Medieval Armor in History
Stories from the Middle Ages, tales from the Holy Roman Empire, and romantic stories from medieval and Renaissance Europe have all helped popularize the image of the “medieval knight in shining armor.” While we love this romantic ideal, wearing armor itself was by no means exclusive to just those who were knighted. Foot soldiers such as pikemen, archers, crossbowmen, and gunners were an integral part of medieval and Renaissance armies. Mercenaries and peasants also participated in these armed conflicts. It was infrequent that these types of soldiers would have a full suit of plate armor, but it was not uncommon for them to keep and protect themselves with some sort of armor. In some cases, this was required by law. Most of these protections would include a helmet, a body defense such as a breastplate or a fabric, leather, or (chain) mail shirt, as well as some type of weapon. Body protection could also include plate armor and leg and feet protection like greaves and sabatons.
Wearing armor was also not exclusive to men. Women throughout the ages have always been involved in battles and sieges, especially when it was their home or town that was under attack. There are several documented references to women participating in armed conflict. Women could be a part of the town’s militia and they were expected to lead the defense of their family lands in the absence of their husbands. Noblewomen were also allowed to command armies in the field involving local conflicts and they could also lead crusades. One example of this was French noblewoman Jeanne de Penthièvre (c. 1320–1384) who became commander of her husband’s army when he was taken hostage. She even led the troops into battle in what came to be known as “The War of Two Jeannes.”
Armor for the Common Man
The idea that armor was too expensive for the common citizen may be something that is perpetuated by modern museums and collections. This is because most of the armor that is on display throughout the world is of especially high quality as these pieces make better exhibits. Most of the more common and less decorative armor and helmets, better suited for the lower nobility and the common man, have been lost to antiquity or relegated to storerooms. While it is true that high-quality or made-to-measure products from famous German or Italian armourers or royal court workshops could be very costly, at this time there was armor of low to middle quality that was available to purchase in urban shops, markets, and trading fairs much better suited for the budget of a typical man-at-arms.
Medieval Armor and Helmets at Armory
At Armory we take pride in seeking out the highest quality and historically accurate armor, helmets, shields, and much more. Whether you are looking for a Roman lorica segmentata, a full suit of 16th-century medieval armor, or anything in between, we have what you are looking for. We have many different styles that are great for display, re-enactments, cosplay, SCA, LARP, or anything else, with a price range that can fit anyone’s budget.
Browse our online store to see our medieval armor and other fine products. If you have any questions, we are here to help.