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Ahmad Tabari

Joined: 15 Jun 2008

Posts: 148

PostPosted: Fri 07 Sep, 2012 7:45 am    Post subject: Chausses "sown" to hauberk?         Reply with quote

I just finished reading William the Breton's account of the battle of Bouvines as recommended by Craig Peters. One of the the things I found interesting about this account is a passage where the author states that a certain count involved in the battle had his chausses "sown" to his hauberk.
However, before the Elect had arrived at the place where the knights were fighting with each other, a boy named Commotus, as if he had been a man of strength and great virtue, ripped the helmet off the count's head and inflicted a large wound on his head. Then he lifted the side of his hauberk, thinking he would strike him in the stomach, but the knife could find no entry as the iron chausses were strongly sown to the hauberk

Any opinions over what the author meant by that?
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Sean Manning

Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

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PostPosted: Fri 07 Sep, 2012 7:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Its the perfect passive participle of "to sew" with an unusual spelling. Medieval clothing used more laces than we are used to, so I'm not surprised that someone would have sewed their hauberk and chausses together.
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Mart Shearer

Location: Jackson, MS, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2012

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PostPosted: Fri 07 Sep, 2012 11:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We use "sewn" or "sewed" in the American south.
There is an earlier passage as well, this example from the now-inaccessable De Re Militari pages:
And as he was slow in getting up from the ground, waiting in vain for help and still hoping to escape, a boy [a commoner] named Cornut, one of the servants of the Elect of Senlis, and walking ahead of the latter, a man strong in body, arrives holding a deadly knife in his right hand. He wanted to cut the count's noble parts by plunging the knife in at the place where the body armor is joined to the leggings, but the armor sowed [sic] into the leggings will not separate and open up to the knife, and thus Cornut's hopes are thwarted. However, he circles the count and looks for other ways to reach his goal. Pushing the two whalebones out of the way and soon pulling off the whole of his helmet, he inflicts a large wound upon his unprotected face.

In the case of Commotus, the armor is specifically chausses de fer, mail chausses, and the haubert, hauberk. In Cornut's example, the armor is less specifically defined as cuirass and cuissard.

I suspect the hauberk skirts are laced or sewn to the chausses, giving the appearance of "mail trousers" as seen in the lost Hortus deliciarum from the late 12th century.

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Brian Robson

Joined: 19 Feb 2007

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PostPosted: Tue 11 Sep, 2012 3:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Something I've puzzled about for a while. There are quite a few practical reasons why I can't work it out (based on my experiences owning/wearing a harness of hauberk + mail chausses).

1. Restriction of Mobility.
Fixing your leg to the body means either a large bag of mail somewhere at your back or being unable to lift your legs or swing them forward. I found the opposite true with my kit - ie you need a 'bag' of mail at the front of the knee so you can bend it. You would probably need more of a bag at the front too.

2. Weight Distribution.
Mail chausses are heavy. I can't imagine the fasting being so that their weight is taken by the hauberk. But I also can't work out a way of fastening them, while having full mobility but without the hauberk ending up taking some of the weight depending on your body position/movements. You do not want the whole weight of it pulling from your shoulders.

3. Comfort.
The description mentions not being able to get a blow in while lifting the hauberk.. So the whole crotch area must have been covered with mail. This sounds like mail trousers rather than seperate hose. I can't imagine that being wearable either on horseback or on foot - although it would mean that they could be 'sown' quite high up, ie around hip or waist height, which would reduce some of the problems in 1. and 2. - but only if a set if mail trousers could be designed that were comfortable and did not restrict movement. The big problem here is bending the leg at the hip. Surely it would need a lot of extra, loose mail at the back to allow that.

Just can't figure it out.
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Ahmad Tabari

Joined: 15 Jun 2008

Posts: 148

PostPosted: Sun 16 Sep, 2012 8:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the responses guys and my apologies for the late reply (very hectic month).

After seeing the Hortus Deliciarum illustration, the idea of mail leggings being "sown" to the hauberk skirt makes a lot more sense. Perhaps sewing the chausses to the hauberk could minimize the weight and unnecessary coverage. But as Brian said, it probably wouldn't be very flexible. The count mentioned in the Bouvines passage seems to have been fighting on foot. Perhaps this was a reason why he was able to wear "sown" chausses.
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Elling Polden

Location: Bergen, Norway
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PostPosted: Mon 17 Sep, 2012 6:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The most plausible explanation would be chause pointed to the arming jacket and/or hauberk.
Pointing only to the hauberk would make no sense, since it would turn the entire garment into a mail jumpsuit with all the weight dangling around the thighs. Pointing to the arming jacket is a lot more sensible.

Alternately, one could lacethe hauberk together along the split front, thus closing it in the groin. But this would probably not be very practial.
But since the procedure is not mentioned in most of the sources describing the wear of hauberk and chausces, it probably did no prove to be worth the effort.
(If you are on your back and people are fumbling for your groin with sharp metal implements, your are at best postponing the inevitable.)

"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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