelis” (circa 1465 – 1518/1519, Ferrara or Rome) (Vienna Imperial Arsenal. Hall №2)

From the middle of the 15th century, the war hammer became an increasingly popular weapon for the cavalry, worn either on the bow of the saddle or on the belt. The entire force of the hammer tip’s impact was concentrated in a very small area, so it was possible to pierce even strong armor with it. The battle hammer was in use until about 1540. To decorate this magnificent battle ax, which was made for the brother of Emperor Charles V, who later became Emperor Ferdinand I, the technique of gilding with the help of gold melt (amalgamation) was used, which, due to its complexity, soon ceased to be used. Year of manufacture 1526th. Place of manufacture: Augsburg. The owner is Emperor Ferdinand I, son of Philip of Habsburg (1503-1564). Vienna Armory. Hall number 3

John Clements is a well-known specialist in the field of fencing reconstruction, in this regard, he points out that in the period from 1500 to 1600, the West European sword very quickly transformed into a rapier and a sword, and in the heavy cavalry the latter turned into chopping broadswords.

Basket Sword (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

In fact, these were the same swords, but with a wider blade. In England, they began to be called the “basket sword”, since the handle was protected by a real “basket” of iron rods or strips. Under the influence of the French school of fencing, the type of civil light epee with a blade 32 inches (81 cm) long also spread.

Rapier. Included in a set consisting of a rapier with a scabbard and a dagger with a scabbard. OK. 1610 Dresden. Total length 119 cm, blade 102 cm, weight 1460 (Vienna Armory)

This is how, in fact, the equestrian men at arms gradually came to their decline and the year 1700 became its border. No, cuirassiers in shiny cuirassies from the armies of Europe did not go anywhere, but they no longer played such a significant role in wars as, say, the French pistoliers of the “war for the faith” era. It became clear that success in battle depends on the skillful actions of the commander and the comprehensive use of infantry, cavalry and artillery, and not the complete superiority of any one type of troops, and in particular, plate cavalry.

There is little left to tell. In particular, about the system of recognition “friend or foe” on the battlefield. After all, both there and there people fought in black armor, covering them from head to toe, or in yellow leather jackets, black cuirass and hats with feathers. How can we distinguish between friends and foes?

Imperial cuirassier with a scarf over his shoulder. Without him, who is who, it would be simply impossible to determine. Illustration from the book “Cavalry. The history of fighting elite 650BC – AD1914 “V. Vuksic, Z. Grbasic

A way out was found in the use of a scarf, which was worn over the shoulder as a sash, and which the decor of the armor did not hide, who had it, of course, and indicated his nationality in the most noticeable way. In France, for example, in the 16th century, it could be black or white, depending on who its owner was fighting for – for Catholics or Protestant Huguenots. But it could also be green, or even light brown. In England, scarves were blue and red, in Savoy they were blue, in Spain they were red, In Austria they were black and yellow, and in Holland they were orange.

The English cuirass of 1650 was already not much different from the later cuirasses of the 18th – 19th centuries. (Royal Arsenal, Leeds)

There was also a simplification of weapons. All kinds of picks and clubs from the arsenal have disappeared. The weapons of the heavy cavalry were a broadsword and two pistols, a light pistol and a saber, dragoons received a sword and a carbine, and horse pikemen – long pikes. This turned out to be quite enough to solve all the combat tasks of the era of developed industrial production, which Europe entered after 1700.

1. Barlett, C. English Longbowmen 1330 -1515. L.: Osprey (Warrior series №11),1995.
2. Richardson, T. The Armour and Arms of Henry VIII. UK, Leeds. Royal Armouries Museum. The Trusteers of Armouries, 2002.
3. The Cavalry// Edited by J.Lawford // Indianopolis, New York: The Bobbs Merril Company,1976.
4. Young, P. The English Civil War // Edited by J.Lawford // Indianopolis, New York: The Bobbs Merril Company,1976.
5. Williams, A., De Reuk, A. The Royal Armoury at Greenwich 1515 -1649: a history of its technology. UK, Leeds. Royal Armouries Pub., 1995.
6. Norman, A.V.B., Pottinger, D. Warrior to soldier 449-1660. A brief introduction to the history of British warfare. UK. L.: Weidenfild and Nicolson Limited, 1966.
7. Vuksic, V., Grbasic, Z. Cavalry. The history of fighting elite 650BC – AD1914. L.: A Cassel Book, 1993, 1994.

The end follows …

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