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Adam D. Kent-Isaac

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PostPosted: Thu 19 Aug, 2010 10:00 pm    Post subject: Details of English Civil War light horse equipment         Reply with quote

In the English Civil War era (not just in England but in other countries during that time period) the standard equipment for light cavalry seems to have been a yellow leather "buff coat" and/or jerkin, with or without a steel cuirass over it, and either a lobster-tail pot helmet or a hat. Much rarer heavy cavalry wore a three-quarters cuirassier harness and, usually, a close helmet or a close burgonet.

Was there ever some middle ground between the two? I.e. would light cavalry officers ever wear pauldrons and/or articulated upper arm defenses over the cuirass and buff coat for extra protection? Would they ever wear a close helmet instead of a lobster pot (I've seen portraits of officers in light cavalry gear, i.e. buffcoat, with a close helmet at the side, though the helmet could have been just artistic license.) I have also seen paintings or portraits with a buffcoat, cuirass and tassets, but no pauldrons. How frequently were the elements of an armour combined in different configurations during the 1640s and onward?

Some pieces of armour can be seen on the floor in this portrait of William Fairfax, who is dressed in a typical looking Parlimentarian cavalry kit.

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David Evans

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PostPosted: Fri 20 Aug, 2010 12:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The close helmet in paintings is purely symbolic. As far as we can tell, the full Cuirassier armour was only worn during the Civil war by the Lifeguard of Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex and the regiment of Sir Arthur Haselrig. It's possible that some senior officers may have worn the full panoply but there's no direct evidence.

The standard set up was that of the Harquebusier. Who's equipment had changed considerably over the years. The harquebusier started life as mounted shot.

To wit:-

" The arms of a harquebusier, or dragoon, which hath succeeded in the place of lighthorsemen (and are indeed of singular use almost in all actions of war) the arms are a good harquebuse or dragoon, fitted with an iron work, to be carried in a belt, a belt with a flask, priming-box, key, and bulletbag, an open head piece with cheeks, a good buff-coat with deep skirts, sword, girdle and hangers, a saddle, bridle, bit, petrel, crupper, with straps for his sack of necessaries, and a horse of less force and less price than the cuirassier."—Instructions for Afiisterx and Arms, 1631.—Rushworth, part 2, vol. 2, appendix, p. 137.

There's a good desciption on Page 199 of State Papers Relating to Musters, Beacons, Ship-money, &c. in Norfolk, from at

Somewhat different to the Civil war look! There's no evidence of anyone mixing up pauldrons and vambraces with the full back and breast plate. What evidence does exist points the other way, of officers and men dumping armour as it has no real value and is too heavy.

It's also been shown that the cuirassier armour worn in a lot of paintings from Charles I to Cromwell is probably the same set of armour and was a prop for painters !
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