Norman Shields

Normans were descendants of Vikings who had settled in northern France during the 10th century. The area they resided in eventually came to be called Normandy.

Normans in Normandy Flag of Normandy

Norman Flag

Being formidable warriors, the Normans were ranging out of France and into southern Italy, Sicily, North Africa, the British Isles and the Byzantine Empire by the 11th century.

Norman Conquest Europe Medieval Times Bayeux Tapestry

Initially serving as mercenaries for many contemporary European kingdoms and Empires, they went on to forge a number of their own kingdoms.

Norman Clothing

Norman Nobility

In doing this, the Norman culture of warfare and their military innovations played a key role. Notable among these innovations was a kite-like shield that came to be identified with the Normans and was popularised by them throughout Western Europe.

Norman Knight in armor

Norman Knight Kite Shield

Round Shield

The round shield was the hallmark of the Vikings and being the descendants of the Vikings, Normans actively used such shields in their early warfare.

Unlike the kite shields which remained popular with Norman cavalry, round shields were more common with the Norman infantry troops.

viking warrior attacks

Norman round shields were typically made from wooden planks glued together so that they form a circular structure 30 to 40 inches in diameter.

Early Wooden Medieval Knights Shield

Round Wooden Shield

Most round shields had a rim around the perimeter, reinforcing their basic wood structure. Leather was also frequently used over the wood to make the shields more durable and less prone to damage.

On the exterior of the round shields, a cone shape iron boss was commonly used in Norman designs. Some round shields also carried iron braces but a flexible strap was more commonly used.

Viking Shield

Normans painted their round shields with different bright colours, often depicting the mythical Norse beasts on the shields.

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Kite Shield

The Kite shield was the most popular type of shield used by the Normans on the battlefield.

Norman Shields Infantry with Kite Shields This is directly attested by the famous Bayeux Tapestry where Norman soldiers are depicted wielding sizable kite shields.

The kite shield, as the name suggests, was often made in the shape of a kite or an almond, with a flat or tapered top respectively.

Normans Sheilds Bayeux Tapestry

Such a shield had many vital advantages compared to the more traditional circular shield. A key advantage of a kite shield was that it was long enough to cover the lower body of the knight as well, securing his body from shoulders to the calf from potential injuries.

Norman Knights

Norman Cavalry *Kite Shields

Although large in size, the shield was still light enough to be easily wielded by cavalrymen and was usually carried on the left arm as the cavalrymen carried their primary weapons on the right.

Norman Knight Kite Shield

Norman Foot-Soldier Holding a Kite Shield

Kite Shield Design

Normans were the first to popularise the use of kite shields and extant examples of such shields vividly depict the Norman design and aesthetic in the making of these shields.

For instance, some Norman kite shields carried a wavy “X” pattern, usually denoting that these belonged to the Huscarls, a specific class of the Norman society.

Kite Shield

Medieval Kite Shield of the Type used by Norman Knights

Other shields were painted with crosses, triangles in different colours as well as different mythical beasts. Portions of the Bayeux Tapestry also suggest that the Normans may have used smaller kite shields.

Norman Shields Infantry with Kite Shields

A key advantage of a kite shield was that it was long enough to cover the lower body of the knight as well, securing his body from shoulders to the calf from potential injuries.

Norman Shields Fast Facts

  • The Kite Shield was a notable innovation by the Normans, it was large and shaped similar to a Kite
  • The Norman infantry used round shields on the battlefield that were brightly colored and similar to Viking shields

Viking Shields

  • Norman soldiers also used round shields like the Vikings in earlier medieval times
  • The Kite Shield is the Shield most associated with Norman soldiers as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestries
  • An important advantage of the Kite shield is that it protected a good portion of a Norman soldier’s body

Normans Sheilds Bayeux Tapestry

  • Although a large size, Kite shields were surprisingly light and easy to wield
  • Norman shields were often painted with triangles and crosses in bright colors and mythical beasts.

The Normans Weaponry