Half greaves in the 15th century. Sabaton use too.
So, i'm in the process of building my own suit of 15th century plate armour, and i've encountered this doubt/dilema. As far as plate armour goes, back in the 15th century, anybody that could buy armour to cover most of their body and was not a mounted knight, would or not discard sabatons and/or the back half of the greaves that cover the calves? I've heard so from some members of my reenactment group, wether it was due to increase mobility and agility by reducing weight on a non vital part of the body or simply not being able to afford an entire suit of armour, soldiers in general (and infantry in particular) would not wear their complete leg armour in certain occasions.

I can see why a mounted knight would favour wearing the entire leg plate set, fully enclosing back and front greaves and plate sabatons, as they were exceptionally in danger of receiving cuts and blunt trauma to their legs, from fighting on horseback. Especially from foot infantry that had their upper arm/shoulder level on the same height as a mounted knight's leg.

Is there any painting or relief back from the 15th century to support this? Of course the first one that comes to my mind is The Knight, Death and the Devil by Albrecht Dürer from back in the early 16th century, where the knight seems to either be wearing no lower leg/shin protection at all, or some maille chausses under his plate cuisses that extend down to the feet.

Is there any physical evidence, being it painting, sculpture or whatever, of a knight or infantry soldier wearing plate sabatons with half greaves (only front shin plate, no calf and back of lower leg protection)? Is there any piece representing a knight or infantry soldier with no sabatons, no back greave and only front greave plate?

Thanks in advance and excuse me if there is any thread on this same subject already. I lazily used the search function and it seemed that there were no references to this on the first page that popped up.


Last edited by Martinho Ramos on Thu 08 May, 2014 7:14 am; edited 1 time in total
In Knight, Death, and the Devil, the knight is wearing what looks to be upper legs without greaves at all. The part which is down onto the lower leg is the 'demi-greave', and is part of the upper leg assembly. If he were wearing it with greaves as well, it would normally connect to the greave through a hole and peg system - the hole isn't drawn, so I'm assuming that's a suit without plate lower legs.

Moving a bit later in history, there's plenty of examples of partial harness around. The Greenwich armour of Sir John Smythe, for example, has a cuirass and helm, gauntlets, long tassets with poleyns, and mail sleeves, but no lower legs:
[ Linked Image ]
(from Wikipedia)

I recall some other lovely suits, but can't find useful references to them offhand.

In my experience, if you're fighting on foot, it can be quite sensible to compromise on your armour, depending on what sort of combat you're expecting. If you're wanting to save weight on a full plate harness, I'd generally drop feet first, then lower legs, then either upper legs or lower arms, then the other, then upper arms. Finally the cuirass goes, leaving you with just a helmet. Even if you can afford it, that steel at the end of the leg can be surprisingly tiring, and the ability to keep marching, fighting, and running away for longer might well be what saves you instead of a bit of extra protection.

Edit: I guess to sum up, then as now it was a fairly personal tradeoff between protection and stamina. You see the same thing with modern infantry in their body armour. I'd suspect that fighting on horseback tended to encourage lower leg armour more, while those fighting purely on foot are more likely to decide it's an unnecessary encumbrance, and discard pieces until they find themselves reasonably well suited up. I'd suggest getting full legs, trying them out, and deciding then what seems most sensible.
and unless you are going for specifically greenwich armour of the mid to late 16th cent then best avoid it as a source to get info from. Its pretty unique and also reserved for the upper classes.

Plenty of more common 15th cent armour around.
Entirely agreed. It just happened to be the first set of armour with specifically half-legs I could think of off the top of my head.
T. Kew, i know exactly how the demi greave hole and greave pin interact and lock, my current leg set is built that exact way. Right now i'm on the verge of either now making the back greave plates (and consecutively not making the plate sabatons aswell) and leave my suit the way it is, or decide some other way, depending on the historical proof i find,

Here's my suit so far:

May this will be helpfull ;)


Mike from Poland

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