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Bart Zantingh




Location: Delft, The Netherlands
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PostPosted: Thu 08 Apr, 2010 1:23 am    Post subject: Heraldric colours of the Knights Hospitaller         Reply with quote

Hi everyone!

I'm (kinda) new to the forum, although I'm a regular visitor...

My question is not directly about arms and armour, but more about the heraldic colours of the Knights Hospitaller after 1248...

I was wondering if anyone knows when it was that the Knights Hospitaller adopted the red and white and stopped wearing the black and white heraldic colours?

I've read different accounts of it, but what I do know is that in 1248 the pope granted them permission to wear the sleeveless surcoat instead of the, until then, customary long-sleeved monastic robes. Those robes were black (or very dark brown if black wasn't available) with the well-known white (maltese) cross. But was that papal grant also the moment they started to wear red instead of black? I'm kinda confused about that... The period between, say, 1250 and 1350, when I know for sure they wore red instead of black, is a bit fuzzy...

Thanks!
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Bjorn Hagstrom




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Apr, 2010 2:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have been doing some basic research of this matter. Heraldic seals from the grand masters usethe blazon gules, cross argent quartered with the grand masters personal arms. But all examples of this I have seen have been 15-16th century

I have not found anything conclusive on what (if any) heraldic design the "rank and file" knights hospitallers should have on their shields during different times.

But I can list different theories pulled out of my own arse:

1. They did not have any heraldic design on their shields at all

Reason: How much do we really know of heraldic shields used outside funerals and tournaments? Not very much. Elaborate timeconsuming and delicate paintwork might be alright for hanging over someones tomb or on the list. We have surviving shields from churches and cathedrals and from illuminated manuscripts like the codex Manesse. But pictures of designed shields in battle are less common.

On the other hand, there are numerous very fine painted pavises (There is a spotlighted thread here on myArmoury on that) recovered from town amrouries. They are all however 15th century or later

2. They used their own personal arms

Reason: Knights hopsitallers where recruited from nobility, the rules of the order makes it quite clear that they retained a priviliged life-style in the order. Even though pious they might still be using their own heraldry to distinguish themselves on the field of battle.

3. They used gules, cross argent

Reason: Their banner has always been red with a white cross, even when they fought in their black habits, it would make more sense to display the heraldry of their banner of war than their habits.

4. They used sable, cross maltese argent

Reason: None really. But it looks really cool to the modern hollywood-adapted eyes..so I kind of wish this is how they looked!

I have ranked them in order of probability (my own humble opinion). So what do you other guys think?

I have started out a project to paint a couple of shields with linen facing, gesso prime and homemade linseedoil paints. Let me tell you it is a lot of work. And if shield are (as we suspect) semi-disposable objects then I see no reason to bring a fancy shield on campaign, it would be reserved for display and parade.

There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...
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Sander Marechal




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Apr, 2010 3:06 am    Post subject: Re: Heraldric colours of the Knights Hospitaller         Reply with quote

Bart Zantingh wrote:
I was wondering if anyone knows when it was that the Knights Hospitaller adopted the red and white and stopped wearing the black and white heraldic colours?


According to the Osprey book, page 27, this happened in 1259 when Pope Alexander IV issued a decree that gave the brother-knights a distinct uniform that set them apart from the brother-sergeants and other brothers-at-arms: Normally they should wear a black surcoat (as opposed to brown?), but in war and battle they should wear red jupons bearing the white cross.

I think that this big distinction between the knights and other brothers-at-arms proved hugely unpopular because the decree was overturned 19 years later (1278) after which all the armed hospitaller forces started to wear red jupons and surcoats.
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Sander Marechal




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Apr, 2010 3:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bjorn Hagstrom wrote:
1. They did not have any heraldic design on their shields at all

Reason: How much do we really know of heraldic shields used outside funerals and tournaments? Not very much. Elaborate time consuming and delicate paintwork might be alright for hanging over someones tomb or on the list. We have surviving shields from churches and cathedrals and from illuminated manuscripts like the codex Manesse. But pictures of designed shields in battle are less common.


There are plenty of heraldic shields in the Maciejowski bible, which depicts war rather than tournaments. I also don't think that a black or red shield with a white cross is hugely elaborate.
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Bjorn Hagstrom




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Apr, 2010 3:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sander Marechal wrote:
[
There are plenty of heraldic shields in the Maciejowski bible, which depicts war rather than tournaments. I also don't think that a black or red shield with a white cross is hugely elaborate.


I actually had to go back and check my sources here. And it is true that there are many depictions of decorated and embellished shields in both sculptures and illuminated manuscripts. There are also many that are not. It is also true that it is not too much of an effort to paint a cross on your shield that most likley needed a coat of paint anyway.

However, I might just for argumenst sake throw in that the reason you put a heraldic design is to distinguish your person on the battlefield. And if an entire order of knights all come riding with the same clothes and the same shield design then it serves no purpose? The identification of the order should be more clear by the banner anyway?

There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...
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Sander Marechal




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Apr, 2010 4:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bjorn Hagstrom wrote:

However, I might just for argumenst sake throw in that the reason you put a heraldic design is to distinguish your person on the battlefield. And if an entire order of knights all come riding with the same clothes and the same shield design then it serves no purpose?


But if they all had different shields then it would be difficult too. I imagine that certain leaders and commanders could have different shields and carry a banner, but not all of the knights.

I'd also like to put forward that there are surviving images of Templars and Teutonic knights wearing shields with a cross on it. So, why not the Hospitallers?

Edit: I'd be very interested in any references though. A bunch of people in my WMA training group just started a new reenactment club in The Netherlands, depicting Hospitallers around 1250.
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Bart Zantingh




Location: Delft, The Netherlands
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PostPosted: Thu 08 Apr, 2010 4:43 am    Post subject: Re: Heraldric colours of the Knights Hospitaller         Reply with quote

Sander Marechal wrote:

According to the Osprey book, page 27, this happened in 1259 when Pope Alexander IV issued a decree that gave the brother-knights a distinct uniform that set them apart from the brother-sergeants and other brothers-at-arms: Normally they should wear a black surcoat (as opposed to brown?), but in war and battle they should wear red jupons bearing the white cross.

I think that this big distinction between the knights and other brothers-at-arms proved hugely unpopular because the decree was overturned 19 years later (1278) after which all the armed hospitaller forces started to wear red jupons and surcoats.


This is what I wanted to know... And I didn't even know that there was a distinction between brothers-in-arms and brother-knights... My knowledge is surely lacking Wink

Spent years working in Archeon, but the Crusaders' Era has always been a blind spot for me... I only recently got feverishly interested in this period...

Thanks!
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Bart Zantingh




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Apr, 2010 7:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

BTW, does anyone have a clue as to what shape the cross actually had?

I've seen various interpretations, and of course the maltese cross as it is used nowadays, but what shape did it have in the crusaders' era?

Thanks again!
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Sander Marechal




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Apr, 2010 8:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bart Zantingh wrote:
BTW, does anyone have a clue as to what shape the cross actually had?


Have a look at History of the Maltese cross. I believe that in our group we're going for something like the Formee Branchee. Not quite the maltese cross it is today with it's straight lines, but more of a curved cross with the ends split and curled outwards.
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Bart Zantingh




Location: Delft, The Netherlands
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PostPosted: Thu 08 Apr, 2010 11:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Have a look at History of the Maltese cross. I believe that in our group we're going for something like the Formee Branchee


Sweet!

Thanks!

What group are you in? Wouldn't happen to be Orde der Noorderwind, would it? One of my band members trains there...

"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."

-Matthew 16:24, as used in Pope Urban II's preachings prior to the First Crusade
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Sander Marechal




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PostPosted: Fri 18 Jun, 2010 11:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Somehow I totally missed the updates in this topic.

Anyway, I have done some research. I am now pretty convinced that the Hospitallers carried red shields with a white cross, in any period.

We know from documents like Matthew Paris' Chronica Majora that the banner was red with a white cross, different from their uniform (black with a white cross). There are no surviving color images of Hospitaller brother-knights or brother-sergeants from before 1259 when the surcoats turned red. But, there are images from Templars from the same time.

The Templars had the same problem. Their surcoats were white with a red cross but their banner was black and white. Images show that the Templars put the black and white banner on their shields, not the white and red cross.




So, if the Templars put their banner on their shields and not their surcoats, it makes sense to assume the Hospitallers did as well.

Bjorn Hagstrom wrote:
However, I might just for argumenst sake throw in that the reason you put a heraldic design is to distinguish your person on the battlefield. And if an entire order of knights all come riding with the same clothes and the same shield design then it serves no purpose?


I have done a bit more research on this as well. The reason is that knights of the order should be humble. Seeking individual glory on the battlefield is a no-go. By adopting a uniform, everyone could see the valour of the knights of the order on the battlefield, but all the glory would go to the order as a whole, not to the individual knights. IIRC this comes from Helen Nicholson's "The Knights Hospitaller".

Bart Zantingh wrote:
What group are you in? Wouldn't happen to be Orde der Noorderwind, would it? One of my band members trains there...


Nope. Our reenactment group is new. It's called "De Hospitaalridders" (no website yet). Most of us train WMA at "De Zwaardkring" in 's-Hertogenbosch (http://www.zwaardkring.nl). We're not linked to the Zwaardkring though. We're separate and anyone can join. It's just that the idea for De Hospitaalridders was born over a couple of beers after our weekly training.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 20 Jun, 2010 12:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sander Marechal wrote:

I have done a bit more research on this as well. The reason is that knights of the order should be humble. Seeking individual glory on the battlefield is a no-go. By adopting a uniform, everyone could see the valour of the knights of the order on the battlefield, but all the glory would go to the order as a whole, not to the individual knights. IIRC this comes from Helen Nicholson's "The Knights Hospitaller".


And to reinforce class distinctions, perhaps? I get the impression that, at least in the later periods, the rule on wearing the order's heraldry as opposed to personal ones was often relaxed for the people at the top of the orders' hierarchy, so commanders and grand masters could sometimes wear their own heraldry to set themselves off from the uniformity of the rest of the order. Any idea if this was true? (Perhaps less so for the Hospitallers?)
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Sander Marechal




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PostPosted: Sun 20 Jun, 2010 10:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thruthfully, I don't know. Our reenactment group focuses on the early Hospitallers so the majority of my research is the 12th and 13th century, sometimes a little bit 14th century. I find it totally plausible that the leader of the army (grandmaster, or marshall) carried a distinctive shield. I do know that they has a separate standard bearer who carried the banner of the Hospitallers into battle.
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Sander Marechal




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Jul, 2010 8:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have done some more research on this. I have read many (translations of) medieval manuscript looking for references to the shield colours and looked at hundreds of illuminations. I have been unable to find any depiction of a Knight Hospitaller from before 1259 (when the surcoats turned red). If proof does exists somewhere, then it's probably it some medieval text which I cannot read and for which I haven't found a translation. Something along the lines of

Quote:
... and the rode out, the image of their red shields striking fear in the heart of the infidel...


Or something like that...

So, I decided to ask people more knowledgeable. I contacted Helen Nicholson and David Nicolle and asked them if they knew of any further sources I could look at, or if they perhaps knew the answer. Helen Nicholson is a reader in History at Cardiff University. She specialises in the Military Orders and in the Crusades and has written many books and other publications about those subjects. David Nicolle is a British historian specialising in the medieval military history. He is a prolific author, contributing to many of the Osprey books including two about the Knights Hospitaller.

They both have kindly allowed me to reproduce the e-mail conversation here. That took a little bit of time, or I would have already posted these a few weeks ago. I have stripped their e-mail addresses of course. I hope you will find this useful.

First off, my conversation with Dr. Nicholson. I have included my question so you can see exactly what I asked and how I asked it. For brevity I have left out the messages and bits asking about permission to repost her response on the internet.

Sander Marechal wrote:

Date: 28-06-2010 14:38
Subject: A question about the arms of the Knights Hospitallers 1200-1250

Hello Dr. Nicholson,

My name is Sander Marechal and I am part of a living history group in
The Netherlands. Our group depicts the Knights Hospitallers in the
period 1200-1250. We have studied many of your books and they have been
a great help to our group.

However, I have been looking for some information about the arms of the
Knights Hospitaller from that period without any success. Specifically,
I would like to find out what arms the brother-knights and
brother-sergeants would have displayed on their shields.

There seem to be two theories on this: black shields with a white cross
(mimicking their habit), or red shields with a white cross (following
their banner and official arms). Popular media usually seems to depict
black shields with white crosses.

I have been looking for evidence either way but I have been unable to
find any. The only related information I have found so far are images
from the Chronica Majora by Matthew Paris and a Templar fresco in
Perugia. These illustrations depict Templar Knights carrying shields
with the Beauseant displayed on them instead of the red cross on a white
field. If the Templars depicted their official arms on their shields
instead of the colours of their surcoats, then one could theorize that
the Hospitallers did the same.

During your years of research, have you ever come across evidence about
the colours of the shields of the Knights Hospitallers from before 1259?
Do you perhaps have any idea where I could look for more information
about this? Or perhaps you already know the answer to my question?

I have access to the Nijmegen University Library and through it, access
to all Dutch libraries. I just have no idea where to start looking for
more information.

Thank you for you time. Kind regards,

--
Sander Marechal


Dr. Helen Nicholson wrote:

Date: 28-06-2010 17:43
Subject: Re: A question about the arms of the Knights Hospitallers 1200-1250

Hello, Sander Marechal,

this is a good question. I agree with you: I think that, like the Templars, the Hospitallers would have borne the same arms on their shield as on their banner. David Nicolle has also assumed this, in his Osprey book on the Knights Hospitaller, 1306-1565. The earliest pictures of Hospitaller shields that I have found are from Caoursin's account of the siege of Rhodes in 1480 -- these do show a red field with a white cross. This is not absolutely conclusive, but it does seem most likely that the Hospitallers' shield had not changed, and had always been red with a white cross.

Alas, I do not know of any Hospitaller frescoes like those at S. Bevignate in Perugia. Matthew Paris's _Historia Anglorum_ has one image of the Hospitallers' banner thrown down in defeat in 1239: this shows a red field with a white cross (London: British Library, MS Royal 14 C vii, fol. 130v). Again, in one manuscript of his _Chronica Majora_, Matthew showed the banners of the Hospitallers, the Templars and the king of France: and again the Hospitallers' banner has a red field with a red cross (Cambridge: Corpus Christi College, Parker Library, MS 16 fol. 141). He never shows the Hospitallers' shields. I think that it would be most likely, however, that the Hospitallers' shields matched their banner.

I hope that this is some help.

Yours sincerely
H. J. Nicholson


In a follow-up e-mail she provided the references for those illuminations:

Dr. Helen Nicholson wrote:

Date: 29-06-2010 11:34
Subject: Re: A question about the arms of the Knights Hospitallers 1200-1250

Dear Mr Marechal,

Caoursin's illuminated account of the 1480 siege of Rhodes survives only in manuscript, so far as I know: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, MS Lat. 6067. I am not aware of any modern facsimile editions. There are 15th and 16th-century printed editions, but they are illustrated only with black-and-white woodcuts.

Individual illuminations from the manuscript have been reproduced in various places. Fols 40v and 175v, which show the shields, are reproduced in Elias Kollias, _The Knights of Rhodes: The Palace and the City_ (Athens: Ekdotike Athenon S.A., 1991), ISBN 960-213-242-6, pp. 50, 53.

<snip>

Reproductions of both Matthew Paris's drawings of the Hospitallers' banner appear in my _The Knights Templar: A New History_ (2001), pp. 64, 166.

Yours sincerely
H.J. Nicholson


I sent a similarly worded question to David Nicolle. He responded to me that he would put some thought into it before responding. About a week later I got the following response.

David Nicolle wrote:

Date: 09-07-2010 19:27
Subject: Re: Hospitaller arms, etc

Dear Sander,

I have been putting a lot of thought into this and have realised that there is
very little evidence one way or the other. So I have summarized my opinions as
follows:

I am sure that in the early decades all brethren, knights or sergeants, carried
black shields with white crosses, but the size, position and perhaps even the
shape of the cross could vary.

There was probably a short period when black shields with white crosses, and red
shields with white crosses, were both being used. But after that the shields
would almost always have been red - though perhaps not always so.

I do not think that brother-knights would ever have had their own family
coats-of-arms on their shields, though there was later some quartering of the
arms of the most senior men with those of the Order - probably only in things
like manuscripts and carvings rather than on military equipment.

Knights who were temporarily associated with, or were attached to, the
Hospitallers did continue to use their own coats-of-arms.

This is all rather imprecise, but I hope it helps.

Best wishes, David


In a follow-up question I asked what he meant with "the early decades":

Sander Marechal wrote:

Date: 10-07-2010 07:00
Subject: Re: Hospitaller arms, etc

Hello Dr. Nicolle,

Thank you for your thoughtful response. Could you perhaps elaborate one point
though:

When do you think that the change from black to red shields happened? Somewhere
around 1182 when the official white-on-red coat of arms was adopted? Or later,
around 1259 when they first started wearing red surcoats into battle?

Thank you in advance for your time. Kind regards,

--
Sander Marechal


His response:

David Nicolle wrote:

Date: 10-07-2010 11:18
Subject: Re: Hospitaller arms, etc

I think the change took place around 1259.

Best wishes, David


So, there you have it. Two different opinions on the same subject. Weight them as you see fit. In the end, our reenactment group decided to adopt the red shields with the white cross. I hope this is of help to you.
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Bjorn Hagstrom




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Jul, 2010 10:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Excellent work Sander!
Our group have also had lengthy discussion on this topic (as well as a shift from late 12th century focus to mid-13th) and we have also decided to go red-and-white. Yes, this means that the shield I'm holding in my profile picture is going to be scrapped...ah well, I will need a quintain later this year so it will be recycled and put to good use anyway Big Grin

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Ted Wells




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jul, 2012 12:05 am    Post subject: Great Stuff - Hospitaller         Reply with quote

I am a WMA practitioner and reenactor from Australia and currently attempting a 14thC Rhodes armour kit. It hasn't been easy but I have found during my months of research that there are so many conflicts of evidence concerning this particular period

I am wonderind if anyone has found more on this subject as I believe I have a fairly accurate idea in mind. I had a play in photoshop and came up with the below pic. (Something I do before I build a kit for real).

Comments critiques are welcome

Regards
Ted


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Sander Marechal




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jul, 2012 1:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It looks nice but it seems a bit outdated for a 14th century kit. I'd expect more plate, a shorter surcoat and a much more modern helmet. Our group does mid 13th century Knights Hospitaller. We have a few of those helmets but we consider them a tad outdated even for us.
The Knights Hospitaller: http://www.hospitaalridders.nl
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Ted Wells




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jul, 2012 4:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Sander, its good to have differing opinions.

My reasoning:
Through documentation, manuscripts and tapestries etc, I have tried to extrappolate the information based on many things including arguments of historians and tect on timeframes of items changeing, socio-economic factors of individual knights and the availability of the update of armour.

Working on Acre at 1291 and the red surcoat from 1275 as well as the length of the surcoat and armour from then. All of the plate armour and shorter surcoats that I have found are more toward the end of the 14th C (1380cc).

Thanks for your comments, making look harder at it now Cool

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T. Arndt




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jul, 2012 4:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sander Marechal wrote:
It looks nice but it seems a bit outdated for a 14th century kit. I'd expect more plate, a shorter surcoat and a much more modern helmet. Our group does mid 13th century Knights Hospitaller. We have a few of those helmets but we consider them a tad outdated even for us.

I agree, I would:
1. Get a bascinet/aventail or other more modern helmet
2. Add a coat of plates underneath
3. Add at least elbow cops to the arms, if not something like this:

4. Shorten the surcoat if you are after the 1320s

Check this out, it is a statistical breakdown of armor features of the 14th century by decade and geography:
http://talbotsfineaccessories.com/armour/effi...lysis.html
As you can see, there is tremendous amount of regional variation and difference by decade, but what is in the picture above doesn't really fit.

You might even want to pick out a person's harness, to base yours on theirs:
http://effigiesandbrasses.com/

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A HEMA Alliance Affiliate

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Ted Wells




Location: Australia
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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jul, 2012 5:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ted Wells wrote:

Working on Acre at 1291 and the red surcoat from 1275 as well as the length of the surcoat and armour from then.


Working from different sources and bearing in mind that this kit is still in production, It is in constant flux decade-by-decade within around 50 years from mid to late 13th C to early 14thC, until I hit the mark.

Also consider the 'Chronica Majora' from Matthew Paris show this helm from around 1250 onward (late 13thC). I do love those cop however, they look sweet.

According to the effigies supplied (last post) I'm not far off the mark, possibly lose the greaves and use chain instead.

Thanks for your help guys, much appreciated.

Ted

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