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Jason G. Smith




Location: Quebec
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PostPosted: Sun 15 Jul, 2007 8:47 am    Post subject: Ailettes         Reply with quote

Did a search for this in the forums, but I came up empty handed, so here goes - forgive me if this has been hashes through already.

In a recent discussion with a friend, we came upon the subject of ailettes as armour. He contends that ailettes were worn propped up to defend the shoulder and neck against cuts. He cites the Viollet-Leduc as a source. On the other hand, Edge and Paddock state that they had no defensive qualities, and were used as heraldic devices on the field - in fact, were made of cloth-covered wood, and so wouldn't have really been able to stop much.

As you can obviously see coming, my question is: what's the skinny on ailettes?

Cheers,
Jason

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Nathan Keysor




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PostPosted: Sun 15 Jul, 2007 8:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If I recall correctly (and my books are currently packed up so I may be wrong) the book "Arms and Armour Annual, volume I) has an entire chapter dedicated to this. I think Oakeshott mentions it as well in one of his books. From what I can recall there has always been debate over defensive value but most scholars have leaned more toward ornamentation. I think a lot of the documentation suggests these were made of light leather/parchment and may have just been a fashion fad to display heraldry etc... My personal opinion leans toward this although some people will argue that they guard the neck like an early haute piece.


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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sun 15 Jul, 2007 9:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It tends to be older scholarship (19th and early 20th century) that espouses the defensive qualities of ailettes. Most people writing in the last 75years agree that they were of little to no practical defensive value. They served more as heraldic devices, being made (as mentioned above) of parchment or similar materials or maybe leather.
Happy

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William Carew




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jul, 2007 2:33 am    Post subject: Re: Ailettes         Reply with quote

Jason G. Smith wrote:
On the other hand, Edge and Paddock state that they had no defensive qualities, and were used as heraldic devices on the field - in fact, were made of cloth-covered wood, and so wouldn't have really been able to stop much.


Hi Jason,

Well, most medieval shields were made of cloth-covered wood and were ample protection. But I think you're right in the sense that ailettes are these days seen as mostly decorative, as a result of being a) fairly small and light (possibly just parchment/leather), b) apparently quite brief in popularity and c) possibly quite loosely attached to the shoulders.

Cheers,

Bill Carew
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Jason G. Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jul, 2007 6:53 am    Post subject: Re: Ailettes         Reply with quote

William Carew wrote:

Hi Jason,

Well, most medieval shields were made of cloth-covered wood and were ample protection. But I think you're right in the sense that ailettes are these days seen as mostly decorative, as a result of being a) fairly small and light (possibly just parchment/leather), b) apparently quite brief in popularity and c) possibly quite loosely attached to the shoulders.

Cheers,


LOL! Of course, you're right about shields, perhaps I should have qualified it with the adjectives "thin, flimsy..." At any rate, current scholarship tends to support my contention that they were simply heraldic devices. The Viollet-Leduc is, after all, over a hundred years old.

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jul, 2007 7:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

On the other hand I don't think any ailettes have ever been found so they were guessing 100 years ago and we are guessing today: So maybe they were right and we are wrong. Razz But they are no longer around to rebut our arguments.

That they are heraldic devices and not armour I would think is based on they being small and seem to have been fairly loosely laced on to the shoulders: So of doubtful usefulness as armour.

The rebuttal might be that they might still spoil a horizontal sword blow aimed at the neck just below the bottom rim of a great helm.

Even in boiled leather and fabric covered they might still have some protective qualities ?

I really don't know which or have a strong opinion either way and can argue it both ways: Just playing devil's advocate. Wink Laughing Out Loud

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Jason G. Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jul, 2007 8:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My take on it is even if they were made of something capable of stopping a sword blow, simple laws of physics would preclude them being very useful - a horizontal cut, assuming they were affixed in the center, which it seems they were, would simply have flattened it out and kept right on going. Leverage being applied to the "tip" of the ailette would almost definitely simply flattened it out, unless, like my partner contends, they were propped up against the head, which I doubt.

Cheers,
Jason

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... above all, you should feel in your conscience that your quarrel is good and just. - Le Jeu de la Hache
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jul, 2007 4:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
On the other hand I don't think any ailettes have ever been found so they were guessing 100 years ago and we are guessing today: l:


I don't know of any actual aillettes being found, but in one of David Crouch's books, he mentions a surviving bill/ receipt for 400 aillettes that were ordered for a tournament. In this particular case, they were ordered from a fabric merchant and were clearly described as "made of silk" as two sets (200 per set) with the armorial devices of the two primary patrons of the tournament. This was late 13th or early 14th century, and they were referred to as aillettes. There was also a recorded instance (may be in one of my Juliet Barker or Norman Cantor texts) claiming that Henry the Young King preferred to hand out "red scarves" to his tournament teams.

I would not interpret the above to mean that more substantial aillettes were not used in some cases, but rather that purely ornamental heraldric devices appear to have been acceptable in some cases, throughout the era of aillettes' usage.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Jeffrey Hull




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PostPosted: Sun 22 Jul, 2007 1:36 pm    Post subject: Perhaps Defensive         Reply with quote

These circa 1302 Flemish reenactors make a decent argument for ailettes as defensive parts of the knightly harness Arrow

http://www.liebaart.org/ailett_e.htm

JH

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Jeffrey Hull




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PostPosted: Sun 22 Jul, 2007 7:54 pm    Post subject: Knight In Codex Manesse         Reply with quote

Here is portrayal of a knight, the Schenke von Limpurg, with ailettes as part of his armour, as seen in Codex Manesse (Cod. Pal. germ. 848 -- Zürich, 1305-40) Arrow

http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/cpg848/0160

Apparently, from some assertions I have read, Rheinland Germans were more likely to wear ailettes on harness than were other Germans. If the stated "Limpurg" aka Limburg is not the Flemish province, then it is probably either of two German towns -- an der Lenne or an der Lahn. Any of which is near enough to the Rhein.

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Brian Robson





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PostPosted: Mon 23 Jul, 2007 5:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I really don't know on this one. From the point of view of wearing mail/gambeson - most of the weight from the mail sits on the shoulder, compressing the gambeson - leaving very little compression between the mail and the bones in that area. Also the mail is 'stretched' there, if you follow - i.e. the rings are at full stretch rather than close together (especially if long sleeves are worn). So it would make very good sense to have some additional protection there - especially since it is a good place for a heavy downward blow to land.

Most reproduction ailets I have seen look too small compared to the manuscripts. My old ones were fairly big and made from wood - about half-inch thick. They gave excellent protection from rebated steel. Also stopped them angling to the neck under the helm. I can't say how well they would have protected against a cut, however. But if their sole pupose it to protect against blunt trauma to that area - they can do it well.
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Alexis Bataille




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Dec, 2015 1:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just as ailette begin to be used, concussive one handed swords were out-fashioned by trust swords like oakeshott type XIV.
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Paul Hoekstra




Location: Netherlands
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PostPosted: Wed 16 Dec, 2015 5:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This picture does show one being used in a battle, and looks like it could be made out of steel.

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Mike Ruhala




Location: Stuart, Florida
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PostPosted: Wed 16 Dec, 2015 5:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm inclined to believe that ailettes were a dual-purpose item intended for display and to add some protection against impacts to the deltoid, trapezius, point of the shoulder and/or collar bone. Strikes to these areas are relatively common in historical fencing tournaments, the point of the shoulder and collar bone are particularly vulnerable to blunt impact. The ailettes wouldn't have to be made out of steel to be useful, fabric or parchment over wood several mm's thick would be enough to make a difference and boiled leather would do the trick as well. Even if they were just padded cloth they'd be worthwhile. The main reason I think they'd go for an external reinforcement like an ailette over additional padding worn under the mail is because the ailette would allow for greater freedom of motion. Being loosely attached would make them less likely to be cut through but I expect they'd be a consumable you'd try and replace after taking a hit.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Dec, 2015 12:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

IMO their primary function was defensive and their secondary function was heraldic. I'm not sure that the illustrations are accurately depicting their exact shape or position on the shoulder. Tournament ailettes cannot be used as an indicator of the function of ailettes used in the field. We know that some tournaments used light costumes that looked like armour but had little defensive function and their "weapons" consisted of boffers made from wood or baleen.

There is no point discussing whether a particular piece of armour could be cut through with a sword. We know that mail by itself and even heavy clothing is virtually sword proof. The primary function of armour is to stop weapon points - mainly arrows and spears. The ailette needs to be examined in that context first, followed by the blunt trauma implications mentioned by Brian. I'd be looking at examples such as the Japanese sode to give an idea of how they may have functioned

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