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Craig Shackleton




Location: Ottawa, Canada
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PostPosted: Thu 20 Sep, 2012 7:05 pm    Post subject: Archer's Knees         Reply with quote

A friend of mine and I were discussing "Archer's knees," as seen in lots of images from the 15th century. These appear to be articulated knee steel knee armour, but appear to not be associated with other leg armour.

I have heard that there are no known surviving artifact examples.

Is there more to this? Why wear armour just on the knees? Or were they attached to some sort of cuisse? If they were stand-alone armour, why so much articulation? Or is that just modern interpretation (the reproductions I've seen are almost always 5-piece knees).

It just seems to both of us that there must be something we are missing.

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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Thu 20 Sep, 2012 11:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I know I have seen a thread on myArmoury about this exact subject. I'll post a link if I manage to find it.
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Tom King




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PostPosted: Thu 20 Sep, 2012 11:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You have to take into account how long the demi greave and demi cuisse seem to be on a pair of arches knees. the demi cuisse plate seems to stretch 1/2 to 3/4 up the thigh while the demi greave goes a bit above mid calf, so it was more than just knee protection. Something tells me it was probably a weight factor, the pointed cuisse plate probably makes the leg armor weigh half that of a full wrap leg harness with demi greave while still providing decent protection to the thigh. This would be a plus for light infantry. There is also the cost element. a pair of archers knees probably use 1/3 less metal to produce than a set of regular full cuisse leg armor, so would cost only 2/3 as much to produce and take 2/3 as long.
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Craig Shackleton




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PostPosted: Fri 21 Sep, 2012 4:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks guys.

I did do several searches for this info and failed to come up with anything.

I have another question too. Most of the repros are worn just strapped to the knees. Is there a different way to attach these? Should they be pointed?

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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Fri 21 Sep, 2012 4:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Is there a different way to attach these? Should they be pointed?


Craig, I know several LH guys that do this as well as the straps.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 26 Sep, 2012 11:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My old thread, perhaps?

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...ght=poleyn

It's worth noting that these days I prefer pointing the poleyns/knee lames/whatever to sturdy hose, which provides a more secure attachment and better mobility in vigorous actions. They may not be quite as useful as full leg armour in combat but they provide decent protection for whatever parts they do cover--but the non-combat protection they provide against accidental bumping of the knees (upon trees, rocks, other people's gear, etc.) is downright excellent.
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Craig Shackleton




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PostPosted: Thu 27 Sep, 2012 7:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting, and thanks!

The picture in that thread shows poleyns that really do only cover the knees, and I can't imagine there is some kind of hidden leg armour being represented there. The poleyns definitely don't extend high enough to point to the hip or anything like that. It looks like they are either just strapped or pointed to the hose which would then have to be quite sturdy, snug, and well pointed themselves.

I wonder if there is some aspect of being an archer particularly that requires kneeling, dropping suddenly to the knees or something similar that would make the knee protection particularly useful for that rather than as combat defense.

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Matthew P. Adams




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PostPosted: Thu 27 Sep, 2012 5:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is just speculation on my part, but did archers shoot from formation like civil war soldiers? Fist line taking a knee, second line standing?
"We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training" Archilochus, Greek Soldier, Poet, c. 650 BC
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Tom King




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PostPosted: Thu 27 Sep, 2012 11:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew P. Adams wrote:
This is just speculation on my part, but did archers shoot from formation like civil war soldiers? Fist line taking a knee, second line standing?


In a way. When firing a bow, you are horizontal to the battle, so heavier armor on the left side can be effective for a right handed archer, which also translates into sword and buckler fighting if they lead with the left side. A few period sources talking about standardization of equipment in the 15th century talk about increased armor on the leading side for spear men and such. Firing a bow form a kneeling position would be uncomfortable for the archer, although possible, but the tactic isn't useful when paired with the howitzer-like fire and loose formation of an English archer. Crossbowmen however may have been on their knees more often due to the use of the pavise to protect them while reloading.
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Michael Parker




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 9:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My amateur guess is that archer's knees were mainly due to the priority of protecting a vulnerable joint, which any man-at-arms would care about a lot. After all, these archers had to fight hand to hand when the enemy closed the distance or when they ran out of arrows. In the early transitional armor period, it seems like the close-faced helmet, coat of plates, and floating poleyns that pointed to the mail were the first to be invented. The 15th century illustrations make it look as if lots of archers wore just helmet, jack/brigandine, and the knees.

Your first priority is to protect your internal organs, like the brain, heart, lungs, and guts. A thrust two inches deep in the right place is fatal, as a Roman once said. Second priority might be to protect joints and bony areas that don't have a muscle layer to protect them, such as the collarbone and knee. Getting a grazing flesh wound that doesn't wound the muscle is not a show-stopper, which is why there was an advantage to gladiators being kind of husky; wide, grazing, superficial wounds to the fatty layer of flesh drew a lot of blood and thus excited the crowd, but allowed the combatants to bravely continue fighting. Damage to muscle is worse, but if you are struck in a relatively meaty muscle like the thigh and you're lucky you might still be able to stay on your feet, especially if it is a thrust rather than a slicing cut and the muscle fibers aren't severed. Your rib cage protects your heart and lungs pretty well, all things considered. However, joints and other bony parts are vulnerable. Sword cuts to the side of the knee or the kneecap were fairly common because people knew that they were cripplingly effective, and a mace or ax strike to the collarbone would snap it. The skull is kind of a double-whammy, since it contains your brain protected only by a hard layer of bone without a layer of muscle; it might stop a club or a blunt impact on its own, but an ax or sword that concentrates a lot of force on a hard, small surface area can crack it open. I think that helmets have always been the most important piece of armor for that reason. I suspect that archer's knees address a problem that isn't specific to archers, but accounts for the idea that if you can't have full plate armor coverage then you prioritize.

"This is a sharp medicine, but it is a physician for all diseases and miseries."
-Sir Walter Raleigh, upon being allowed to see the ax that would behead him, 29 October 1618
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 10:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

With knees slightly bents your knee(s) is going to be closer to the opponent's sword or other hand weapon than your hips or lower leg or foot, and more likely to be reached and damaged.

If you squat down to any degree your knees extend closer than they would when you are standing strait.

A few lames above and below the knees add a bit to this protection, the archers knees are less heavy or less likely to slow you down than full leg armour, and if you do have to take a knee to the ground for any reason it also does the job of kneepads.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 01 Oct, 2012 1:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Think about dropping to one or both knees to rest (and, if you're a Christian, maybe pray while you're at it). Pretty handy way of resting after a long march or standing for long periods, but easier to get up from than a fully seated position (or sprawled out on the ground). Plate knees with sufficient padding tend to come in handy for this kind of thing.
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