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Max Maydanik




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jun, 2008 6:18 pm    Post subject: White belts and knights         Reply with quote

How common it was for a knight to wear a white belt and was it permitted for non-knight to wear white belts?

I found this discussion but I am not sure how credible the information is
http://willscommonplacebook.blogspot.com/2006...s-and.html

Thank you.

- What do you prefer: a reconstruction of historical fencing or a real swordfight?
- Historical reconstruction of course. In the real swordfight, they just look at each other, mumble something and then ..a deathblow.
And in a historical reconstruction you have to think, plan your strategy and count points.
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Jonathan Blair




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jun, 2008 8:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I know Will McLean (he's in my LH company LaBelle Compagnie and co-author of "Daily Life in Chaucer's England") and he is quite thorough in his research on the subject. I believe he knows what he's talking about.
"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." - The Lord Jesus Christ, from The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, chapter x, verse 34, Authorized Version of 1611
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James Barker




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Jun, 2008 7:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Will is an amazing researcher; I doubt he puts forth any opinion without some serious thought. I have used the same argument in the past talking about groups who copy the SCA regalia rules; they have nothing to do with some historical precedence it has to do with SCA culture. There are references to white belts in knighting ceremonies but they are time and place specific not a common or regulated culture.

I have a manuscript image of a knighting in the early 14th century and the kngiht is wearing a black sword belt with silver parts and spurs not chain at all.

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Ed Toton




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Jun, 2008 8:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes I agree, this seems accurate to me. If you read some of the period sources such as The Ordene de Chevalerie (which he mentions), as well as Geoffroi de Charny's book of knighthood and chivalry, the white belt is mentioned only in passing as just one of many symbols used during the ceremony. I think it could be argued that the gilded spurs were more emphasized.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Jun, 2008 2:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It was not consistent across region, and did not stay static over time. However, around 11th to 12th century, a knight (not just a generic man at arms) would be presented with a sword and belt as part of knighting if it signified a recognized office by a Monarch or powerful noble. "Belted knight" comes up in 11th and 12th period texts in the context of honor and tournament participation when it was exclusive. Geoffrey Plantaganet (prince and future Monarch) was "belted"/knighted in 1127 so that he would be eligible to participate in the tourney at his own wedding celebration. Similar situations existed in other cases (Baldwin's of Hainault.) No special ornate qualities are attributed to the belts or swords. It is how they achieved or were presented with them (an office or signification of authority) that seems to have had the significance, in my opinion.
Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Al Muckart




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Jun, 2008 6:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Jared,

Jared Smith wrote:
It was not consistent across region, and did not stay static over time. However, around 11th to 12th century, a knight (not just a generic man at arms) would be presented with a sword and belt as part of knighting if it signified a recognized office by a Monarch or powerful noble. "Belted knight" comes up in 11th and 12th period texts in the context of honor and tournament participation when it was exclusive. Geoffrey Plantaganet (prince and future Monarch) was "belted"/knighted in 1127 so that he would be eligible to participate in the tourney at his own wedding celebration. Similar situations existed in other cases (Baldwin's of Hainault.) No special ornate qualities are attributed to the belts or swords. It is how they achieved or were presented with them (an office or signification of authority) that seems to have had the significance, in my opinion.


Do you have any references linking this with knightood itself, rather than with admission to a particular order, or mark of favour from a monarch?

I am currently reading Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages: The English Experience by Michael Preswtich, wherein he talks about knighthood in that time as being more of a social rank than membership of an order in the way we think of it today. He even talks about people who hold a certain amount of land being forced to become knights.

I happen to have the book in front of me so I'll quote some of the relevant bits from pages 15 and 16

Quote:

In England, in contrast to the continent, knightood was not purely hereditary. The elevent-century knight might be a man of low social standing; the very fact that the English applied the word cniht to the armed and mounted Normal soldiers suggests that they were see as followers of no great status, not as leaders. The term knight, or [i]miles[/u], was one wihich could safely be applied to a wide range of men, from substantial landholder to landless retainer. In many contexts the word meant little more than mounted soldier.


Quote:

The business of making men knights in a formal ceremony was almost certainly initially confiened to the highest ranks of society. [...] In 1147 King Stephen 'ceremonially girded with the belt of knighthood his son Eustace'.


Quote:
The criteriaon used in the thirteenth century to decide whether or not a man should become a knight was primarily financial, though this did not mean that a night was not expected to play his part in war.

In 1224 an order required everyone who posessed a knight's fee to become a knight by Easter of the following year. The criterion was not a satisfactory one, and when a similar order was issued in 1241, it was laid down that anyone in posession of land worth £20 a year should be knighted.


The notion of there being specific regalia for knights in general, or there being clothing or accessories restricted to knights only, is a SCAdianism where the victorian romantic notions of knighthood, rather than history, were the formative force in the culture.

There is regalia associated with certain orders of knighthood, but regalia associated with a knightly order (e.g, the order of the garter) is different from having regalia associated with simple knighthood.

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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jun, 2008 2:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Al Muckart wrote:
Hi Jared,

Do you have any references linking this with knightood itself, rather than with admission to a particular order, or mark of favour from a monarch?.


I have interpreted the fragmentary examples as "typically" being either a mark of present and future favor, or recognition of authority by noble birth. There are a few known cases where it happened for obvious and significant heroism (battle of Courtrai-Golden Spurs). There are other cases like William Marshal, where it is not clear that he was destined for greatness at the time it was done. But fame followed quickly, and he was from a significant family. David Crouche's texts on him illustrate that his multi-national upbringing had already resulted in a recognized network of friends and important court connections by the time he was knighted. Was his knighting and belting an example of favor by a relative, or foresight? I could go on with examples like this. In the individual cases where we know a powerful lord conferred the sword, the recipient does not remain a common man at arms type knight for very long.

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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jun, 2008 3:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In high medevial imagery, (Maciowski, manessa, and so on) sword belts are almost allways white.
The same goes for crossbow belts.

At least one preserved sword belt from the period was made of white buckskin. The way belts hang in the pictures also sugest that medevial belts where made of skin rather than leather; A modern belt is stiff, whereas medevial belts hang straight down from the buckle; There is a reason belt stiffeners where used.

Posibbly, buckskin is better for broad belts, or more easily available in the required quantity. In either case, a "white belt" might be a term for sword belt.

As for a belted knight, ornamented belts where the major form of personal jewlery in the high middle ages. 13th century dress was otherwise quite sobre compared to the later centuries.
A gold studded belt could litterally be worth a fortune, and so could be a very prestigious gift.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Al Muckart




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jun, 2008 4:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Elling,

Elling Polden wrote:
In high medevial imagery, (Maciowski, manessa, and so on) sword belts are almost allways white.
The same goes for crossbow belts.

At least one preserved sword belt from the period was made of white buckskin. The way belts hang in the pictures also sugest that medevial belts where made of skin rather than leather; A modern belt is stiff, whereas medevial belts hang straight down from the buckle; There is a reason belt stiffeners where used.


I'm not sure what you mean by "buckskin", that's a term that has various connotations including brain-tanned hide. When you see white leather in medieval contexts that isn't artistic license you are probably seeing a representation of Alum tawed hide, most likely calf or goatskin. Is this what you mean when you say "skin rather than leather"?

For the non leather geeks among us "leather" technically means hides that have been tanned in solutions of tannins. Skins treated with brains, oils, or alum aren't technically leather. They're still skins. This distinction is rarely used outside of technical works though.

Alum tawed hides have very good tensile strength combined with excellent flexibility which makes them ideal for belts and straps. They have the down side that if you saturate them with water you can wash out the alum, leaving you with rawhide but treating the skins with oils and fats can minimise this at the expense of having a really bright white.

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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jun, 2008 6:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:
In high medevial imagery, (Maciowski, manessa, and so on) sword belts are almost allways white.
The same goes for crossbow belts.


I glanced through the plates of the Maciejowski bible, etc. There are a majority of white belts (not all though), especially combined with the color blue. These accents need to be white to show up on the blue, one of the most expensive printing pigments of the era. I suspect it is artistic license for the sake of contrast, and use of the most precious pigments available. It would not make sense for so much of the horses' harness to actually be white (which it also is, except some other high contrast things like red harness on white horses, etc.) in these scenes if the explanation is alum tanning. Oak/ tannin tanning with shades of brown/red/black was the norm then and now for this application. The chemical alum tanning is a more 19th century process, and pretty tough to do even on deer hide (I've tried it, and got no better than blonde, not white.)

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Jun, 2008 4:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What I meant was that the belts look as if they where thin and soft.
In the imagery, white leather could also show untanned leather, which would strictly speaking be light brown. However, reproduction of colour in the manuscripts is often dictaded more by the available inks than actuall colours in use.
However, the black/white combo seems to be the norm in several manuscripts, so it could probably be a thing.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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James Arlen Gillaspie
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PostPosted: Thu 19 Jun, 2008 11:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

John W. Waterer wrote in his book, Spanish Leather, p. 20, "Alumed leather was known to the Romans as 'aluta', and the makers of it as 'alutarii' (In mediaeval England the process was known as 'tawing', and the producers were called 'whitetawyers', but the earliest Ordinances, although for the most part written in Norman French, often had a Latin preamble in which the term alutarii was used) . .. "Sandals of white alumed leather were found by Wainwright at Balabish (2nd millenium B.C...." His information about guadameci is quite interesting. Apparently white and red alum tawed 'leathers' out of Spain were quite popular all over Europe for garment use, although his quote makes it clear that such industry also existed locally, at least in England.
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Ed Toton




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Jun, 2008 1:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I also wonder if anyone has questioned the use of the word "white" here. I believe that in period, it didn't always mean the color we think of today. For instance, white armor essentially meant bright steel. Perhaps in some contexts, white belts might simply have been plain, unadorned, uncolored material?
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Jun, 2008 1:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:
What I meant was that the belts look as if they where thin and soft..


There are a couple of archeology articles around that reinforce that idea. There was an English site (scabbard making location, 12th century Bergen I think if I remember it right) that had a large number (300 or so) finds of sheath remnants. The leather strips found were thin, and not very wide. It is harder to tan thick leather than thin, and I suspect the premium thicker pieces were saved back then for equestrian tack. Due to deterioration, we can't say how flexible these were, but thin strips are generally easier to oil and condition to be supple.

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Thu 19 Jun, 2008 3:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ed Toton wrote:
I also wonder if anyone has questioned the use of the word "white" here. I believe that in period, it didn't always mean the color we think of today. For instance, white armor essentially meant bright steel. Perhaps in some contexts, white belts might simply have been plain, unadorned, uncolored material?


That's a great point. White and silver are sometimes interchangeable in heraldry I believe.

Happy

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Jonathan Blair




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Jun, 2008 7:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
Ed Toton wrote:
I also wonder if anyone has questioned the use of the word "white" here. I believe that in period, it didn't always mean the color we think of today. For instance, white armor essentially meant bright steel. Perhaps in some contexts, white belts might simply have been plain, unadorned, uncolored material?


That's a great point. White and silver are sometimes interchangeable in heraldry I believe.


Especially in regards to plaque belts, which were in fashion in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. Plain silver/pewter could be very well be interpreted as "white"/argent.

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." - The Lord Jesus Christ, from The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, chapter x, verse 34, Authorized Version of 1611
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Ed Toton




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Jun, 2008 6:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
Ed Toton wrote:
I also wonder if anyone has questioned the use of the word "white" here. I believe that in period, it didn't always mean the color we think of today. For instance, white armor essentially meant bright steel. Perhaps in some contexts, white belts might simply have been plain, unadorned, uncolored material?


That's a great point. White and silver are sometimes interchangeable in heraldry I believe.


Yes, the rules of tincture essentially treat silver and white as identical (Argent), and the same goes for gold/yellow (Or).

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Al Muckart




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Jun, 2008 2:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Elling,

Elling Polden wrote:
What I meant was that the belts look as if they where thin and soft.
In the imagery, white leather could also show untanned leather, which would strictly speaking be light brown. However, reproduction of colour in the manuscripts is often dictaded more by the available inks than actuall colours in use.
However, the black/white combo seems to be the norm in several manuscripts, so it could probably be a thing.


I would be surprised to find them using rawhide for anything like that (assuming that's what you mean by untanned leather). It would rot very rapidly when wet and is very rigid when dry.

Soft leather isn't necessarily thin leather either. For example the alum tawed goatskin I have is a lot more soft and flexible than veg tanned cow leather of comparable thickness (not that they'd be using cow for belts in period) and I have a veg tanned goatskin that is amazingly soft and flexible. Both are strong enough for strapwork though. The deerskin might have a bit of a tendency to roll up but it would be fine in terms of tensile strength.

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Al Muckart




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Jun, 2008 3:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Jared,

Jared Smith wrote:
Elling Polden wrote:
What I meant was that the belts look as if they where thin and soft..


There are a couple of archeology articles around that reinforce that idea. There was an English site (scabbard making location, 12th century Bergen I think if I remember it right) that had a large number (300 or so) finds of sheath remnants. The leather strips found were thin, and not very wide. It is harder to tan thick leather than thin, and I suspect the premium thicker pieces were saved back then for equestrian tack. Due to deterioration, we can't say how flexible these were, but thin strips are generally easier to oil and condition to be supple.


Interesting. Do you have any information on the conditions in which the leather scraps were found and the actual thicknesses of the pieces?

Determining the original thickness of archaological leather can be extremely difficult if it has spent a long time in the ground (see Stepping Through Time by Goubitz et al for more information) but based on things like the strap fittings in Dress Accessories medieval belts did seem to be thinner than what we use for belt straps today but medieval pit-tanned leather is a quite different material in many respects to modern vegetable tanned leathers, and they used calfskin for thinner things, not split-down cowskin that most modern veg tanned leather is so for the thickness they got a lot more strength.

Suppleness is more a function of the tannage, the currying, and the animal the skin came from than of thickness.

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Al Muckart




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Jun, 2008 3:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ed Toton wrote:
I also wonder if anyone has questioned the use of the word "white" here. I believe that in period, it didn't always mean the color we think of today. For instance, white armor essentially meant bright steel. Perhaps in some contexts, white belts might simply have been plain, unadorned, uncolored material?


It's possible, but I think unlikely. Given we know that in period they could produce clean white leathers with properties that made for excellent straps and belts I think that's the simplest, and most likely, explanation.

I think it's a bit of a long leap from while = silver, as in white armour or heraldic argent, to white = unadorned. After all, a lot of white armours were quite elaborately adorned with fluting or openwork etc.

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