Armour Choices & Combat Examples
By: Craig


In some of the previous discussions on armor and combat I mentioned some sources that most did not seem to have access to so I thought I would dig up some of my notes and put the info out for others to use. The source I am quoting from here is an article in The Archaeological Journal Vol. LXI, titled Barriers and Foot Combats, by Viscount Dillon, F.S.A.

The excerpts I have pulled deal with two topic areas that have come up on the list a couple of times. One being the individual choices a combatant made about how much and what type of armor to wear and two the style and particulars of armored knightly combat. Several of the examples are concerned with the deeds of one Jacques Lalain a noted fighter of great renown and chronicled by Chastelain's Chronique de Jacques de Lalain. composed between 1468 and 1474 and published in 1638.

1) a. "The first encounter on foot at this Pas, 11th July, 1443, was between Charny and Pietre Vasque de Saavedra, who elected for axes. The usual proclamation was made against talking, coughing, or otherwise giving signals to aid either party. ... Saavedra had taken off his visor so that he could put his head out of his bascinet as out of a window. Charny had his bascinet with the visor closed, but when he saw Saavedra, he put the visor back over his bascinet so as to have the face uncovered."

b. "Vaudrey came into the lists with the visor of his bascinet raised. Compays had his closed, but when he saw his opponent, would have raised it, but Vaudrey for the same reason had lowered his visor. However in spite of their efforts neither were able to raise them so they fought with closed visors."

c. 1446" The Duke(of Burgundy) kissing Lalain on the mouth ( I can't resist- Oh the days of Knights of yore) knocked his face against the newly made knight's visor. Lalain then changed his head-piece for one with a half visor so that he had his nose and the upper part of his face exposed."

d. 1446 " Lalain's head-piece was a small salade de guerre toute ronde leaving his face and neck unprotected. Thomas wore a bascinet with the visor well closed."

e. 1446 " Bernard's bec de faucon had the lower spike long and slender so that it could pass through the breathing holes of a visor and wound the face. Haubourdin, when he saw this, said he would not trouble his opponent to pierce his visor, and took it off so that his face was bare."

f. 1449 " Chandios wore a bascinet with closed visor, and Lalain had a small round salade with a small hausse-col of mail."

g. "On Saturday, 25th January, 1450, Lalain again met Boniface for a foot combat. Boniface on this occasion wore an Italian armet with a large plume of black feathers while Lalain, as in his combat with Chandios, had a salade and hausse-col. After a short struggle Lalain caught Boniface's plume in his right hand, and stepping back with great force pulled his adversary down onto the ground, so ending the fight. Chastelian, Chapter LXVII, says that Boniface wore a bascinet around which were spikes 2 inches long and above all a small plume."

h. "Before the beginning the fight Espriy, who was short-sighted, took off and cast away the visor of his salade."

i. "He wore a visored salade and a mail gorget, his face being bare. Lalain was armed as usual, but without any gauntlet on his right hand."

j. "...Lalain appeared , armed as usual, but without any armour on his right thigh or leg, and this he said he did to be more at his ease should his opponent close with him."

I put forth these examples to indicate the individualistic nature of armored combat each fighter would have had a comfort level with a particular type of armor and adjust it for the situations encountered most of the examples above are in the context of an ax fight. Lalain even put on a visor for the estoc fight described.

The second point I wanted to provide some insight on was the conditions and results of armored combat in the list. Below are the rules set forth for armored combat for a Pas in July of 1446 sponsored by Jacques de Lalain. The rules for each tournament would have been slightly different but most conform to this sample.

    "... 2. Each can have lances, or swords for casting, and immediately after the cast, the fight to be with axes, swords, and daggers, as usually worn in the lists, until one or other falls, with his hand , or knee, or whole body to the ground, or surrenders, and he to whom God gives the victory to receive from the beaten one the sword he has used in the combat.

    3. Whoever accepts the challenge, to appear within a month or six weeks after touching the emprise, before the Duke of Burgundy.

    4. If I am borne to the ground, I shall give to a lady named by my conqueror a diamond, value 600 crowns.

    5. If I overcome my opponent, he shall send his gauntlet with an account of my success, to anyone I choose.

    6. Whoever loses his axe first, shall give the other a diamond.

    7. The armour to be worn in the lists, such as seems good to us, but no crouchet, or malengin or anything forbidden by Holy Mother Church.

    8. That, the foot contest finished, if my opponent so desire, I shall the third day after, unless incapacitated, ride as many courses with him as he may require...."

Combats in the list were regulated by the number of strokes allowed for each weapon type. This was usually the same for each weapon but it was not unheard of to have different numbers et for each weapon type carried. The fights would normally start by throwing lances or specially designed swords at each other from a distance. This was called casting often if shields were carried these were then thrown at each other and then the opponents would close and fight with hand weapons.

Here are some examples.

    "...a triple fight between the Frenchman Grignaulx, Songnacq and la Rocque, on one side, and Contigno, Mallefaye, and Rumaindres on the other. Rumaindres, who was the stronger of the six, pressed Rocque with his axe so closely that the latter stepped back suddenly, in consequence of which the Portuguese fell on one knee, upon which la Rocque knocked him down altogether. Without waiting for the Portuguese to surrender, Rocque went off to help Songnacq, and the two fell on Mallefaye, who forwith surrendered. The two Frenchmen then went to the assistance of Grignaulx, who was fighting Contigno, and a smart stroke from Songnacq brought him to ground. When asked as to whom he surrendered Contigno said, "to all three", and, indeed, spite his bad luck, he acquired much credit that day as the best man of the six."

    “Compays held his estoc left hand in front of the right, not turned down, the left hand being armed and covered by the roundel. To get a good place in the lists he ran forward and gave the first blow which was on Vaudrey’s roundel, who answered with a thrust at Compay’s bascinet. Well, to be brief, they were a stout pair, and the fifteen pushes and more were given without gain or loss to either. But their armours were, both of them, much bruised and torn. At the end Vaudrey stuck his estoc in the visor of Compays, who promptly threw his estoc with all his force so that it stuck in Vaudrey’s visor. When they raised their estocs and with them each other’s visor, the judge cast down his baton, and the fight was stopped. though each combatant offered to continue” This illustrates another point on combat in the list that the Marshall judged when the fight had reached an end point were each combatant had acquitted himself well. In almost every case the fighters suggest they be allowed to continue but the Marshall says all has been accomplished that either would need to be shown a valiant contestant.

    “Lalain’s fight at Valladoliad with Diego de Guzman ...When the two closed they gave each other such stout blows that they made the sparks fly from their well- steeled armour. Lalain with his face bare as usual, struck at Guzman’s visor which was closed, and with such affect as to wound him three times in the face with la point de sa hache d’en bas. Presently Diego lost his axe owing to a shaking Lalain gave him and he then rushed at Lalain to carry out an intention he had some two months previously expressed, namely, to lift Lalain clean out of the lists. However, the Burgundian was ready for him, and with his left fist kept him off, while dropping his axe he prepared to draw his sword. At this point the King stopped the fight.”

    “Lalain got his wrist badly cut with the sharp and cutting spike, and had to put his axe under his left arm like a spinner would her distaff, and with his right hand he held the axe to parry the Englishman’s blows. After a struggle the Englishman, who was heavily armed, made a rush at Lalain, who drew back so that Thomas fell flat on the ground. Though he declared that he only came down on his knees and elbows, the Duke decided that the arms had been duly accomplished and so the fight ended.”

These are just a few examples from this article and it would be a great source to look up next time you are in a large library. These combats could get quite extensive with several of the challengers calling for many blows per weapon in several cases as many as 50 to 70. I doubt that the fight would be allowed to go on for that long as it seems to me that the Marshall was not only charged with stopping the fight when both combatants had shown their metal but also as an unspoken arbiter to keep anyone from being totally humiliated in the list.

Let me know if anyone has questions on the above material or needs a clarification or thinks any of this raises an interesting issue.