Medieval plate armour got it’s name from the sheets or plates of metal that were used to make up the armour. The first type of plate armour was breastplate armour. Early armour used materials with sheets of metal sewn into it.
Full plate armour didn’t emerge as “full suit” of armour worn by the typical knight until the 14th century. Plate armour was the main protection of the medieval knight.
Late medieval Armour was made from excellent quality steel due to improved production techniques. Late medieval armour had a shine to it and was actually called “white armour”.
Plate Armour A to Z List
Backplate (Back Plate Armour)
Metal Plate in either 1, 2 or 3 pieces that protected the back – Found in early and late medieval times
Bard – (Horse Plate Armour)
Term used for plate armour but mainly used to describe horse armour. The Bard protected the breast and flanks area. The one piece covering for a horse was called “trappers”. Early materials used were quilted cloth and leather. In the 12th century Iron was also used. By the 13th century cuir bouilli was used, full metal plate was used later. A “Chanfron” was the name for armour that covered the head of a horse.
Besagew (Plate Shoulder Armour)
Round Disc type plates worn on shoulders area, They had a decorative purpose and strengthened weak spots in armour and covered gaps. Besagew parts were fastened with straps around the elbow and front of shoulder. Besagews were worn by knights.
Bevor – (Chin and Neck Plate Armour)
Plate armour for the neck and chin, also known as a gorget, popular around the 13th century used by knights as plate armour, later bevors could have padding underneath for comfort and could go so low as to protect parts of the chest.
Breastplate (Chest Plate Armour)
Important plate armour to protect the chest. Early breastplates were made of bronze or leather. From around 13th century coats of plate were fitted to leather. from around 14th century full plate armour was introduced. Plate armour could be single piece or several pieces joined together.
Sometimes lower level troops such as the Swiss infantry wore the breast plate with a helmet as good protection, and it was not as costly or restrictive as full plate armour.
Brigandine – (Body Armour)
Leather, linen or similar piece of body armour that had metal plates or rings incorporated into the design and could be worn alone or with plate armour parts.
The Brigandine was flexible armour. worn on the body by infantry such as archers. Also worn by nobles. The Origins of this armour stems from 14th century Italy and from Brigantina early forms found in Russia. This armour was more commonly worn and popular around the 15th century.
Chausses (Leg Mail and Plate Armour)
Leg amour was popularised during the latter medieval periods and was worn by the typical medieval knight. Leg armour was worn with full body plate armour. Mail type Chausses were worn in earlier medieval times and metal plate Chausses later, both the Muslims and Christians wore Chausses in medieval Spain.
Cuirass (Upper Body Plate Armour)
The Cuirass covered all of the upper body, usually in two sections. Front and back plate of armour was worn. The back and front plates were held together with laces, buckles or similar. The Cuirass could be made from hardened leather as was common in ancient times or metal plate that was common in later medieval times. The Cuirass was often worn under a surcoat or over a Hauberk.
Cuisses (Upper leg Armour – Leather, Scale or Metal Plate)
Cuisses armour protected the upper leg and was made from differant materials such as leather, overlapping scales or plate, it is probable that leather was more common in ancient and early medieval times.
Metal plate Cuisses were popular in the 14th Century. In the 15th Century overlapping lames or scales advanced the Cuisses by making them more flexible. The people who made Cuisses were called Kissers.
Espaliers (Shoulder Plate Armour)
Espaliers could be a single plate or several overlapping plates that protected the shoulders, whalebone was sometimes used instead of plate for tournament use. Espaliers types were called Spaulders in England. Espaliers were popular around the 13th and 14th Centuries in medieval times.
Gaunlets (Arm, wrist and hand Armour – Leather, Plate and Fabric)
A Gaunlet was an amoured glove that could be made from leather, plate and fabric, they were most commonly leather or fabric with with a overlay of plates. Gaunlets were quite sophisticated pieces of armour and tiny pieces of plate were needed for the hands and fingers respectively.
Gorget (Neck Plate Armour)
The Gorget name comes from the French word “Gorge”, which means for the throat or neck. As the name suggests the Gorget was a piece of plate armour that protected the neck area and covered the gap between the armour of a medieval knights breastplate and helmet.
The Gorget came in two sections, front and back pieces covering the neck areas which were joined together to protect both the front and back of the neck.
Greaves (Lower Leg Plate Armour)
Greaves also known as Jambs were plate armour for the lower leg that have some similarity to shin pads worn by modern day footballers. Medieval Knights wore Greaves around the 13th Century, although they did not get the name until the 14th century.
Greaves could be designed in one or two pieces to protect the back and front of the lower legs and were tied or buckled together. Greaves could also be designed to fit over the instep or ankles of a medieval knight.
The Lance rest was a hook like attachment added to the breastplate of medieval knights armour. The lance rest made it easier for medieval knights to hold a lance, the lance had increased in weight due to changes in it’s design as the medieval period progressed and had become harder to hold for medieval knights. The Lance rest was first introduced around the 13th Century and became more common in the 15th century.
Pauldron (Shoulder Plate Armour)
The Pauldron protected the shoulders of the medieval knight, it was made up of overlapping lames which provided greater flexibility. The Name “Pauldron” has French origins and it was around in the 14th century as a separate piece of armour, gaining popularity in the 15th century.
Poleyns (Knee Plate Armour)
Poleyns were metal armour parts that protected the knees usually made from iron, historians debate whether early Poleyns existed that were made from leather, cuir bouilli or even Iron. Poleyns are shown in 13th century illustrations. In the 13th century large Poleyns were popular. In the 14th century smaller Poleyns rose in popularity.
Sabatons (Foot Plate Armour)
Sabatons offered protection for the medieval knights feet and were introduced around the 14th century. Some Sabatons such as the 15th century German designs were pointed which made them very distinctive. Medieval late Flemish shoes were also described as being Sabatons.
Spurs were made from metal and were a spike or wheel. The prick spur or single spike spur was used commonly in the middle ages. The Spur which was attached to the heels of medieval cavalry soldiers was used to “spur on the horse” to get it moving faster. The Rowek Spur was popular in the 13th and 14th century.
Tassets (Body Plate Armour)
Tassets could also be called Taces. Historians describe them as being like a “lobster tail”. Also described as a “skirt of armour”. Popular in the 15th century.
Vambrance (Forearm Plate Armour)
The Vambrace offered protected to the Forearm of a medieval knight. Also worn by archers for wrist protection. First appeared in the 14th century, but also has been depicted in illustrations from the 9th century. Vambrace plates were strapped into position. The Germans designed Vambraces with flutes in many fancy designs.