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Dashiell Harrison




Location: California
Joined: 14 Jun 2014

Posts: 39

PostPosted: Fri 21 Feb, 2020 2:21 pm    Post subject: Portraying a Douglass Man-at-Arms at the Battle of Sark         Reply with quote

Hi all,

I'm looking into building a kit to portray a Scottish man-at-arms from the mid-15th century, and I was wondering if anybody could point me towards some good sources (books, articles, effigies, etc.)

I'm trying to put together something that will be relatively affordable (sub $3,000 if possible), but offer enough protection to use for "deed of arms" or harnischfechten HEMA competitions while being historically accurate enough for living history.

In general, from what I can tell, Scottish armor tended to be a bit out of date. How far back do people think it makes sense to go for a lower-status man-at-arms in 1448? Would a bascinet with a mail aventail make sense, or would pretty much everyone who could afford a bascinet at all probably have upgraded to a great bascient or sallet by then?

In general, is there anything that people can recommend that would give the kit an especially "Scottish" flavor?

Thanks in advance for everything!
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 21 Feb, 2020 9:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dashiell,

Aside from perhaps carrying a shield with a known mid-15th century Scottish coat of arms, don't try to make the kit "distinctively Scottish". There isn't really anything specifically "Scottish" that should stand out about armour and equipment from this time. Even if you use older armour, this will still be the same as soldiers elsewhere using cheaper or dated armour.

You will want to start by looking at the effigies of Scottish knights during your decade (1440-1450). Here are a few:

http://effigiesandbrasses.com/1216/1279/

http://effigiesandbrasses.com/1661/1699/

http://effigiesandbrasses.com/1661/1699/

If you want to keep your kit a bit cheaper, you might substitute brigandine for the breast plate and then wear plate armour over your arms and legs. Be sure to spend lots of time researching brigandine, looking at plenty of antique specimens from the 15th century to help you out. The reason I say this is because there are brigandine makers who will make brigandines that are not very good or close to historical ones. From what I have seen, Aleksey Perebeynos (found on Facebook) does pretty good work.

Be sure to have an arming garment and proper underwear as a foundation level. Also, there's often a mail shirt under brigandine, although whether you want to include this or not is your choice.
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J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
Joined: 25 Dec 2006

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PostPosted: Sat 22 Feb, 2020 7:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Dashiell,

If you are specifically aiming at a Douglas look (and I suppose you might have some of that blood in your veins, like I do), then this is a lowland clan. They would have armed themselves the same as their English counterparts of the day, as Craig says.

Now, if you really want a specific Scottish look for that period, you could look more toward the Western Highlands and Hebrides (where some of my other folk hailed from!). You can find many on-line pictures of grave slabs from that area from 13th century to 15th century. The majority show a warrior with an open-faced bascinet with mail coif over the typical aketon, a very heavy quilted gambeson, apparently stained yellow for war. And of course the distinctive sword types (typified by the Albion Caithness). This was the more 'backward' area you may be thinking of, so that type of sword would not be out of place.

Here is one such site: https://www.scottishcastlesassociation.com/news/news/west-highland-grave-slabs.htm

I've been tempted to put together an outfit like this myself. I have the sword: https://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=34059

Regards, John Douglas Crawford
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Sat 22 Feb, 2020 11:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A couple of comments on the West Highlands Grave Slab article. First, the article notes that mail armour would be worn over the gambeson. However, that isn't necessarily the case. Note how none of the grave slabs show mail as a top layer. My guess is that the warriors wore a thin foundation garment (perhaps a thin aketon), over which was the mail hauberk, followed by the gambeson on top. This would have the advantage of cushioning blows more before the mail itself is impacted. It could also help dissipate energy from an arrow, important when mail armour has small gaps that can be pierced.

Secondly, the article states that the small size of the shields is thought not to reflect the real size of shields. This, too, is almost certainly mistaken. There is plenty of visual evidence for small heater shields besides these grave slabs. Some heater shields were little bigger than bucklers. To give context from surviving examples, there is a buckler in the Bayerisches Armeemuseum from the end of the 15th century that is only 20.5 cm long. Although a buckler and not a shield, it's size indicates that a such a piece of protection could be very small. Likewise, Kohlmorgan includes the shield of the Herren von Dernbach, circa 1350-1400 AD, which is 49 cm high, and 36 cm high. These examples suggest that especially small shields are not unknown.
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Anthony Clipsom




Location: YORKSHIRE, UK
Joined: 27 Jul 2009

Posts: 155

PostPosted: Sun 23 Feb, 2020 1:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you want to depict a Douglas, you don't need to be thinking in terms of Highland or Island equipment. You might take heed of what the legal expectation was

Our lord, the king, through the whole ordinance of his parliament statutes that each gentleman having £10 worth of land or more be sufficiently harnest and armed with basinet, whole leg harness, sword, spear and dagger. (James I, 1426)

Later weapons specifications tend to focus on what the English would think of as the yeomen, rather than the men-at-arms. However, we might note that this appears to be the last mention of the bascinet - later laws speak of iron hats (kettlehat), sellat and pricking hat (a light cavalry helmet, probably covering a variety of types). So, if you appeared in a kettlehat and gorget combination or a sallet, or perhaps an open bascinet, you wouldn't be pushing the evidence.

It is interesting the law doesn't define the body armour part of "sufficient" harness. This may be because it is something the king thinks everybody knows, or, perhaps, to allow for multiple styles in use (e.g. the Highland and Island style and a lowland style). Personally, I suspect the former and the law is expecting appropriate mail, brigandine, plate combinations or full plate, according to the resources of the man-at-arms.

Anthony Clipsom
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Dashiell Harrison




Location: California
Joined: 14 Jun 2014

Posts: 39

PostPosted: Sun 23 Feb, 2020 4:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

JD to my knowledge I don't have any Douglas ancestry, they just seemed like a more interesting family to focus on than my own Scottish ancestors (the Mcphersons and Dempsters) from a harnischfechten perspective.

It sounds like a lowland man-at-arms would probably have been using hard kit similar to that of the English, if perhaps a few decades behind in terms of development.

What about soft kit? Are there majors differences there or are we looking at the same gear basically: turnshoes, hosen, arming doublet, and linen shirt.

In terms of weapons, are there any distinctly Scottish designs for pollaxes or spears?

Thanks for all the help so far; I really appreciate it.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Sun 23 Feb, 2020 4:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dashiell,

The idea of Scotland being behind "a few decades" seems to be a common one. However, unless perhaps you are portraying a Highland warrior or maybe a warrior before David I, there doesn't seem to be much truth to it.

Here are several English effigies from the same time frame as the Scottish ones I posted. See if you can notice significant differences between them:

http://effigiesandbrasses.com/3618/3166/

http://effigiesandbrasses.com/3621/3204/

http://effigiesandbrasses.com/3214/2641/

Also, as mentioned previously, there's little by way of distinctively "Scottish" weapons. Doug is correct that weapons with Viking pommels and down-turned crosses persist in the Highlands. There also is the rather rare Jeddart Axe, whose precise form is still open for debate, but I think these were 16th century and later.

However, beyond a few rare examples as noted above, it's a mistake to try to make a kit distinctively Scottish. There is no such thing at this point. In fact, if you try and make your kit "Scottish", you're actually making it look modern (i.e. 21st century mistaken interpretation) the way people often over-decorate modern scabbards with tooling, or put designs that were rare or not seen in the Middle Ages as part of the tooling.

Using a Scottish coat of arms on a heater shield is really the best way to communicate what kingdom you belong to. Either that, or consider a livery badge. While it might be nice to be able to clearly indicate to a viewer "I'm Scottish!" with visual cues in the arms and armour, you can't really do this save for portraying a Highland warrior as Doug mentioned- and that means no harnischfechten.
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Dashiell Harrison




Location: California
Joined: 14 Jun 2014

Posts: 39

PostPosted: Sun 23 Feb, 2020 7:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig,

Thanks for all your patience with my questions. Honestly the absence of much difference in terms of clothing and arms between lowland Scots and Continental Europeans makes things much easier for me. I'd mainly been looking at French, English, and German pictorial sources for inspiration since they are much easier to find, and was trying to avoid stumbling into something that would be too "English" or too "Continental" for my chosen portrayal. Similarly, I mainly study German fencing sources, so having armor that functions identically to German armor of this period will be handy for learning.

As for Scottish arms being out of date, I got that from a paper on the St. Nicholas effigies by Toby Capwell, but the paper is over a decade old and research may well have marched on in the intervening time.
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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

Posts: 588

PostPosted: Sun 23 Feb, 2020 9:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dashiell Harrison wrote:
Craig,

Thanks for all your patience with my questions. Honestly the absence of much difference in terms of clothing and arms between lowland Scots and Continental Europeans makes things much easier for me. I'd mainly been looking at French, English, and German pictorial sources for inspiration since they are much easier to find, and was trying to avoid stumbling into something that would be too "English" or too "Continental" for my chosen portrayal. Similarly, I mainly study German fencing sources, so having armor that functions identically to German armor of this period will be handy for learning.

As for Scottish arms being out of date, I got that from a paper on the St. Nicholas effigies by Toby Capwell, but the paper is over a decade old and research may well have marched on in the intervening time.

My medieval research focuses on the period 1360-1410, but in that period each region has its own distinct fashions in clothing and armour. There is no such thing as an "international style of armour" in that period, 1370s English is different from 1370s French is different from 1370s Florentine is different from 1370s Swabian. You don't see many Italians wearing a ballock dagger or many Scots wearing a langes Messer.

I would visit your library and borrow every single book with 15th century Scottish art they have. I think there is an online database with British stained glass, and there are Effigies and Brasses and Manuscript Miniatures.

My understanding is that Toby Capwell is working on a book on a style of mid-15th-century armour which is depicted in English brasses but not English effigies, resembles some armour in art from other Frankish countries, and may be what some cities in Italy were turning out in bulk for the export trade (at least, that was his theory in a talk a few years ago, his thinking may have changed).

Edit: Here is an Act of Parliament from 6 March 1429 (so possibly March 1430 in our calendar, in the middle ages the year did not usually start on 1 January)

Quote:
Of the array of knychtis lordes and vtheris, 1429

4. Item, be the awyse of the haill parliament it is statute and ordanit that ilk man that may dispende yerly xx lib. or at has jC (100) lib. in movabil gudis, that he be wele horsit and haill enarmyt as a gentill man audit to be. And vther sympillaris of x lib. of rent or L lib. in gudis, haif hat gorgeat or pesane, with rerebrasaris vambrasaris and gluffis of plate brest plate panse (belly/hip armour) and legsplentis at the lest or better gif him likis.


So anyone with 10 pounds Scots a year in rent or 50 pounds Scots in goods is supposed to have a gorget or pisane (mail collar), rerebraces, vambraces, and gloves of plate, breastplate, paunce (belly/hip armour), and splints for the legs "at least."

Edit: And here is a translation of an account of the Lalaing/Douglas deed of arms before the King of Scotland in 1449

www.bookandsword.com


Last edited by Sean Manning on Tue 25 Feb, 2020 10:22 am; edited 2 times in total
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Anthony Clipsom




Location: YORKSHIRE, UK
Joined: 27 Jul 2009

Posts: 155

PostPosted: Mon 24 Feb, 2020 1:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

On the subject of internationalism of armour, there seems to be little evidence of a major armour industry in Scotland, so most armour would have been imported. We might expect English and Netherlandish styles perhaps to predominate but German pieces would have been available through the North Sea trade. Also, Scottish forces had served in France in the 1420s and 30s and some Scots would serve there through the 15th century, so items aquired in France would have made their way into arms and armour stocks.

On coats of arms on shields, I would think Scottish men-at-arms had discarded these for foot combat by the 1440 but perhaps not. Douglas men-at-arms (certainly the Black branch) bore a heart livery badge - this was certainly in use by the 1450s as finds at Threave demonstrate and probably earlier.

For interest, you might read the deed of arms between the Douglases and the Lalaings in Edinburgh in 1449. You can find a paraphrase of it here. Here we have the Douglases fighting in what would seem to be standard "modern" armour with lances and pollaxes. OK, these were from the upper ranks of the Douglas forces, but certainly no sign of deficiency or foreign-ness.

Anthony Clipsom
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Tue 25 Feb, 2020 3:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean,

Yes, the implications of what I was saying went too far, and could be misleading. From what I said, Dashiell might not have realized that part of the purpose of me sharing the effigies was to show precisely what the armour looked like, and that he shouldn't be aiming for Gothic plate, or Milanese (though it's not impossible Scottish men-at-arms had access to these armours). And it's certainly true there are other differences regional differences like German basilards versus Italian or English. There are plenty of other possible subtle or less subtle distinctions. So, to give the impression there are no regional differences is misleading.

From the examples, admittedly limited, that I have seen, there aren't unambiguously "Scottish" features on the plate armour. It seems that English plate sometimes may have had more lames on the fauld and were a bit more likely to have tassets and that English plate may have been more likely to have besigews and pauldrons. However, I don't think these make for a distinctively "Scottish" design. Even the plaque belts seen on some of the Scottish effigies that might be seen as an anachronism at this time are mirrored in English effigies from 1450. It seems the Scots may have been more likely to wear a jupon over the plate- but it's hard to say.

Barring far more examples of Scottish plate that tell a very different story, Scottish armour if this time period looks pretty "English" overall.
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Stephen Curtin




Location: Cork, Ireland
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Feb, 2020 9:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here's a paper that you might be interested in Dashiell.

https://www.academia.edu/20187550/Observations_on_the_Armour_Depicted_on_Three_Mid_15th-Century_Military_Effigies_in_the_Kirk_of_St._Nicholas_Aberdeen

Éirinn go Brách
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