A typical Norman army during the 11th century comprised of two components, namely cavalry and infantry. Of these, the cavalrymen were mounted warriors hailing from noble Norman families while the infantrymen had more common or mercenary origins.
The Norman cavalrymen usually wore a thorough armour which proved vital in helping them ward off attacks from a multitude of weapons. The infantrymen, in contrast, wore little to no armour during a battle. Since the use of armour for a cavalryman also meant greater weight to be carried, the armour was donned only just ahead of the battle.
Norman mounted warriors wore a mail shirt which fell to their knees. The shirt came with suitable cuts to help the warriors mount and unmount their horses with ease. The mail shirt, called hauberk, was quite effective on the battlefield, especially when complemented with other types of armour.
The Normans would also wore a coif, or the extended portion of a mail shirt covering the head as well. Apart from this, the Norman warriors used armour pieces made from mail to protect their arms and legs during combat.
A vital part of a Norman warrior’s battlefield armour was the steel helm that he wore on his head. The Norman helm was conical in shape. It could be one of the two types in terms of its manufacture. One type of Norman helm comprised of a one-piece construction which was harder and more expensive but also proved to be far sturdier on the battlefield.
The other type of Norman helm was made from many metal pieces joined together into a steel framework. This type of helm was comparatively inexpensive but somewhat less solid than the one-piece counterpart. The shape of the Norman helm was conical and it extended onto the nose of the wearer to offer some protection to the face as well. The helms of the Norman nobility or princes typically had jewels encrusted on the nasal extension.
The Shield was a vital part of the Norman defensive armour during direct combat. The shield provided Norman warriors with a good defence when wielding a weapon with the other hand. The shape of the Norman shields was typically like a kite. This shape replaced the round-shaped shield which was common among the Norman towards the end of the 10th century. The kite-shaped shield was made from wood and often covered with leather which, in turn, was painted in different patterns.
Normans were primarily a cavalry force with mounted Norman warriors playing decisive role in most battles fought by them. The use of armour by the cavalrymen was vital but it also quickly wore down a soldier since the armour came with its immense weight. Consequently, Normans had the practice of marching their army so that the warriors didn’t wear their armour.
Only when nearing the enemy lines, the Normans would briefly stop and put on their armour as part of their battlefield preparation. As a result, if a Norman force came under ambush, it ran the risk of sustaining significant damages.