Forged for Battle: A Comprehensive Guide to the Weapons of Medieval Knights
Medieval knights were famous for their weapons, and for good reason. These weapons were often finely crafted, designed for specific purposes, and used with deadly accuracy.
From swords to crossbows, knights had a wide variety of weapons at their disposal, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
“The knight’s weaponry was a reflection of his social status and wealth. The more resources a knight had at his disposal, the more elaborate and expensive his weapons would be.”
Kelly DeVries is a historian and professor of medieval history at Loyola University Maryland.
Here are some of the most common weapons knights used in combat, and the circumstances in which they would use them.
Swords were the most iconic weapon of the knight, and for good reason. They were versatile, deadly, and elegant. Knights used swords in a variety of circumstances, from close combat to charging into battle on horseback.
Swords could be used to slash, stab, or bludgeon, depending on the situation. They were often the weapon of choice for knights in one-on-one combat, as they allowed for quick, precise strikes.
The lance was another weapon that was closely associated with knights. It was a long, spear-like weapon that was designed for use on horseback. Knights would charge at their opponents with their lances, aiming to knock them off their horses or impale them with the weapon. Lances were used in open battles and jousts, but were not as effective in close combat or sieges.
“The lance was the quintessential weapon of the medieval knight. It was the preferred weapon for mounted combat, and its long reach made it ideal for charging at the enemy.” – David Nicolle
David Nicolle is a British historian and author who specializes in medieval military history, particularly the history of the Middle East and the Crusades.
Polaxe weapons, also known as polearms, were a family of weapons that included the halberd, the glaive, and the poleaxe. These weapons were designed for use by foot soldiers, but knights also used them on occasion.
They were versatile weapons that could be used to stab, slash, or hook an opponent. Knights would use polaxe weapons in situations where they needed to be able to fight both on foot and on horseback.
War hammers were heavy weapons that were designed to crush armor and bones. They were often used by knights in battles against heavily armored opponents, as they were effective at penetrating even the thickest armor. War hammers were also used in sieges, where they could be used to smash through castle walls or gates.
Flail weapons were another type of weapon that was used by knights in battles and sieges. They consisted of a long chain with a heavy ball or spiked ball at the end. Flails were difficult to use, as they required a lot of skill and strength to wield effectively. However, they were deadly weapons that could be used to disarm opponents or knock them to the ground.
While swords were the most common close combat weapon for knights, daggers were also used on occasion. They were small, lightweight weapons that could be used to stab an opponent in close quarters. Knights would often carry a dagger as a backup weapon, in case their sword was lost or damaged in combat.
Crossbows were ranged weapons that were used by knights in a variety of situations. They were particularly effective in sieges, where they could be used to attack castle walls or defend castle gates. Knights would also use crossbows in battles, particularly when they were defending a position or attacking from a distance.
“Knights also made use of a variety of ranged weapons, such as bows and crossbows. These weapons allowed them to strike at the enemy from a distance, before engaging in close combat.”
John France is a British historian and professor emeritus of medieval history at Swansea University in Wales.
The mace was a popular weapon among medieval knights, particularly during the 14th and 15th centuries. It was a simple but effective weapon, consisting of a heavy metal head mounted on a wooden or metal shaft.
The head of the mace was typically made of steel and was often studded with sharp points or spikes to increase its effectiveness against armor. Unlike swords or other bladed weapons, the mace was designed to crush or puncture armor rather than cut through it.
“The mace was a brutal and effective weapon, capable of crushing an opponent’s skull or shattering his armor. It was a popular weapon among knights, particularly during the later medieval period.”
Tobias Capwell is a British historian and curator at the Wallace Collection in London, where he specializes in the history of arms and armor.
The mace was also effective against opponents on horseback, as a skilled wielder could use it to knock a rider off their mount. Despite its effectiveness as a weapon, the mace eventually fell out of use in the late Middle Ages as advances in armor and weapons technology made it less effective against newer forms of armor.
Knights had a wide variety of weapons at their disposal, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Swords were the most common weapon, but knights also used other weapons such as lances, polearms, war hammers, flail weapons, daggers, and crossbows.
Each weapon was designed for specific situations, from close combat to sieges, and knights were trained to use them all effectively. Understanding the arsenal of a knight is key to understanding their tactics and strategy in battle.
Five Great Books about the Weapons of a Medieval Knight
“Arms and Armor of the Medieval Knight An Illustrated History of Weaponry in the Middle Ages” by David Edge and John Miles Paddock This book provides a comprehensive overview of the weapons used by knights during the medieval period. It includes detailed descriptions and illustrations of swords, lances, maces, and other weapons.
“The Knight and the Blast Furnace: A History of the Metallurgy of Armour in the Middle Ages & the Early Modern Period” by Alan Williams This book focuses on the technology behind the production of armor and weapons during the medieval period. It explores how armor was made, the materials used, and the evolution of armor technology over time.
“The Medieval Knight: Weapons and Armor, from the 9th to the 15th Century” by Ewart Oakeshott This book is a classic reference on the weapons and armor of medieval knights. It includes detailed descriptions and illustrations of swords, shields, helmets, and other equipment.
“The Art of Swordsmanship by Hans Lecküchner: A Medieval Combat Manual” translated and edited by Jeffrey L. Forgeng This book is a translation of a medieval combat manual written by Hans Lecküchner in the 15th century. It provides detailed instructions on the use of various weapons, including the sword, dagger, and polearm.
“Medieval Combat A Fifteenth-Century Illustrated Manual of Swordfighting and Close-Quarter Combat” by Hans Talhoffer
This book is a translation of a medieval combat manual written by Hans Talhoffer in the 15th century. It includes detailed illustrations of various weapons and techniques used in medieval combat, including swords, daggers, and grappling.
Here Are Some of the Most Popular Swords Used by Medieval Knights
Longsword: The longsword was a versatile weapon that could be used for both slashing and thrusting. It typically had a blade that was around 36 inches long and a handle that could accommodate two hands.
Arming Sword: The arming sword was a single-handed sword that was used by knights as a backup weapon or for close-quarters combat. It typically had a blade that was around 30 inches long.
Claymore: The claymore was a two-handed sword that was used by Scottish knights. It typically had a blade that was over 50 inches long and was designed for powerful, sweeping attacks.
Falchion: The falchion was a short, curved sword that was used by knights as a hacking weapon. It typically had a blade that was around 18-24 inches long and was designed for chopping through armor.
Broadsword: The broadsword was a versatile sword that was used by knights for both cutting and thrusting. It typically had a blade that was around 32 inches long and was used in one-handed or two-handed combat.
Scimitar: The scimitar was a curved sword that was used by knights in the Middle East. It typically had a blade that was around 30 inches long and was designed for slashing attacks.
Estoc: The estoc was a thrusting sword that was designed to penetrate armor. It typically had a narrow, triangular blade that was around 36 inches long and was used in one-handed or two-handed combat.
Here Are Some of the Most Popular Poleaxe Weapons Used by Medieval Knights
Bardiche: The bardiche was a type of poleaxe with a large, cleaver-like blade. It was designed for hacking through armor and was particularly effective against infantry.
Polehammer: The polehammer was a type of poleaxe with a hammerhead on one end and a spike on the other. It was designed for penetrating armor and was particularly effective against cavalry.
Glaive: The glaive was a type of poleaxe with a curved blade that resembled a large knife. It was designed for slashing and cutting, and was particularly effective against unarmored opponents.
Bec de Corbin: The bec de corbin was a type of poleaxe with a spike on one end and a hammerhead on the other. It was designed for penetrating armor and for delivering crushing blows.
Voulge: The voulge was a type of poleaxe with a curved blade that resembled a large scythe. It was designed for sweeping attacks and was particularly effective against infantry.
Halberd: The halberd was a type of poleaxe with a pointed blade on one end and an axe blade on the other. It was designed for thrusting, cutting, and hooking, and was particularly effective against both cavalry and infantry.
Billhook: The billhook was a type of poleaxe with a curved blade that resembled a large sickle. It was designed for cutting and hooking, and was particularly effective against unarmored opponents.
Here Are Some of the Most Popular Flail Weapons Used by Medieval Knights
Flail weapons were not actually very popular among medieval knights. They were more commonly used by peasant soldiers or infantry. However, here are some examples of flail weapons that were used by medieval knights:
Ball-and-Chain Flail: This type of flail consisted of a wooden handle attached to a chain, which in turn was attached to a metal ball. The weapon was designed for delivering crushing blows to armor.
Three-Section Flail: This type of flail consisted of three wooden or metal sections that were connected by chains. It was designed for wrapping around an opponent’s shield or armor and delivering devastating blows.
Spiked Flail: This type of flail consisted of a wooden handle attached to a chain, which in turn was attached to a metal ball with spikes. It was designed for penetrating armor and delivering deadly blows.
Horseman’s Flail: This type of flail consisted of a wooden handle with a metal ball on one end and a shorter handle on the other end. It was designed for use by cavalry, as the shorter handle allowed the knight to wield the weapon more easily while riding a horse.
Chain Flail: This type of flail consisted of a wooden handle attached to a chain, which in turn was attached to a metal weight. It was designed for delivering crushing blows to armor and was particularly effective against heavily armored opponents.
It’s worth noting that flail weapons were not as commonly used by knights as other weapons such as swords, spears, and poleaxes. They were generally considered less effective and less practical for use in battle.