Plate Armour

Only well protected Knights would survive in the brutal medieval battles that involved swords, arrows and other brutal medieval weapons. A knight in medieval times would not last long in battle without any plate armour due to the advancement in weaponary that was made in later medieval periods, in this respect there was no option but to advance to full plate armour in battle situations especially in the later medieval periods, without full plate armour knights would be quickly killed by Crossbowmen, Longbowmen and Footsoldiers.

Medieval Plate Armour and Chainmail

  • Early Medieval armour was basically chainmail that was made out of small interlocking rings of iron that were made by a Medieval armourer.
  • The Hauberk was a commonly worn chainmail shirt that went all the way down to the knees in earlier medieval times, however as the medieval period advanced more protection was needed and around the 12th century the sleeves were made longer and chainmail or leather leggings were also added.
  • Most early Knights also carried wooden shields which were made out of metal in later years and basic battle helmets were worn that usually had a piece of metal protecting the nose.
  • As the medieval period progressed great strides were made in medieval weaponry and this early chainmail and leather armour was unable to cope with the superior weapons, there was a need for an improvement in medieval armour and from around the 14th century steel plates were added to the chainmail for additional protection.
Full Suit of Plate Armour

A full suit of knights plate armour, advanced armour for a knight.

Medieval Plate Armour

In response to this steel plates were added around the 14th century and move was made to full plate armour in the 15th century which led to the iconic and instantly recognisable cult figures of Medieval Knights.

Full Medieval Plate Armour

At the end of the Middle Ages Medieval Knights were wearing full plate armour suits which were made from overlapping steel plates, these protected Medieval Knights attack from most medieval weapons, there were vulnerable parts as there were gaps in Medieval armour that a sword could be thrust into, so even full plate armour was not perfect but it did make medieval knights formidable fighting weapons, indeed it is thought that a mediaeval Knight wearing full plate armour was the equivalent of a medieval tank.

Wearing full Medieval Plate Armour

A medieval Knight would need help putting on his plate armour and this would be time consuming so a knight had to be prepared well before the start of a battle, the armour also had to be put on an in sequence so that the knight was properly protected. When the plate armour was put on it was surprisingly easy to move around in and medieval knights could actually run or mount a horse unaided. Medieval armour was also surprisingly comfortable and padded garments would be worn underneath for extra comfort. The joints at the arms and legs of full plate army were designed to be flexible allowing for a reasonable amount of movement

How was Full Plate Armour made

skilled craftsmen made plate armour and knights would choose different parts of medieval plate armour that fitted together well and fitted their particular build. Very wealthy Knights could select high quality armour that was specially made for them, and there was also a demand for fashionable plate armour. Wealthy Knights could also have highly decorated and engraved plate armour and it would also be a good decision to make the design of the helmet look as fearsome as possible. There were many options available during the mediaeval period for plate armour as long as you had the money available.

Medieval Plate Armour parts

The Cruisse

This was a part of plate armour that protected the thigh area, there was also an obvious need to create armour for the bend in the knee and a guard or poleyn was added to the Cruisse that allowed flexibility in this area.

The Gaunlet

This plate armour part was designed to protect the hand as it was one of the most vulnerable parts of a knights body, however knights needed flexibility in finger joints to be able to grasp their heavy weapons, therefore six or seven tiny plates covered the finger and were added to the Gaunlet and multiple plates were also added around the wrist area to allow good movement of the wrists.

The Sabaton

The foot was also very vulnerable part of a knights body as medieval weapons could easily crush the fragile bones of the Foot. The Sabaton was made using a series of multiple plates joined together that offered some flexibility in the foot area whilst also protecting it completely. Sabatons were basically metal shoes and usually ended in a point, again there was some fashion element to the designs and wealthy medieval knights would customise the design to keep up with the late

Arm and Shoulder Plate Armour

Detailed image of a German knights shoulder and arm plate armour

Medieval Knights Armour & Helmets

There were various types of helmet worn with full plate armour as there would be no point wearing full plate armour without protecting the head. The design of Medieval helmets improved as the medieval period progress and later in the medieval period most helmets protected the head and neck. Some helmets had visors to protect the face that could also be lifted up to to allow the knight to be able to breathe more easily and for better vision, they would usually always be down in the midst of battle.

Bascinet helmets became popular in the mid-14th century, these are the instantly recognisable knights helmets that looked like the muzzle of a dog with small holes in, there was also one called the houndskull which was a type of Bascinet helmet which had a pointed visor. This helmet was replaced by the lighter sallet helmet around the 1440s.

The sallet helmet had a brim section that covered the back of the neck and joined with the top of the back plate armour, this protected the head and the back of the neck from blows to the neck and head.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Full Plate Armour

Although full plate armour had flexible joints that made it easier to move than you would expect, they still restricted movement and were relatively heavy during a fight, they could also get incredibly hot inside especially on a warm day, in the middle of a ferocious battle the person inside the full plate armour suit would get very hot and breathing would be difficult.

When fighting with a helmet like the bascinet with it’s visor down visibility would be limited as there was only a very narrow slit across the helmet to protect the eyes. There was also other disadvantages to full plate armour, however these were outweighed by the benefits.

Plate Armour Facts:

  • Medieval Plate Armour replaced chainmail as new weapons were able to penetrate existing chainmail
  • Chainmail was difficult to make and it was expensive and time-consuming often worn with Plate Armour
  • Several thousand iron rings had to be linked together to make a Hauberk
  • A Hauberk was basically a chainmail suit worn with or without Plate Armour
  • In the 12th century Medieval Plate Armour started to be added to chainmail armour for knights
  • An armourer made Plate Armour & chainmail in early medieval times
  • Plate armour was required because of the advancement made in Medieval weapons
  • Plate armour was a lot more comfortable than it looked
  • A suit of Plate Armour could weigh anything up to 25 kg
  • Knights would need help dressing in full Plate Armour
  • Plate Armour became more common in the 14th century
  • In the 15th century most knights wore full Plate Armour
  • Only wealthy Knights could afford customised Plate Armour with fancy engraving and designs
  • 15th century Plate Armour became a symbol of wealth and standing in society
  • Plate armour was sometimes designed with gold plating and elaborately engraved
  • Cruisse Plate Armour protected the thigh region
  • Gaunlets protected the hand especially the fingers in battle
  • The Sabaton was basically a metal shoe made of plates that was made towards the end of the 14th century
  • Bascinet helmets with long visors were popular in the 14th century with knights
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