3 Questions: Shoulder and Coif?
Hey folks!

1. What are these pauldron guards I see reenactors wear (see them below)?
2. In the movie called Ivanhoe (1953), Robert Taylor wears a coif which is flat at the top. How is this done and is it accurate to any specific period? Looks good, was it used?
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3. Can someone reveal what these strange decorative bands worn over coifs are and provide info about their use? Are they a ren fair thing?
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Hi Johnson, well those "pauldrons" weren't actually for protection, they were a purely decorative/armourial piece called aillettes and often made from parchment I believe. Both the head bands and the flat topped coifs were intended to hold the helm in the right place and to lift up slightly so that impacts weren't transferred to the head, similar to the suspension systems on modern hard hats. The flat topped coif was achieved by having a padded arming cap underneath and AFAIK were popular in the late 13th, early 14th century. Hope this helps.
1. Ailletes seem to have been popular from c.1280-c.1350. Their primary function seems to be heraldic display and identification from the side, though they offer limited shoulder protection. None of the period monuments or art seem to show the "through-lacing" used by the reenactors in your photographs.

2. The flat looking coif was likely accomplished through the use of a padded arming cap worn under the mail, though it is possible that the mail was worn over an iron helmet. The effigy of William Longespee (Longsword) the elder shows this in the 1220s, and the Wells Cathedral knights from the 1230-1240s seem to have similar profiles from arming coifs over the mail.



I suspect the look faded as helms lost that big flat top to a more tapered design after 1260 or so. The decorative ring over the coif seems to an odd interpretation of both straps--often woven through the mail to keep the coif tight to the brow but sometimes external, or the padded ring on the arming coif seen at Wells.
Those rolls of cloth worn over the coif were to hold the helm or helmet off the head. If the helm rested directly on the head or right over the coif it would give no protection from a blow. The force would be transmitted directly to the head. It would serve the same purpose as the webbing or plastic straps inside a modern hard hat.

To get the shape of the coif that Robert Taylor was wearing it would have to be worn over the helmet. It might have been a more comfortable way to wear the coif but I'm not sure about the historical accuracy of the practice.
Doug Lester wrote:

To get the shape of the coif that Robert Taylor was wearing it would have to be worn over the helmet. It might have been a more comfortable way to wear the coif but I'm not sure about the historical accuracy of the practice.

There's definately an argument for it though, looking at how angular the tops of some of the coifs look (as per the longespee brass shown earlier). There's no proof that its textile under there - just like there's no proof that it's metal, so to assume one is incorrect doesn't feel right to me. Also there's definately argument for the slightly later dome helmets worn under coifs (although that is disputed too), regardless of the heavily rounded and enlarged coif shapes we often see, regardless of the many images of coifs worn 'open and down' with helmets still worn (which is as close as you'll get to seeing what was worn under it in an image).

Unfortunately there's nothing definate on it though. Personally, I believe there's enough evidence to show that coifs were worn over helmets as often as helmets were worn over coifs - especially in some periods.
My guess is padding but this is tied to some level of estimation. We have the Temple Church, London effigy from mid 13th appears to show a heavy ring roll around the top and no coif on yet (maybe to keep from hidding the wearers face if the mail comes up over it, as the helmet would as well so it is also not on). You also can see some wearing this over the coif such as at Wells Cathedral from around the time. As far as I know there are some helmets that are shown that likely were under mail but I know of only rounds. So possible for a angular one like these, sure. We see more of them in art. It could be both were done but my money is still on the padded under coif being more common than the steel helmet. Now this is only based on art as well but none of the manuscripts I know of talk about this really.

The only text I can think of mentioning a cervelliere and mail coif comes from the Modus armandi milites ad torneamentum of c. 1325-1330. Per Dr. Sydney Anglo in The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe, pp.205-6

The ensuing discussion of the headgear does nothing to clarify the matter. The words 'coyfe de Chartres' are immediatley followed by 'et pelvim in qua debet esse cerveylere defendens capud ne contiguetur pelvis cum capite' (and a basin in which there ought to be a cervelliere defending the head lest the basin comes into contact with the head). This is puzzling because it seems more likely that the 'cerveylere' (or skull piece) should go on before the mail 'coyfe'. But this would still leave the nature of the interposed 'pelvis' (which is presumably the author's Latin rendition of bascinet) wholly mysterious, especially as he elsewhere refers to a bacyn.

The "coyfe de Chartres" is noted to be of mail. Pelvim, for which the pelvic bone is named, means bowl or basin. So the order of wear seems to be a mail coif, cervelliere, and then bascinet, though the language is not clear concerning the pelvim in this early 14th century account. It may have varied in earlier times or places.

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