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Knights in Armour

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309506.  Wed Apr 02, 2008 8:01 pm Reply with quote

In days of old, when knights were bold ... how did they get onto their horses?

F: by crane

A: the same way everybody else does

There is not a single piece of contemporary evidence for the lifting of knights into their saddles by crane and it doesn't occur in literature until 19th century chivalric romances - being popularized in Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. However there is plenty of evidence that highly trained knights could happily get about in full armour - which weighed around 60 lbs (compare that to modern commando kit of around 150 lbs). The Constable of France, Bertrand du Guesclin, was noted for leaping onto his horse and climbing rope ladders while fully clothed in his armour.

It is true that later jousting armour was heavier and great helms were fairly immovable (to prevent a glancing blow creating a rotational moment that would break the wearer's neck) but the armour itself was still flexible. In most jousts knights knocked off their horses were expected to get up and fight on foot. I'd agree that some of the very heavy armour might have prevented a knight from leaping onto his horse from the ground but the answer was very simple - a mounting block just like those used until well into the 19th century, some of which you can still see in the yards of old coaching inns.

(Frederick the Monk, private correspondence, author's own collection)

My recollection is that this myth is propagated in the Laurence Olivier Henry V film (released in 1944), though evidently not for the first time.

309507.  Wed Apr 02, 2008 8:11 pm Reply with quote


Another myth concerning medieval knights is that they were shorter than modern men (because less well-nourished). Exhumed bones have established that this isn't true - they were around the same size as we are. The myth can be attributed in part to the way suits of armour are sometimes mounted in museum displays, with the top section resting directly on the leg section.

Yet a third misconception is that armour became useless because of the development of firearms:
It is often said that the advent of firearms resulted in its decline, but research has shown that longbows were just as effective as muskets in penetrating armour protection. Whatever the reason, armour certainly became thicker, heavier and more cumbersome, so that by the time of the English Civil War the trend was for the use of helmets and breastplates and not full plate armour. The leather coat was found to be just as effective against cutting weapons and easier to move in.

309584.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 4:27 am Reply with quote

I've a few small bits on this, if we decide to go with it.

309792.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 7:26 am Reply with quote

Bring 'em on, then - not to pre-judge the meeting, but this looks like a strong contender to me.


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