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What did medieval archers wear?

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What did medieval archers wear?

Postby Mid Knight » Mon Jun 25, 2007 6:18 pm

Hi, this might be a stupid question, but what did medieval archers wear? The LEGO archers seem to wear metal armor similar to the soldiers and knights, while in RuneScape, they wear leather armor, and other places show them wearing cloth robes like Jedi and Sith robes. What did they wear??
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Postby Blue Head » Mon Jun 25, 2007 6:53 pm

I bet they wore very light armor for easy manuvering, with the bow and while runing or walking. Archers with heavy armor like that would have a hard time getting to where archers usualy were. So my guess, light armor with mabey leather, for light traveling.
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Postby Mid Knight » Mon Jun 25, 2007 10:17 pm

So probably chainmaille, rather than the bulky plate? And is it false that they wore robes (like Jedi and Sith) ?
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Postby Sir Kohran » Mon Jun 25, 2007 11:10 pm

Mid Knight wrote:So probably chainmaille, rather than the bulky plate? And is it false that they wore robes (like Jedi and Sith) ?


Certainly not robes; no common soldier could have afforded high quality clothes, especially not for dirty combat.

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Postby Aliencat » Tue Jun 26, 2007 12:44 am

Depends on what era you're talking about, what area and what retinue they were in. There are so many varieties as far as armour, shields, headgear, etc go. Some retinue archers actually wore plated armour if they could afford it to protect themselves from incoming enemy arrows.

Archers in a retinue would be trained up and provided with light or heavy armour depending on the wealth of their retinue, but for most it was a matter of what they could afford.

For example english Yeoman archers had shields strapped to their left arm (the bow arm) to still be able to move their right arm (the arrow arm) freely, and be covered while reloading. Northern Italian Pavise archers had tall shields strapped to their backs to protect them from incoming arrows while reloading. Whereas most drafted archers (most of the time peasants trained in the use of the bow) had no armour, shield or helmet at all but just walked around in their robes (your everyday peasant robe, not the expensive kind).

Heavy armour wasn't as bad a downside as you would expect, especially since in field battles most archers were ordered to move to a certain position and hold it for the majority of the battle, sometimes setting up spear walls (a bunch of spears facing outwards stuck in the ground around them) in front of them to protect them from cavalry, which made it a very bad idea for them to move and lose their protection.
In a siege however light armour (or none at all) could be preferred, because if you can get onto the enemy walls (say with a ladder or siege tower), your first move would be to get your archers onto the enemy towers as fast as possible, since height advantage is the best advantage for an archer.

Basically what I'm saying is you're alright putting anything on your archers, depending on their role and the era you're aiming for.
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Postby Patron of the lego » Tue Jun 26, 2007 2:30 am

Well archers probably also wore cotton or wool jackets, known for having as many as 30 layers. Of course lightwieght.
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Postby Damien » Tue Jun 26, 2007 2:56 am

but what did medieval archers wear?


Whatever they could afford.

People tend to think too much in modern concepts, and they equate different 'classes' of soldier in the medieval and ancient eras with different 'uniforms.' This outlook is wholly inaccurate. Any warrior on the field wore the best armour that he could afford or scavenge from the battlefield.

The best you can get is a general statement as to what a certain class would -usually- be able to afford, and in limited circumstances what they would be issued by their commanders. The Genoese and English archers of the Hundred Years War had 'uniforms.' But the funny part is, the latter only wore them if they couldn't get something better.


For those two examples, Genoese Crossbowman and English longbowman, padded jackets, called 'gambesons' were the normal piece of armour - sometimes also a conical skullcap (metal helmet). Anything better would have had to be purchased or taken from the battlefield off the dead. And that was extremely common, mind you.



For example english Yeoman archers had shields strapped to their left arm (the bow arm) to still be able to move their right arm (the arrow arm) freely, and be covered while reloading.


The typical shield of the English bowman was a buckler - and it was worn suspended from their belt. It was hand-held and only used in melee. Whether a shield was ever worn strapped to the arm is historically debatable. There doesn't appear to be any real evidence of it except for a few tapestries or illustrations from the period that are, excuse the pun, sketchy.


Northern Italian Pavise archers had tall shields strapped to their backs to protect them from incoming arrows while reloading.


The Pavise was actually placed against the ground and the archers would crouch behind it while reloading. It, like many shields, was only carried on the back during troop movement.


Whereas most drafted archers (most of the time peasants trained in the use of the bow) had no armour, shield or helmet at all but just walked around in their robes (your everyday peasant robe, not the expensive kind).


You mean tunic and breeches? But in truth, most levy archers (the English longbowman being the most stirling example), were given accoutrements of war, often by their lord but sometimes it was a group effort of the village they were from to make sure they were equipped. Indeed, it wasn't uncommon for kings, magnates, and other persons of status, to make laws of what a levied troop was required to bring with him. The village was expected to provide him with things like a shield, sword, spear, and body armour - or bow, a few sheaves of arrows, helmet. . etc.


In a siege however light armour (or none at all) could be preferred, because if you can get onto the enemy walls (say with a ladder or siege tower), your first move would be to get your archers onto the enemy towers as fast as possible, since height advantage is the best advantage for an archer.


A siege is probably the worst place to be wearing light or no armour. When you have arrows, rocks, spears, and all else being dropped on you, shot at you, thrown at you, etc -- you need to be wearing the best protection you can get. Scaling a wall is difficult in 50 pounds of gear. It's much more difficult when you're dead.


And is it false that they wore robes (like Jedi and Sith) ?


Yes. Absolutely false.
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Postby Aliencat » Tue Jun 26, 2007 3:38 am

Thanks for the corrections Damien, yes indeed I meant tunic and breeches, I'm not as fluent at English as I'd like to think sometimes, in the sense that I don't know a lot of termology, because I was simply only taught in Dutch.

As for Pavise and archer shields, again depends a lot on the time and area, I remember in the museum of Prague you can find a few shields that were actually meant to be worn constantly by archers, instead of just for melee combat or troop movement, which is what I find most interesting :)
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Postby Patron of the lego » Tue Jun 26, 2007 6:17 pm

I'm actually pretty sure that the majority of a army was made of archers. Since bows are arrows were pretty cheap weapons in the MA.
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Postby Sir Kohran » Tue Jun 26, 2007 7:24 pm

Patron of the lego wrote:I'm actually pretty sure that the majority of a army was made of archers. Since bows are arrows were pretty cheap weapons in the MA.


I kind of doubt it. For one thing it wouldn't be considered honourable and also records usually talk most about men at arms and knights; there's very little on archers. Hopefully those with more knowledge can clear this up.

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Postby Mid Knight » Tue Jun 26, 2007 9:28 pm

Thanks a lot for all the answers! They are very helpful for our (me and my brother's) LEGO castle, and also good info to know. I an a newbie when it comes to history, lol. Thanks again!

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Postby Shadowviking » Tue Jun 26, 2007 10:14 pm

Aliencat wrote:Thanks for the corrections Damien, yes indeed I meant tunic and breeches, I'm not as fluent at English as I'd like to think sometimes, in the sense that I don't know a lot of termology, because I was simply only taught in Dutch.

Use Babelfish. :twisted:


Isn't it kind of the same with knight symbols? That is, they would wear their house symbol rather than a unified faction symbol (like, say, a falcon, or a lion)? (I'm asking this here because it doesn't seem like a good enough excuse to make a new topic)
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Postby Aliencat » Tue Jun 26, 2007 11:57 pm

Patron of the lego wrote:I'm actually pretty sure that the majority of a army was made of archers. Since bows are arrows were pretty cheap weapons in the MA.

Bows and arrows aren't especially expensive to make, but an archer is hard to train. Besides that, most French and Imperial nobles deemed the bow an unchivalric and honourless weapon.
Infantry and cavalry were more of a backbone for most armies, but of course there were exceptions.

Shadowviking wrote:Isn't it kind of the same with knight symbols? That is, they would wear their house symbol rather than a unified faction symbol (like, say, a falcon, or a lion)?

Yep, especially in the feudal system, knights and those fighting for them would use their own symbols and banners, because they considered themselves lords of their own lands, and that's what they fought for.
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Postby Mid Knight » Wed Jun 27, 2007 2:58 pm

Shadowviking, I know the answer to this. Each family had their own Crest aka Coat of Arms, and wore it on their shield and/or armor. Their oldest son would inherrit the crest, and other sons would be allowed to make slight changed to it to suit them. So yes, they all had their own crest. I don't know if a kingdom had a crest or not, but I would think they would have something to differentiate their knights from the enemies. Oh, and the crests started always being worn when full face helmets were invented, so the knight could be recognized in full armor.
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Postby The_Vanquished » Wed Jun 27, 2007 9:04 pm

Aliencat wrote:Yep, especially in the feudal system, knights and those fighting for them would use their own symbols and banners, because they considered themselves lords of their own lands, and that's what they fought for.


I will have to remember that if I ever make decals for my knights. Although, my family came from Germany, originally, so the armor would have been different. But no one has to know that, do they? :wink:
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