Fig. 9.—Gothic Style of Armour. Monument of Count Otto IV. of Henneberg.
Soon after this the six or eight “tonlets” grow fewer, being continued on the lower edge by the so-called tuilles, small plates strapped to the tonlets and swinging with the movement of the legs. A fine suit of armour is shown in the monument of Count Otto IV. of Henneberg (fig. 9). Knightly armour takes perhaps its last expression of perfection in such a noble harness as that worn by Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, whose armed effigy was wrought between 1451 and 1454 (fig. 10). In this we see the characteristic feature of the great elbow-cops, whose channelled and fluted edges overlapping vambrace and rerebrace become monstrous fan-like shapes in the brass of Richard Quartremayns, graven about 1460. At this time the harness of the left shoulder is often notably reinforced, as compared with that of the sword-arm shoulder. Towards the latter part of the century chain mail reappears as a skirt or breech of mail, showing itself under the diminished tonlets, and, when helm and gorget are removed, as a high-standing collar. The articulation by overlapping plates extends even to the breastplate, whose front is thus in two or more pieces. Very long-necked rowel-spurs are often found, and the toes of the sabbatons or steel shoes are sharply pointed. The characteristic helmet of the latter half of the century is the salet or salade, a large steel cap, whose edge is carried out from the brows and still more boldly at the back of the neck.
|Fig. 10.—Brass of Richard|
Beachamp, earl of Warwick.
From Stothard’s Monumental Effigies.
Knights abandon the great helm in war, but it is perfected for use in the tilt-yard, taking for that purpose an enormous size, to enable two good inches of stuffing to come between head or face and the steel plate. Such a helm sits well down on the shoulders, to which it is locked before and behind by strong buckles or rivets. The note of the 15th century in armour is that of fantastically elaborate forms boldly outlined and a splendour of colour which gained much from the custom of wearing over the full harness short cloaks or rich coats turned up with furs, or from another fashion of covering the body plates or brigandines with rich velvets studded with gold. The details of the harness take a thousand curious shapes, and even amongst the simpler jacks and steel caps of the archers the same glorious variety is seen.
If the note of the 15th century be variety of form, that of the 16th century, the last important chapter in the history of armour, is surface decoration, the harness of great folk atoning in some measure for loss of the 16th century. beautiful medieval sense of line by elaborate enrichment. Plain engraving, niello, russet work, golden inlay and beaten ornament are common methods of enrichment. The great plume of ostrich feathers flows from the helmet crown of leaders in war. As in the reign of Edward III., costume’s fashion affects the forms of armour, the broad toe of the Henry VIII. shoe being imitated in steel, as the wide fluted skirts of the so-called Maximilian armour imitate the German fashion in civil dress which the Imperial host popularized through northern Europe (fig. 11). These skirts have been called “lamboys” by modern writers on military antiquities, but the word seems an antiquarianism of no value, apparently a misreading of the word “jambeis” in some early document. So many notable examples of the armour of this 16th century are accessible in European collections, other illustrations occurring in great plenty, that its details call for little discussion; a fine and characteristic suit is that by the famous English armourer, Jacob Topf (fig. 12), which belonged to Sir Christopher Hatton. Into this century the arquebusier marches, demanding a chief place in the line of battle, although it is a common error that the improvement in fire-arms drove out the fully armed warrior, whose plates gave him no protection. Until the rifle came to the soldier’s hands, plate armour could easily be made shot-proof.