The Knight has become an iconic figure of the medieval ages. Almost everyone can recognize what a knight looks like. The knight armor has become famous and it became the symbol for the Middle Ages.
The knights in their time served as elite warriors, mercenaries, or bodyguards to their lords. They were skilled in melee combat as well as fighting on horseback.
A Knights primary purpose was combat. To aid them in battle, they wore suits of armor that protected them from arrows, blades, hammers, and other weapons.
Knights were warriors that were in the lower class of nobility. With their purpose rooted in combat, it made sense that they would be well-armed and well protected.
Two Types of Knight Armor
An armors main purpose was to reflect or distribute the power from strikes and blows. It also prevented weapons and arrows from piercing through and damaging vital organs.
An armor worked by distributing the energy from an attack across its surface. This prevented most of the energy from harming or reaching the wearer.
Early Knight armor in the 13th century consisted mostly of mail. These were made of thousands of small metal rings that were linked together to create a net-like layer of metal. Mail was great at preventing bladed weapons from slicing and piercing through.
However, mail was flexible and thus didnt distribute energy equally. Even if a knight wasnt cut, the energy from blows could cause bruises. It could even fracture their bones making them ineffective in combat or cause death.
To prevent this, the knights wore another layer of protection under the mai. These were called gambesons, which are padded jackets that were made mostly out of wool or linen. They made them through quilting with various stuffings such as scrap cloth or horsehair.
The layer of the gambeson added protection but could weigh as much as 22 kilograms. Yet, even if it was heavy, the weight distribution across the knights body allowed them to still move freely.
Another issue with mail was the time and cost of making a single piece. It could take as long as several months to create one complete mail shirt. That was also the reason why only wealthy knights could afford such protection.
Eventually, Knights began using metal plates as armor during the mid-13th century. This plate armor protected the limbs and chest of knights.
And by the mid-15th century, the iconic look of a knight gradually appeared.
A fully armed knight was encased from head to toe in plate armor.
A well-forged set of plate armor protected more effectively against heavier strikes and blows.
At the same time, it repelled arrows.
At a glance, plate armor had bends and grooves. These were done in such a way that these bends greatly improved the strength of the armor.
Plate armor was better because it can reflect a bladed weapon or cause it to slide off. Also,
it equally distributed the weight of the blow across the surface of the armor.
The strength of this armor can also be attributed to the developments in steel manufacturing.
As well as smithing techniques and general progress in technology.
Combined with a layer of mail and gambeson, a Knight would be sufficiently protected in combat.
Accounts and modern tests on plate armor showed that a longbow would have a hard time penetrating this type of armor.
Especially with the layer of mail and gambeson underneath. Though, it weighed up to 27 and 36 kilograms respectively.
When we first look at the armor set, we might think that mobility is very limited. However, Knights could actually still move effectively.
Plate armor despite its weight allowed Knights to move their limbs. They designed the Knight armor so one could swing and maneuver on foot or horseback.
Parts of Knight Armor
To protect its wearer, a knight armor was fitted to the body at vulnerable areas. The parts of Knight Armor are the helmet, gorget, pauldrons, breastplate, gauntlets, vambraces, tassets, faulds, cuisses, greaves, and sabatons.
Armor for the Head, Neck, and Shoulders
The helmet of a knight protected his head from attacks. Helmets across nations and kingdoms had different designs. Helmets could be a single piece with openings or holes to allow better vision and be breathable.
Others had a visor that could be raised or lowered. With that, the wearer could breathe and see better while still having protection.
The gorget protected a knights neck. It was made out of two metal pieces that overlapped and are hinged together to allow movement.
The pauldrons were metal plates that protected the knights shoulders. These consisted of several plates attached in layers, which made the pauldrons flexible and allowed free shoulder movement.
Armor for the Torso and Arms
The breastplate was a single large plate that protected the torso of a knight. It has curves to add strength to the armor and to allow weapons to slide off when it gets hit.
Gauntlets protected the wrist and hands of the wearer. They made them out of multiple smaller plates that were hinged together. It allows a Knight to swing his weapon and grasp objects.
Vambraces is the term for the armor worn on the forearms. Much like the breastplate, these had grooves and curves to better protect the wearer.
While faulds, located near the bottom of the breastplate, protect the waist and hips of the wearer. These were constructed with lames of metal plates that overlapped and formed a skirt shape.
Armor for the Legs and Feet
Tassets were plates that hung at the end of the Faulds and protect the wearer’s upper thighs. Tassets could be made out of multiple connected plates or just one large plate.
Other parts include the cuisses which are plates of armor that protect the thighs. Greaves were pieces of armor that protect the wearer’s legs. Lastly, sabatons were shoes made of metal plates that covered the wearer’s feet.
Are Knight Armors Invincible?
A well-made armor, mail or plate, was very effective in stopping attacks. It may seem that fighting would be pointless if the armor was this good.
Yet this is not the case. Swords werent the only weapons used in battle.
There were a variety of options when it came to weaponry such as lances, spears, axes, war hammers, and polearms. Certain techniques were also developed to counter the widespread use of plate armor.
When using a sword a Knight could target the small openings in the enemys armor. Areas such as the armpit, elbows, and face are vulnerable. Sometimes, knights would get close enough to lift an opponents visor to stab them in the face.
Blunt force weapons such as maces and hammers were also very effective in killing. A knight could swing a mace hard enough to fracture a skull without damaging a helmet.
Another weapon was the lance. When leading a charge, a lance carried the energy of both the knight and his horse. This amount of energy was more than enough to crush any armor as well as the bones of its wearer.
Other troops could also fight armored knights with arrows fired from bows and crossbows. Accounts of battle stated that French Knights would bow or stoop down to prevent arrows from going through openings in their helmets.
Troops would also target the horses instead. When a horse gets injured or killed, it could throw off the rider or even pin him under its weight. A knight thrown off balance is vulnerable because of the weight of his armor.
The knights were some of historys most iconic fighters and were formidable in battle. With good training, weaponry, and excellent armor, a knight wasn’t easy to defeat.