Transition to Plate Shoulders..?

Moderator: Moderators

Post Reply
Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Sep 29, 2013 10:11 pm

Transition to Plate Shoulders..?

Post by Peveril »

Hi all,

This is my first post, so please forgive me if a similar question has been asked before, only I did search but couldn't find anything.

As a member of a late 13th Century group (representing the range from 1250 - 1300), I am trying to prove/disprove the existence of spaulders like these... ... tml#SID=43

Having scoured the internet, including images of effigies*, everything seem to go from full maille, to plate arms with roundels et al (effigies circa 1325), but surely there must have been some transition period when experiments with plate were occuring, which is turn led to the later version (like the arm armour on the effigy of William Fitzralph or John de Creke - as seen on MCS's link)..?

Just wondered what people's thoughts were..?

*I appreciate effigies are sometimes out, due to delays in carving or artistic impression of the carver, but all other sources I can find seem to go from nothing plate, to loads of plate, with not much in between.

Many thanks in advance,

User avatar
Post Centurion
Posts: 517
Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2006 1:10 pm
Location: North-East

Re: Transition to Plate Shoulders..?

Post by Biro »

For late 13th, I'd stay away. The vast, vast majority of images and effigies indicate mail only.

But in terms of transition, two things spring to mind.

The shoulder attachment on wisby coat of plates, and ailettes (which are debatable whether they were viewed as armour at all)

Other than that it's just starting to get a little to far out of my period (1250) for me to be much more help. It feels like more of an early 14th thing.

User avatar
Posts: 207
Joined: Mon Jul 18, 2005 8:40 am
Location: Cambridgeshire

Re: Transition to Plate Shoulders..?

Post by PaulMurphy »

The standard reference for this period is Arms and Armour of the Crusading Era, 1050-1350

This gathers together manuscript evidence, carvings, effigies and other sources, and is as good a reference as we can ever hope to get. The only reference to shoulder protection is the small plates attached to the top of the Visby coats, which project out over the shoulder and upper arm.

As Biro has said, the aillettes of the C14th are possibly intended to serve as a form of armour for this joint, but given that they were recorded as being made of thin wood, leather or even parchment, the defensive value of such an attachment is limited.

The development of spaulders post-dates 1350 at least. At a time when the plate additions to mail were limited to open "gutter" plates, such a complex articulated form is beyond the armouring techniques of this period, and probably only become possible once articulated elbow and knee joints have been developed and refined, so I'd put it close to or after 1360. The roundels added to cover vulnerable joints where the articulations would later fill in the gaps date from around 1320 at the earliest.

By the end of the C14th, spaulders are definitely in use, e.g. the tomb of Sir William Mainwaring, d1399, shows almost exactly the design you referenced from GDFB.

For the latter half of the C13th, it is mail over padding all the way. Early attempts at leather breastplates, coats of plate or plate-lined surcoats are possible, but the evidence for them is also limited.
Paul Murphy
Tournée & The Vikings

Posts: 45
Joined: Thu Jun 12, 2008 4:21 pm
Location: London

Re: Transition to Plate Shoulders..?

Post by Benedict »

*what Paul said*

You might also want to have a look at this ... lysis.html, which includes a very helpful database analysing the types of armour found 1300-1400, by decade (dated using the creation of the effigy rather than date of death). One caveat - the tables show the proportion of effigies. For England, the sample size ranges from about 30 to 50 per decade, which seems respectable.

There's obviously the problem of judging whether Sir So-and-so's effigy represents the armour that he wore on campaign thirty years before, or the latest fashions. This strong trends this analysis shows seems to point to the depictions reflecting near-current armour.

As far as shoulder defences go, it seems to be maille all the way to the 1320s, roundels a bit in the 1330s/1340s, a few spaulders in the 1340s-60s. Integrated spaulders (an articulated extension of the rerebrace) appear in the 1340s and become the norm from the 1350s.

Mark Griffin
Absolute Wizard
Posts: 4242
Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2005 2:28 pm
Location: Wales. Only just!

Re: Transition to Plate Shoulders..?

Post by Mark Griffin »

What Paul and Benedict says

But I will add that you'd be hard pressed to find anything that exists on an effigy or any collections like those GDFB things, they are ghastly. A delicious decadent historical trifle. Thick performance jelly topped with lashings of imaginative creamy custard. You may also get a soggy event management sponge finger but it won't cost you hundreds and thousands.

Post Reply