Made by an amateur historian, this project is not intended to be read with face value or literally, as I do not claim to base my interpretation of history perfectly or on recent evidence or information. There are possibilities of typos, errors, and inaccuracies, with the chance that sections and themes may be wrong, in whole or in part. I attempted to make this project specifically in regards to the development of the Norman warrior and his environment, and how he interacted with the world around him up into the 12th century. I delved mostly into armour and weapons, but also the mindset and culture, of the Norman and his origins, to try and understand his world. Hopefully, this project will prove to be a useful glimpse into the complex and violent world that was the Viking Age and the Middle Ages, two eras filled with so much information there is no way all of it could be explored. I attempted to make this project easy to read as well, and excluded many details that I felt were not important or left out because they were better off to be explored in other works. As such, only read this project as a start for future studies. Phrases and manuscripts referenced can also be looked up with search engines for visuals of them, too.
Of all medieval European knights, the Normans probably became one of the most renowned even today, due to their efforts in conquering Sicily and England, their conquests into the Holy Lands, and their Nordic ancestry, as most medieval enthusiasts and historians often know. But the Norman warrior was not always a knight, a figure often portrayed romantically, and poetically, as a mounted nobleman, armed cap-à-pied for his lady while fighting evil and saving the weak. In reality, a nobleman wearing plate armour for the entire body is more of a Renaissance era environment rather than a medieval one. Indeed, for most of the Middle Ages and the Migration Period, mail (popularly but incorrectly known as chainmail nowadays) seems to have been the most common form of metal armour, with plates and lames of iron appearing sometime in the late thirteenth century. Therefore, to better understand the development of the Norman warrior’s code of conduct, his weapons, his armour, his styles of fighting, his environment, and the world he lived in, his heritage must be explored first, and such origins go back before the 10th century, back into the days of the Norsemen, popularly called Vikings. From ancestry to chivalry, the Norman warrior will once again embark on an adventure.
THE NORMAN ORIGINS
The 8th-11th Century, Viking Age
Various Germanic tribes and peoples inhabited the Nordic countries since Ancient Times, but the Normans (Nourmands in Norman, which essentially means Northmen) were descendants of Norsemen probably mostly from Denmark and Norway, who settled in north-western France from the 10th to 11th centuries. This started at least in 911, when the Frankish King Charles III the Simple granted land to a Norse adventurer named Rollo, signing the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, thus forming what would eventually develop into the Duchy of Normandy in the next century. Rollo (a possible ancestor of William the Conqueror) was quite the adventurer, having been exiled from Norway (his possible homeland), travelled to Scotland where he married a Christian woman, and then eventually came to France, where he converted to Christianity, baptized by the Archbishop of Rouen. From then on, the Norsemen who settled in Normandy would Christianize and mingle with the Carolingian culture, and thus the Franks and Norsemen in this area would evolve into the Normans. Although sometimes referred to as French, the Norman court even speaking French by the late middle of the 11th century, the Normans were definitely not the Kingdom of France, but were their own duchy, with their own culture that would later influence Europe. Since the origin of the Normans goes back to the Franks and Norsemen, both those cultures will be explored in several categories.
Echoing in the sagas and the poem Beowulf, the Norsemen, especially huscarls of the earls and lords, were expected to fight with honour, courage, loyalty, and for reward. If the earl, king, or lord was killed, his huscarls, who were elite bodyguards and retainers of their lord, were expected to fight to the death and avenge his death or die trying. Some Norsemen were pagans well into the early Middle Ages even during their Christianization, and would have believed that, by dying in battle bravely, they would go to Valhalla and enjoy an eternity of feasting and drinking. Legends of exceptional Vikings and the berserkers left behind a legacy in sagas that are readily available for reading online, and so do not need much focus.
The Norsemen and Franks of the Viking Age followed a feudalistic system that has been common in Europe since the Late Roman Empire, of which protection and land were provided in exchange for military service to a lord or ruler. Those who swear allegiance to the lord or ruler becomes a vassal in some way, and so are given land and protection, but must return agricultural and military services, and pay taxes. In death, the warrior was buried with his best possessions, such as his armour, weapons, jewellery, and, if he was a warlord or seafarer, buried with his own boat. Undoubtedly, the Norse warriors were deeply concerned of the afterlife and wanted to bring with them their best possessions, to make a better, more impressive arrival to the hereafter, where the maidens await to serve those worthy of Valhalla.
The Franks, Germans, Gallo-Romans, and Romano-British were governed by laws based on the former Western Roman Empire, and most Franks were Christian especially towards the 10th century. Like the Norsemen, Frankish warriors were bound to their lords to the death. This was known as hirdh in the Nordic environment and trusted by the Franks, which was regarding a bodyguard of young men faithful to their lord unto death, potentiality childhood friends who grew up and trained together in the art of war. Ever since Salic Law of the Merovingians, the Franks bound by this code would eat bread with their lord, bound to him as if family, hence companions to him, alluding to the Companions of Alexander the Great. Bloodshed in battle for the lord fortified the companionship for these intrusions, or members of the Frankish trust, similarly how the huscarls were loyal to their lords, a common feature in most cultures throughout the world and its history. Loyalty and honour were paramount to the huscarl; those who did not uphold such qualities would face vengeance. For example, if a Norseman murdered his father or stole from his lord, the punishment could be the Blood Eagle, a bloody and gruesome form of execution of which the rib cage is chopped from the spinal cord, split in half, and then peeled apart at the front or back, thus resembling a bloody pair of wings which would spread apart the lungs, diaphragm and spill out organs.
Franks, Burgundians and Germans had strict laws regarding insults attacking honour and loyalty, for both the insulter and insulted, for as laughable and pitiful as it may seem, honour was at stake, as pagan culture had developed such a strong emphasis on personal honour that feeling insulted made it obligatory to involve violence and law even when Christianity spread, regardless of the teachings of Christ to forgive sins and love the enemy. This also applied to murder and violence: when an atrocity was committed, such as a hand, ear, nose, tongue, or limb cut off, the attacker was fined 100 solidi, but the fine was lessened if the finger remained attached, though killing the person outright seemed to have a smaller fine, unless the murdered was a lord’s guest or representative. This was called wergeld, meaning “man gold”, which appears to have been compensation for murder and violence. If the fine could not be paid, then death or violence was likely. Taking all of this into thought, undoubtedly, personal honour, vengeance, law, and religious duties, were all bound to daily life for each and every man, who was expected to uphold and prove his manhood.
Franks and Norsemen were both deeply religious without a doubt, with Christian Franks seeking conversion of the pagan, the establishment of the house of God, and spirituality reflecting a somewhat internal emphasis with religious ceremonies done inside buildings, such and monks and nuns living and praying in solitude, or priests performing mass in churches. Pagans, on the other hand, with their stony monuments amidst the forests, priests, and priestesses praising planetary and nature deities, had a rather external emphasis, with pagan ceremonies done out in nature, not confined to buildings with walls and ceilings. For the Christian Frank, heaven was achieved through good deeds and mercy, whereas for the pagan Norseman, heaven was achieved through bravery and battle. In the end, Christianity won, perhaps somewhat due to political conversions of Norse leaders, but nevertheless converting more and more pagans perhaps due to cathedrals and hospitality of the clergy, and by the end of the 11th century, Christianity began to become dominant in most of Europe.
Therefore, immortalized by religion and poetry, culture and heritage, both Christians and pagans felt the desire to give themselves honourable reason and belonging to their lords and adventures, to live a life of thrill and danger with their lords and companions no matter the cost, and then pass onto the afterlife (hopefully) in glory. Since Christian Franks and pagan Norsemen buried their dead with ceremonies and the deceased’s treasured belongings, such as jewellery, weapons, armour, tools, and sometimes buried with a horse or stag, their deep concern of the afterlife proves that they were greatly concerned of the hereafter as well as their real lives. Glory, wealth, honour, and fame could all be achieved by fighting and dying for the lord, then moving onto heaven or Valhalla to enjoy a well-deserved break, but such a reward was only for the brave and honourable. With Christian warriors fighting the Muslims for God and heaven, Saracens fighting the kafir for Allah and His Messenger, and the pagan Norse fighting the Christians for Odin and Valhalla, perhaps honourable warriors are just men attracted to ideologies of the same formula.
NOTABLE EQUIPMENT AND TACTICS
During the Viking Age (8th-11th century Northern Europe and England), the Norsemen, Franks, Saxons, and other Germanic peoples, went to war usually as unarmoured infantrymen equipped with spears and round shields, who fought in the form of a shield wall, standing shoulder to shoulder and overlapping their shields, creating a strong defence against charging enemies and projectiles. A shield wall usually was quick to arrange especially by a trained force, and could also change direction easily with some training. When two opposing shield walls met, it was up to the strength, stamina, teamwork, formation, footing, and determination to decide which side won. If a shield wall broke, the breaking side would potentially fall over and be trampled, and could lead to disaster. Fighting against a shield wall would not be easy, as the shields were also used to mask or hide the weapon behind it, allowing the wielder to form sudden surprise attacks when the shield was tilted and the weapon utilized over, around, over the top, or in conjunction with the shield to attack an enemy. The shield was an extremely important piece of equipment during this time, and could mean the difference between life and death.
Most levies would be armed with spears and shields well into the Middle Ages, and they would probably also have a knife (such as a seax, scramasax or langseax, or a dagger into the Middle Ages) as a sidearm. Spears were generally the cheaper weapons to produce, as suggested by the laws of Canute the Great, who stipulated twice as many spears as swords. An earl’s heriot was 8 horses, 4 saddles and 4 unsaddled, 4 helmets, 4 coats of mail, and 8 spears, 8 shields, 4 swords, and 200 mancuses of gold. Swords were status weapons and usually wielded by freemen, soldiers, retainers and nobles, but not peasantry. Axes, especially bearded axes, were also wielded by Norsemen, but two-handed axes seem to have been wielded by huscarls only. The berserkers are peculiar in that they went into battle wearing the pelt of a wolf or bear, generally armed with spears, swords, and shields, and fought with unrestrained aggression.
The Franks, unlike the Norse, had an emphasis on elite horsemen, such as the paladins, echoed in the Song of Roland instead of a saga, who unlike the huscarls, fought on horseback equipped with lances, swords, shields, daggers, mail shirts, and open-faced helmets (just as contemporary heavy cavalry of the Franks seemed to). Although paladins for the most part are a fictionalized subject, they do have a historic basis at least of being Charlemagne’s bodyguards or companions. There does not seem to be written accounts of paladins fighting huscarls, and it is a curious thought to ponder if paladins could have defeated Viking huscarls in France if such a battle involved the two. Nevertheless, the bond of loyalty and honour of the paladin or huscarl to his lord is obvious, and the merging of these two ideas will eventually become the Norman knight. Finally, it would be important to mention the Battle of Tours of 732, where Charles Martel arranged his men amidst forests to better counter the cavalry charges of the Muslims fighting for Abdul Rahman. The Franks, despite not having tents as the Muslims did, were used to the cold weather. Firmly planted like a glacier of spears and shields, the Franks completely resisted the charges of the Arabs and Berbers, and gave them great slaughter, even killing the Muslim commander, Abdul Rahman, and forcing the Muslims to abandon their camps and flee in the night after great slaughter, which the Muslims considered martyrdom as they often did, an excuse of sacrifice to politically feel less shame and so conserve some honour that was held so dearly back then. The conflict between Christendom and the caliphates would continue in later centuries, involving the Franks and their Norman descendants yet again.
The Saxons do not seem to have made extensive use of archers or horsemen, and similarly, Vikings and other Norsemen do not seem to have made extensive use of archers or cavalry but still were utilized at times during the Viking Age. Lighter infantry often were at the front and used to pursue fleeing enemies who failed to breach the shield wall, however, plans, tactics, and formations adjusted accordingly to the environment and battlefield. Horsemen sometimes threw javelins while riding around to harass the enemy, but most of those with horses would dismount to fight on foot in formation with the rest of the army. Like other peoples, Vikings and Norsemen utilized scouts prior and during battle, and guards to watch the night while most of the army slept.
Huscarls, who were household retainers of nobles and lords, generally were more heavily equipped than commoners, having mail shirts and helmets, and potentially armed with two-handed axes and better quality shields, swords and spears. Huscarls were the elite warriors of Anglo-Saxon, Saxon, and Nordic lords. As such, the elite Norman troops during their early days were probably based on the huscarls, who would, within a century, develop into knighthood. Although the glorified berserkers could be champions of a ruler or lord, berserkers do not seem to have been as popular as huscarls, and there appears to be no correlation between berserkers and Normans. Therefore, there will be little focus on those frenzied Norse warriors. Another important point is that some Norsemen, Anglo-Saxons and Viking-descent Russians went to Byzantium to serve as the bodyguards of the Byzantine emperors, to become known as the Varangian Guard; clearly, the fighting prowess of the Viking was legendary and highly valued by those who could afford them as mercenaries, just as Canute the Great and the Byzantine emperors had. Norsemen sometimes would simply march about, collecting money from cities and towns by intimidation alone.
Commoners and freemen could also have axes or swords as their main weapon, and Vikings may have thrown axes in battle (various Germanic peoples did throw axes, such as the famous francisca used by the Franks, but throwing axes seem to have diminished in use towards the arrival of the Middle Ages due to lack of evidence depicting thrown axes, but axes nevertheless could swill be thrown). Javelins and bows also made an appearance; bows used by the Norsemen and Vikings were probably simple due to the cold climate and probably did not have much range or power but still could cause damage and wounds.
Viking Age weapons, armour and shields can be found in most museums throughout Scandinavia today, such as at the Statens Historical Museum, Stockholm, providing archaeological evidence to study from. The Viking sagas and Skaldic poems provide a wealth of information to read and study from as well and are easily found and read online. Archaeological finds of Viking Age swords, shields, spears and crafts are also easily found with search engines.
Shields generally ranged from two to three wide, preferably made from linden, and were often round, and could be flat or convex. Most soldiers could afford at least a shield for protection. Shields were made of multiple planks laid next to each other or cross-grained, glued together with animal-based glue or sap, having a metal boss and handle riveted into the planks, the front covered with leather, and often having a rim of hide, or rarely metal, to hold the planks in place. Larger shields tended to have a strap for the forearm, and larger straps to go around the shoulder. Shields without a rim broke apart easily, but sometimes, when swords got stuck in shields, the shield could be turned, thus disarming the attacking swordsman and leaving him vulnerable. Shields tended to break during battle. Frankish sources depict, at times, oval shields, or shields somewhat rectangular but with rounded corners. For the most part, shields wielded by Franks and Norsemen were similar.
Vikings duelling would bring three to seven shields to their duel, depending on the rules. Shields could be used to strike with the boss or rim as well, and by ramming the shoulder into the backside of the shield while charging, one could bash the shield with great force. Njall’s saga briefly mentions a shield being thrown, but it is not described how. Vikings sometimes intentionally left a section of their shield without a rim, so that when an enemy sword struck that port, it’d get stuck, allow the Viking to turn his shield and so disarm the enemy swordsman, but a powerful chop could splinter the shield and hit the head of the wielder and potentially kill him.
Shields seem to have been 15-30 millimetres thick, sometimes with boards tapering towards the rim, and would weigh up to several pounds depending on how big and wide the shield was. Most shields used by Vikings, Franks, and Norsemen during this time were round, but kite shields start to appear in the late 10th century, first in Byzantium, and then gradually spread into Europe. Shields could also be slung over the shoulders, such as when fighting with a two-handed axe or using a spear with both hands.
It is important to note that the shield wall was not solely a Viking tactic, also used by other Germanic nations, especially in England and Scandinavia, and possibly Germany, France, the Low Countries, and the Baltic. Since breaking through a shield wall was difficult and unlikely in a head-on attack or charge, especially with the limited use of cavalry during the 8th to 10th centuries (only the Lombards, Saracens in Iberia, Byzantines, Avars and various East Europeans seem to have used cavalry extensively during this time in Europe), shield walls generally could only be countered by other shield walls, where tactical use of the battlefield and soldiers involved would decide the outcome. Two-handed axes could also be used to hack apart a shield wall. Shields were also slept upon or under. Shields were often painted on the front, and could be decorated.
Like many other cultures, the Norsemen and Franks of the Viking Age wielded spears, shields, axes, swords, knives, and bows in battle. Levies often had only spears, shields and knives to fight with, and without armour, would seem to rely on agility and cunning to avoid injury. Spearheads were socketed onto the end of a pole, potentially having one or two longitudinal splits at the side of the socket, which then could be riveted into the pole, sometimes additionally secured with leather thonging. Spearheads sometimes had steel points hammer-welded during its forging.
Swords spears with longer or larger spearheads than average, and two-handed axes were usually owned by richer warriors and nobles who had the power and wealth to afford weapons with longer blades or heads. The pattern-welding technique was a laborious and time-consuming process, which sometimes took an entire village active to keep the forge alight and bellows working; the iron was heated in a forge while inside a crucible of clay, mixed with some sand and bones of powerful animals or of ancient ancestors. Swords made in the pattern-welding technique could take up to a month to make, and were worth up to 120 oxen or 15 slaves. Frankish blades from the Rhineland were especially valued by the Byzantines. Swords are made by forging the blade with a tang at the bottom; the cross-guard is slid up the tang, then the handle and pommel, so that the tang can be hammered against the bottom of the pommel, peening the hilt firmly.
The swords used by the Norsemen were of a style developed by Germanic cultures since the fall of the Western Roman Empire. These swords tended to have short handles, short cross-guards, and wide pommels, allowing it to be pressed against the inside of a shield to push forwards without hurting the fingers, but some swords had cross-guards too small to allow this. The Viking Age had pommels that could have multiple lobes at the bottom (especial for Danish swords of the 10th and 11th century), or pommels that were simply triangular. The blades were broad and probably used as cut-and-thrust swords, and generally does not ever exceed three pounds (1.5 kg) and 42 inches (106 centimetres) in total length; blades do not seem to go beyond 36 inches (90 centimetres). Specimens of slightly shorter lengths and lighter weights were also found. The wide pommel of Viking Age swords dig into the bottom of the palm when the sword is swung, limiting the use of wide slashes and encouraging an emphasis on draw cuts, but when allowing the blade to swing and pommel to slide along the palm, it seems to help angle the edge, but there is no single clear purpose to the shape of the Viking Age sword hilts. Almost all Viking Age swords are straight and double-edged, but single-edged slightly curved swords were also used. Harald Hardrada is mentioned in the sagas of using his sword with both hands to deliver very strong blows, but it seems likely that his sword did not have an extended hilt, but instead he placed one hand over the other. The Avars may have used curved swords during their raids into the Frankish and German countryside.
Spearheads could be as long as sword blades, but these larger spearheads seem to be uncommon. Spearheads were also pattern-welded during this time. Shafts for spears and axes generally were made of ash which was stronger than softwood. The Franks also had a kind of large spear with lugs at the base of the spearhead, sometimes called a winged spear. Spears were usually around two metres in length, but the Franks, on horseback, used longer spears, lances essentially, but the Norse do not seem to have used long lances on horseback during this era.
The langseax was a kind of single-edged long knife also used by Saxons and other peoples during the Viking Age in battle, when up-close to the enemy. It could be used to poke in-between the links of mail, or to thrust underneath the mail into the groin or thigh. Knives were also made in the pattern-welding technique.
Axes, especially the two-handed battleaxes, were useful for injuring mail-clad opponents and breaking apart shield walls and shields in general, as the most of the weight of an axe is in the end of the weapon, thus delivering more force and mass. Axes could also be used to hook over the rim of a shield to pull it away, however, if that was seen coming, the shield-wielder could simply pull his own shield and possibly disarm the attacker’s axe, too. Axes could also be used to hook limbs or the neck, and if the axe head terminated into points, the bottom point could be used to hook into and rip open clothes, soft armour, and flesh. As mentioned earlier, the shafts of axes were often made of ash. The Bayeux Tapestry depicts two-handed axes wielded by the Saxons. Njal’s saga (an Icelandic saga) mentions that Skarphedin’s axe chopped through Hallgrim’s thigh, and Gunnar’s beheaded Thorkell. Modern tests also show that two-handed axes can perform brutally effective attacks against shields, mail, and bone, which is more than enough evidence to conclude their power. Two-handed axes seem mostly used by the huscarls, but there is nothing stopping a commoner from using his axe with both hands, such as if his shield broke in the thick of battle, or during a duel, or while he travelled and was attacked by wild animals or bandits. Axes were socketed onto shafts differently than spearheads: the axe head would be placed at the end of a shaft, the end slightly narrow than the rest of the shaft, and a wedge of wood or horn hammered into the top, spreading the narrow end of the shaft apart and so holding the axe head in place.
The Vikings and Franks do not seem to have wielded maces or war hammers, but some sagas mention berserkers being defeated only by the use of a hammer, for they were immune to cuts and stabs somehow. Berserkers do not seem to make an appearance in Normandy.
In Beowulf, Wiglaf’s funeral oration mentions the use of barbed arrows shot over a shield wall as a gale, suggesting that bows definitely were used in battle once in awhile and in volleys, and the sagas suggest arrowheads were often barbed. The Franks, Norsemen and Picts seem to have had a primitive form of crossbow, but the Vikings do not seem to have used simple crossbows, and none appear in the Bayeux Tapestry. Slings were known during this time, but there is no feasible evidence slings were used in Viking Age battles. Charlemagne made use of the bow but after his death the Franks do not seem to have continued its use very much. Bows seem to have been made of yew, ash or elm, with D-shaped cross-sections, and horn nocks to carry the string. The staves were cut from the radius of a tree, heartwood facing the back, then carved into shape. These simple bows are estimated to have had an effective range of about 90-100 metres, and the Bayeux Tapestry depicts both short and long bows (but not the longbow; longer bows are not depicted as longer than the height of the archer). Snorri Sturluson mentions that Harald Hardrada was an excellent archer during the Battle of Nissa in 1062, and since mail shirts were sometimes arrow-proofed, suggests that strong war bows were indeed used sometimes and could pierce hauberks at least at short range. Earls are mentioned to have made and strung their own bows. Since bows could be used for war and hunting, they were definitely useful things to have, but were not a primary weapon for the Norse. Archers are almost always depicted on foot and almost always without armour or swords; it is rare to find them mounted especially in Western and Northern Europe. The Bayeux Tapestry depicts only one archer wearing a hauberk and helmet. It seems most archers were humble folk, possibly hunters, and woodsmen who needed their bows to survive. Arrows are estimated to have been about 20 inches long or so, often with four feathered flights glued onto the shaft and then bound with tarred or waxed twine. However, no complete archaeological examples survive, due to organic material rotting away, so it is difficult to accurately describe bows and arrows specifically. The dimensions can only be judged based on surviving arrowheads and artistic depictions. The length and construction of arrows probably remained the same or were similar well into the Middle Ages. It was not until the arrival of the longbow, that the Welsh and English used significantly longer arrows, the cloth-yard arrow, with goose feathers for flights.
Mail armour, often called a byrnie, hauberk, haubert, or haubergeon in regards to this era, was rare and expensive, due to the extremely slow process of manufacturing mail armour, so it was often worn only by huscarls, paladins, nobles, and the wealthy. Mail production in the Viking Age is not clearly shown. Hypothetically, tiny rods of soft, malleable iron were hammered out and bent into circles, or wrapped around a mandrel, chiselled or cut along the mandrel to get individual links, the ends then pierced by a tool of some kind (possibly similar to pliers but with a single tooth rising into a hole), and then riveted closed by gently hammering tiny triangular rivets through the pierced ends and so closing the link, then formed into a 4-in-1 pattern (four links through everyone), connecting these patterns together, and then making the mesh to match the wearer’s body. It took about 30,000 links to make one mail shirt, or more or less depending on the size and length of the shirt and its sleeves. The Vikings, and other Europeans at this time, may have quench-hardened and case-hardened mail armour.
Mail could also be produced from coils of iron wire, through coils of iron wire have not been found in Viking burials thus far, so it is uncertain if Vikings had a primitive form of wire-drawing. However, bracelets and rings of iron wire were found in burials throughout the world, and coils of copper wire were also found. Mail armour was usually made of iron, but sometimes, links of brass or bronze were used for decorations along the edges only; there does not seem to be any archaeological evidence of entire shirts of mail made from copper or bronze.
During the Viking Age, mail shirts tended to be short, usually having short sleeves and reached down to the groin, but other shirts had longer sleeves, with the bottom of the mail shirt potentially going down to the knees and split down the middle from the groin. The presence of large round shields, and the shield wall meant that full-length mail armour was not really needed, as the shield covered most of the body anyways.
Vikings tested their mail to be “arrow-proof” by shooting at arrow at it; mail shirts that resisted the arrow were proven and so usable for battle.
The poem Beowulf depicts some seafaring Geats as wearing mail, and armed with ash spears and double-proofed shields, suggesting that seafarers and captains could potentially have well-equipped marines or adventurers on-board their vessels. Beowulf is mentioned as wearing a helmet, and a hauberk of such quality that the mother of Grendel could not force her claws through it, suggesting riveted links. Mail was capable of withstanding most conventional attacks, especially if the mail links were riveted; it could deflect edged blows and cuts easily, but the flexibility made it unsuitable for absorbing blunt force trauma especially when worn without padded garments underneath. Spears and knives with tapering or thin tips could also potentially pierce into a hauberk, splitting the mail links and stabbing into the body, but getting that close and delivering a powerful thrust was quite difficult to begin with. The flexibility of mail also allowed the wearer to move freely, and provided good airflow for the body, preventing quick overheating. However, mail is potentially heavy, and puts a strain on the shoulders and arms, especially when the arms are outstretched and holding a shield. Mail shirts weighed around twenty pounds/nine kilograms, sometimes more or less, depending on the length and width of the shirt and sleeves, and the amount of iron used. Historically, mail armour, like clothing, was tailored to match the wearer’s body. Mail can be folded over itself almost like clothing and so is easily stored.
Helmets worn by the Norsemen and Vikings tended to be of the spangenhelm design, derived from late Roman helmets. The Sutton Hoo Ship Burial is a famous find that shows a helmet, complete with a face-guard and cheek-guards, and beautifully decorated. Viking Age helms were usually made of multiple triangular plates or two half-skulls riveted into a domed shape along a framework of iron bands. Vikings did not wear horned helmets, and mail coifs do not seem to have appeared in the Viking Age, at least not until the 11th century.
Most metal armour worn was mail, but sometimes, scale or lamellar armour was worn instead of mail. Scale armour was made by tying or lacing scales with pierced holes at the tops onto a canvas, so that the bottoms overlap, whereas lamellar armour had scales pierced with holes at the top and bottom, and the scales laced onto a canvas along the tops and bottoms. One important feature is a Norwegian tapestry in the Baldishol Church, made in the 13th century, but seems to depict an 11th-century knight and a retainer-wearing scale or lamellar armour. The knight also carries a kite shield and lance, and rides a horse. Graves of the Wendel people have been found with lamellar armour, and lamellar armour worn by Frankish horsemen is depicted in the Golden Psalter of St Gall. A bas-relief in the church of Saint Julien at Brioude is depicted wearing scale armour at least as guards over the sides of his body. The miniatures of the Codex Aureus, dating to the 8th or 9th century, depict a horseman wearing scale armour and a cap-like helmet. The bas-relief in the cloister of Saint Aubin, at Angers, depicts a sitting warrior wearing what may be lamellar armour, consisting of diamond-shaped parts, reaching the knees, long-sleeved, and covering the head under a conical helmet. Thus, armour of scales and lamellar were worn but not as popular as mail.
Presumably, Norsemen wore woven tunics or shirts beneath their armour, but they do not seem to have worn gambesons or boiled leather as armour. There is room for further research in this case, though not much information is available.
In 875, the Monk of St Gall writes that Charlemagne wore an iron helmet, had a mail shirt that protected his thighs, had full-length sleeves, and that he wore iron greaves, but the Vikings, Norsemen, and Normans do not seem to have had greaves during this time. The monk writes that Charlemagne also had an iron shield, but this is probably mentioning an iron-rimmed shield instead of a shield made wholly of iron.
Since the Franks clearly had horsemen and legends of paladins, they do not need to be explored too much, having already been described. The paladins were entitled as eques, and like contemporary Frankish and Lombardic mounted nobles, equipped as heavy cavalry, the proto-knights so to speak, having mail, lamellar, or scale armour, lances, swords, shields and daggers, exactly as horsemen were meant to be equipped by Charlemagne’s laws. However, most Norsemen of the Viking Age do not seem to have utilized cavalry extensively in battle. Viking lords and their retainers gradually owned horses at least for riding as they neared the 10th century, but they would often fight on foot. Viking horsemen sometimes would hurl javelins from horseback to harass the enemy while using the horse as a mobile platform.
Stirrups seem to have been invented in China in the 5th century AD, were used by the Arabs in the 7th century, and came to Europe in the 8th century, possibly brought by the Avars. Frankish Psalters and other European sources depict stirrups, and there are archaeological evidence of them, too, so there is no doubt that the elite horseman was developing during this time.
After the Battle of Poitiers, Charles Martel enacted laws to recruit and maintain Frankish cavalry, even confiscating land from the church. After conquering the Lombards in 774, the Franks hired Lombard horsemen into their armies. Although the paladins, household bodyguards of the Frankish kings, became the proto-knights due to having the title of eques in Charlemagne’s court, the Norsemen who settled in Normandy do not seem to have employed heavy cavalry at least not until the 10th century arrived and knights appeared.
In naval confrontations, the Norsemen seem to have formed their shield walls on the sides of their clinker-built longships, and often also put their shields over the sides of their ships anyways to serve as a better defence when necessary, or to simply keep their shields out of the way. Since Atlantic waters tend to be rough, and potentially had icebergs and drifting sea ice, the use of rams was difficult, so the only alternative was to rely on boarding and manoeuvring around masses of floating ice and difficult waters. Longships usually did not exceed 30 metres in length but some did. The longships took the Norsemen to the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, Byzantium, the Holy Lands, Iceland, and even Newfoundland. They were also used to sail along rivers in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. Longships did not have a rudder, instead relying on a sail and rowers.
The Franks do not seem to have made much use of fleets. Merchant guilds during the 8th century did combat Viking pirates to some extent but their success seems marginal and lacks information, suggesting that the Vikings were the masters of the waters throughout the Viking Age. The Byzantines and Arabs nevertheless had navies as well, allowing the Islamic world to conquer Sicily and the Iberian Peninsula, and the Byzantines to also have some success in the Italian peninsula and Balkans. The Venetians also had a rather strong navy, having defeated Dalmatian pirates in the later half of the 10th century.
During the Viking Age, few rulers could afford a large standing army, and Viking raiders would simply avoid larger forces and attack undefended communities for easier pickings. Most of Europe had a feudal-based society, essentially a rural-based system that depended on mutual co-operation and trust of communities. As such, this kind of organization was focused on agricultural and military service to the lord or ruler, in exchange for being protected by the ruler and allowed to use the land for sustenance.
For the Carolingian world, Charlemagne’s accession in 742 sparked a radical change in European warfare: levies were strictly disciplined and trained, he instituted laws to counter the raids done by mounted Avars, Saracens, and Lombards, and did so by making subjects obliged to help one another with military service, in times of need. Charlemagne’s laws also made landowners expected to supply a cavalryman complete with shield, lance, sword and dagger, to counter the mounted raiders. However, instead of creating a general levy, a group of four men had to supply and equip and support the fifth man, making it easier to field more soldiers or levies. Once Charlemagne became Holy Roman Emperor, this idea became law throughout the realm. To further the defence of the outskirts of his realm, an edict of Charlemagne in 805 required all individuals who owned more than 300 acres of land to have in their possession a mail shirt. With paladins or mounted nobles as a personal bodyguard, levied soldiers, and Imperial Counts, a feudal system can be clearly seen. Below the Frankish king and the Imperial counts were also the heerbann, or arriére ban in French, a force also found in Germany, consisting of soldiers based on landowners who had to equip themselves in times of war and participate in a campaign or to defend their countries. Again, a feudal system is seen here, where people living under a king pledge allegiance to him in times of need. The less powerful answer to the more powerful, forming a pyramid of cooperation, or so was hoped.
Before England was conquered by the Normans, it was under the rule of Canute the Great, England’s Danish conqueror, who became king in 1017. He divided his kingdom into four earldoms: Northumbria, East Anglia, Mercia, and Wessex. The earls of these places were Canute’s vassals, and they and their actions answered to him, following a feudalistic system. The earls had a household bodyguard of 300 elite soldiers (the huscarls, or housecarls), whereas Canute’s own bodyguard consisting of a staggering 3,000 huscarls, which he instituted in about 1018; no earl could go against the king’s authority and rebel, and expect to win. As such, the king and his royal corps was the nucleus, the foundation, of the elite fighting force. To fund his gigantic bodyguard, Canute financed it via the Danegeld, a land tax that first was collected to buy-off Danish raiders, and then the Heregeld, a tax to pay for Danish mercenaries. At the time, this was an extraordinary solution, making England quite different from mainland Europe, which seems to have had an emphasis on arming men, whereas Canute simply taxed his people as to fund his and the earls’ forces. Thus, England’s kings were able to field large and loyal armies. By this time, most huscarls potentially had horses for riding, allowing them to garrison important regions and towns during peacetime faster. For extra organization, the earldoms were divided into shires, administered by a reeve or sheriff, who was then responsible for raising and commanding the levies into a great fyrd. The fyrd was a kind of levy designed to counter Viking raids and invaders in general during times of need, sometimes consisting of all freemen in a threatened area, and yet again, a feudal system can be noticed. However, they seemed to be rarely used beyond their shire, alluding to the defensive nature of feudalism. As the Middle Ages would near, the fyrds would become an honour to fight for their king, continuing the legacy of the Anglo-Saxons who felt they had a right to fight and die for their king in battle, and a dishonour to leave it if he were slain. The king was, after all, the nucleus, and this kind of nucleus would remain more or less the same throughout the feudal world as late as the 14th century.
THE NORMAN KNIGHTS AND THEIR ADVENTURES
The 11th-12th Century, the Rise of the Knight and Chivalry
By the arrival of the 11th century, the Norman adventurers began going off on impressive and then legendary expeditions. Their Viking heritage, their wanderlust, and their development into mounted knights allowed them to ride great distance, and fight very well on foot and horseback. In English, the word knight comes from the Anglo-Saxon cniht which means retainer or servant. It was not until the 12th century that knighthood became associated with noble birth.
The Duchy of Normandy in the beginning of the 11th century was rich and administered very well, becoming truly feudal in that the duchy was divided into fiefs, each fief owing knights to service the duke. The sons of Norman knights, being knights or squires themselves and so powerful warriors, had to seek fortune abroad as adventurers, just like their Norse ancestors did. Thus, Normans began going to Italy in 1016, perhaps as mercenaries, and repelled the Saracen attacks without much trouble and impressed the Italians; more Norman warriors arrived the next year. A Norman knight, named Ranulf, journeyed to Italy, establishing a foothold there in 1030 by founding the settlement at Aversa. From then on, the Norman rulers would employ their own countrymen. Robert Guiscard was declared Duke of Apulia and Calabria in 1059, and at that, the Normans were closer to forging their own kingdom in southern Italy. The Normans captured Palermo from the Saracens in 1071, and at that, Sicily was soon to be theirs. Robert’s brother, Roger, would later become count whilst continuing Norman conquests, liberating Malta in 1091, much to the joy and celebration of the Maltese. That same year, the Normans consolidated their power throughout Sicily and southern Italy; Normans, Sicilians, Italians, Christians, Jews and Muslims lived side by side in relative harmony. But the Normans would not stop in Sicily; they would launch attacks against the Byzantines, Seljuk Turks, and Bulgars. Despite so much warfare and adventure, the Normans also contributed to architecture, law, art, and music, influencing Western Europe and setting themselves as an example of courage and culture.
Meanwhile, with Roger and Robert working in Italy and Sicily, William and his knights and mercenaries sailed overseas to conquer England, stemming from a complex issue involving the death of Edward the Confessor and then Harold’s claims to the throne in 1066. When William embarked for England, about half of his army consisted of mercenaries, lesser or landless knights, and commoners eager for opportunity and reward. That same year, 1066, the Normans secured a beachhead and were met by the Anglo-Saxon army, who secured a foothold atop a hill. Thus, the legendary Battle of Hastings occurred, resulting in a bloody battle and death of the Anglo-Saxon king, Harold Godwinson, who just a few weeks prior had won an impressive victory at the Battle of Stamford Bridge against his rival Harald Hardrada, who was slain in battle. William’s utilization of infantry, archers, and cavalry overcame the old-fashioned shield wall-based Norse tactics, the increased flexibility and newer style of warfare allowing his knights to ride forth to the Anglo-Saxon shield wall, skirmish, retreat, pursued by the Anglo-Saxons, and then reform and counter-charge their pursuers, turning the tide of battle. The cavalry charge broke the English and Saxon lines, Harold was killed by an arrow shot through his eye, two of Harold’s brothers were killed, and most Englishmen and Saxons fled, but the huscarls, following their honour and loyalty as explored earlier, fought to the last man, dying with their king.
Once England was under William’s control, he quickly reformed the taxation system, improving his finances, and then made vassals. The landed knights under William became the barones. Landed freemen who had not achieved knighthood were called vavasseurs. Those possessing less than a knight’s fee but who were capable soldiers seem to be known as sergeants, and were possibly middle-class, and potentially bore equipment like knights and even horses, but did not have the rank or status of a knight. William’s excellent management of taxes, military, and fiefs, and construction of castles would secure Norman rule in England. The Normans invaded Scotland in 1072 (which would form a legacy of conflict to involve Robert the Bruce and William Wallace in later centuries), and then the Normans invaded Wales in 1081, but made no extensive results, and were also attacked and demoralized by Norwegians under command of Magnus Barefoot off the coast of Anglesey, the Norwegians killing the Norman earl, suggesting that the Normans did not quite keep the heritage of seafaring as their Norse ancestors had. The marshes of Wales did not suit the Norman knights well, and so limited their usefulness in such terrain. As such, the Normans were not successful against the Welsh, who were one of the few nations to have withstood the prowess of the Normans. Meanwhile, the Norwegians would raid parts of Scotland and Ireland, enslaving many Celtic peoples and forming their own Norse cities, adding more heat to the fire of the British Isles, but that is another subject. In the meantime, by 1086, the Domesday Book was completed by order of William, a manuscript that surveyed much of England, a medieval attempt that improved administration and management.
After the Normans established their rule in England and Sicily, forming independent kingdoms, the First Crusade was called by Pope Urban II in 1095, to eventually result in the Christians retaking the Holy Lands from Muslim conquerors. The Crusaders marched towards the Holy Lands on foot, raiding and pillaging as they went, especially targeting Jews despite being protected by the burghers and papacy at times. Figures such as Bohemond, Tancred, Godfrey of Bouillon, Raymond, Stephen II, and many of their family members, would lead the Crusaders on a long road through hell, and despite the terrifying odds stacked against them, the Crusaders would be victorious. The Crusaders took Antioch from the Saracens in 1098, and once Jerusalem fell for the first and last time in 1099 by the Crusaders, Bohemond, yet another Norman adventurer, established yet another Norman state. Indeed, the Normans were quite the adventurous fellows, whose knights were unmatched in their ferocity, martial prowess, honour, loyalty, and piety. Franks, Italians, Germans, and Flemings also participated in the First Crusade. The English and Norwegians would also participate in future crusades directed to the Holy Lands. The Normans would continue their adventures in the Holy Lands and the Mediterranean coasts well into the next century, proving that their bloodline of knightly virtue was to last.
By the arrival of the 12th century, the Normans established their own firm rules in Albion, Sicily, and southern Italy, the various Crusader states were well established, and the Normans would launch yet another invasion, this time against Ireland, in 1169, giving birth to the slogan “more Irish than the Irish themselves” which alludes to the Normans’ openness of assimilating into Irish culture. Undoubtedly, the British Isles was quite a magical place, the source of many of the medieval world’s most famous heroes, kings, legends, battles, and history.
Chivalry is often depicted in a romantic form, how the knight protects the poor and the weak, stemming its origins in the equities of the Romans and Companions of Alexander the Great. In reality, chivalry initially referred to horsemanship and mounted combat, and not much else. Nevertheless, Norman—and other European—knights were expected to display loyalty, bravery, and obedience to their lords by swearing fealty, echoing the promises and duties of the huscarls long ago. The Normans were renowned for their zealousness, fiery fighting spirit, indomitable cavalry charges, courage, hardiness, and fortitude. Like huscarls and paladins of old, European knights could become bodyguards of kings and lords, becoming companions to him. The knights were bound to their lord by companionship, fealty, blood, kinship, or marriage to his daughter; they would live with him for a time, and the lord fed them with white bread and game as if his own brothers, and once the knights offered homage and then returned to their own homes, remained as best friends with the lord. Once again, a feudal system is clearly seen, of which those with less power swear loyalty and trust to those with greater power. These early knights were potentially the lord’s commilitones (comrades-at-arms) who formed the conroi, a very tightly-knit group of loyal warriors who rode by their lord’s side and fought for his safety. If they were not knights, they would at least be nobles or retainers. These loyal warriors were often of the same or a similar age (coetani) as their lord (such as a count, prince, baron, or some other esteemed noble), sometimes even his own relatives, always at least childhood companions who grew up training, hunting, hawking, and fighting together. They would accompany their lord on military exhibitions, hunts, tourneys, pilgrimage, and travels. Knights were important figures, looked up to by civilians; the painter Giotto in a scene depicts a knight suddenly dying, much to the horror of spectators, especially women, who are drawn to appear grievous and horrified, mourning the death of a hero.
Despite the Middle Ages as being viewed as barbaric and cruel, the people were very emotional, tied greatly to their friends and relatives, especially for mothers. For example, Alessandra Strozzi writes in 1451 that, “How can I describe those two months of anxiety, with no news of them! I was certain that something had happened to them!” Then, in 1459, she writes, “Not knowing the nature of his illness, I was gripped by anguish.” Other writers mention in letters their stress and longing to see their children or spouses, who may die along the dangerous roads beyond the city walls, where robbers lie in wait. A good example was when twenty-three-year-old Matteo Strozzi died suddenly in 1459, his mother, Alessandra Strozzi, and all her friends, were greatly concerned and sorrowful, and many of them wrote letters to Alessandra sending her condolences. When her cousin heard the news, he invited many relatives to his home to offer compassion and hope. Although perhaps the example of Alessandra is too late to apply to an early medieval environment, it is still just one example, out of many, that shows that medieval people were not heartless, and that despite the constant warfare, families and friends were concerned and compassionate about one another, just as today. Feudalism, essentially fragmented public power, provides a glimpse of the compassion people had for one another throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Like civilians, knights were compassionate about their lord who was like their best friend, they had to be, to sustain the feudal system and reinforce the concepts of knighthood, honour, and loyalty. Just like the huscarls of old, knights were concerned of the afterlife, heaven guaranteed by prayer and acts of kindness. But not all knights had time to pray, so they sometimes paid clerics to pray for them. Knights (and Christian folk in general) were deeply concerned of the afterlife, however, one major difference is the custom of being buried with arms and armour. A realm of peace and love, the Christian heaven had little need for arms, so the tradition of burial with arms and armour gradually became less common, especially at riversides where Vikings preferred. Thus, lords and nobles were entombed, in effigy at the lid, in memory of who they were and what they possessed.
Of course, not all knights were loyal and honourable, and chivalry began to die in the 14th century. A good example is Edward, The Black Prince, who was fond of chivalry, respecting his enemies and treating his captives well, yet frequently relied on raiding during his campaigns, living in an era of which the noble knight was simply a figment of the past. A bad example would be the assassination of Charles the Good in 1127, and after his death, his knights searched in vain for his strongbox, first searching his house and then the Tower of Bruges, and during this most horrific pillage, ended up arguing over the dead count’s kitchen utensils, wine, lead pipes, flour, and then ransacking his house. Thus was the importance of gaining and keeping loyalty, the concepts of chivalry developing religiously and morally for the goodness of the knight, who was a respected yet feared individual due to his martial prowess. As such, concepts of religion and chivalry were the only means to attempt to civilize the violent nature of a warrior. Under chivalry, which developed in the late 12th century especially during the Crusader era, knights were obliged to be pious and virtuous. Just as Jesus Christ taught to forgive and be merciful, so knights were expected to be, with some results. Concepts of chivalry can also be found in furusiyya, the Islamic equivalent of chivalry, which deals with martial arts, horsemanship, hunting, and the playing of chess, which knights also did. Overall, the concept of camaraderie, honour, loyalty, and bravery can be found in the mindset of the knight, as well as many other noble warriors of other cultures. Just like the mindset of the huscarl and paladin, the knight was loyal to his lord, his religion, his family, and his community, and like the huscarl, the knight could challenge others to duels, and settle whatever dispute he had in the style of manly honour. The biggest difference is the law. During the Dark Ages, as explored earlier, laws and culture made mandatory returning insults with reactions of violence, laws enforcing vengeance, and pride perhaps going above common sense, as was openly accepted by the Franks, Norsemen, Germans, and other pagans. Contrasting those violent tendencies, but keeping the sense of duty and loyalty, chivalry and Christianity intended to evoke mercy, forgiveness, and peace, largely unsuccessful in the Middle Ages, but at least there were less laws enforcing hatred over petty words! For example, in 1128 at Loan, violence and aggression were prohibited in “safe zones”, where even the thinking of aggression was prohibited: “anyone bearing mortal hatred toward another to pursue him if he left the city or to set an ambush for him upon his return.” Therefore, the Middle Ages do take measures of law and order, contrasting the Dark Ages of self-righteous honour, which was prone to rather simplistic behaviour. Disputes were settled privately, but serious crimes, such as public adultery, larceny or murder, would call the officials. Clerics, unmarried women, children, and the poor, if they were attacked, was considered an affront to God, and would spark public outrage and punishment of the attacker. Another beneficial concept was the gradual establishment of slavery, beginning in 1102 when the Kingdom of England made illegal the trade of slaves. Christianity within feudal Europe were some of the early stepping stones of humanism, but that would still take more centuries to fully develop.
NOTABLE EQUIPMENT AND TACTICS
When Europe emerged from its Dark Ages, new tactics began to be employed, most notably the rise of the knight, who gripped his lance under the arm, and driving his couched lance into the enemy while riding his noble steed. Not only was the horse just for transport, but also used as a fighting and skirmishing platform. The Franks, Normans and Byzantines are depicted as couching their lances, but no-one can really say who first began that style of holding a lance. The Bible of Rhodes, dated to the late 10th or 11th century, in its depiction of The Battle of Maccabees, shows horsemen coaching their winged lances as well as using them with one or both hands in an overhand manner, and also showing kite shields, swords with disc-shaped pommels, and mail armour also covering the neck. One horseman wears scale or lamellar armour, and fights on horseback with sword and shield. The Golden Psalter of St Gall also depicts Frankish horsemen couching his lance under the arm. Practising couched lance attacks occurred in melees and tourneys. Horses were bred to have longer legs, shorter backs, and larger bodies and necks, to better support the weight and arms of the rider. All horses depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry are stallions, none of which are castrated.
While on a galloping horse, a rider could deliver a couched lance with incredible force, putting all the weight of himself, his equipment, his horse, and velocity into the point of his lance, capable of piercing shields and mail armour, and then knocking the rider off his horse. When horses charged into other horses, the impact could knock them back over their rumps. Lances were up to three metres long, whereas spears used on foot tended to be about two metres long; shafts tended to be ash wood. Lanceheads in the Middle Ages differed from Viking Age spearheads in being narrow and potentiality winged or lugged, to better pierce armour yet not penetrating so much the lance got stuck in a body, thus the wings or lugs would prevent overpenetration. Viking Age spears tended to have broad and leaf-shaped as the Vikings used, which were better for attacking unarmoured enemies. The Bayeux Tapestry depicts lances used both couched and under the arm, and also in an overhand manner or perhaps depicted javelins about to be thrown. As in the Viking Age and earlier, spears and lances had heads socketed on the ends of poles and then riveted into the sides of the socket.
Mail shirts got longer and had extended sleeves, as well as having the potential addition of an integrated coif, or a hood of mail. However, short hauberks with short sleeves were still worn. Helmets developed fuller face-guards, with the Norman knights iconically having masks of metal on their helmets towards the end of the 12th century. Clubs and maces also make an appearance, depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry; one mace with a knobbed head is seen being thrown through the air amidst javelins and arrows, so it is likely that axes were also thrown. Kite-shaped shields are the dominant style of the shield but round and convex shields are also shown. The Anglo-Saxons are depicted using swords, one-handed and two-handed battleaxes, javelins, and have some archer support. It also depicts a battleaxe having its head cut off at the shaft by a sword. Only one Norman archer is shown wearing armour, and holds arrows in his hand holding the bow. Most helmets were conical and had nasal guards, and helmets in the Bayeux Tapestry are shown as such.
The Middle Ages is characterized by religious wars, involved several Crusades set against the Holy Lands, Moorish Iberia, the Baltic, and Eastern Europe, of which many atrocities were committed especially in the next century. During the Middle Ages, starting at the latest during Crusader era, the crossbow became popular for Europeans and Turks. The Crusader era is characteristic of the establishment of Orders of Knighthood, popularly the Knights Templar, Knights Hospitaller, and Teutonic Order, organizations of knights serving as warrior-monks who protected Christian pilgrims and fought for the Crusader states.
England at first had little involvement with the Crusades. Henry I succeeded his brother William Rufus in 1100, and he won Normandy by defeating his brother Robert at the Battle of Tinchebray, in the same year. England plunged into civil war soon after, fought between Henry’s daughter Matilda and Stephen of Blois, which only ended in 1154 when Henry II, Matilda’s son, became king and restored the monarchy. However, it was not until 1189 when Richard I Coeur de Lion became king and would then embark on Crusade, to reclaim the Holy Lands taken back by Saladin, who easily retook Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187 after the Battle of Hattin. Richard the Lionhearted would also allow the Angles and Normans to invade Cyprus, which they took in 1191 from the Byzantines under Isaac Komnenos, who imprisoned shipwrecked Crusaders and so that was viewed as a reason to take the island from him, as well as chaining him up in golden bracelets.
There were four major Crusades (1096-1099, 1147-1149, 1189, and then 1202-1204). The First Crusade was the most successful, establishing the Crusader states at Jerusalem, Antioch, Edessa and Tripoli. After the First Crusade, most knights and crusaders left for home. However, the heavy knight left a major impact on his Muslim opponents, who were not expecting shock cavalry (the Muslims initially may have mistaken the Crusaders as Byzantine raiders). The Muslim armies would gradually copy Crusader equipment and tactics to better counter them, especially when Saladin came to power, who replaced tribal warfare common in the Middle East with the use of mamluks (slave-soldiers of Turkish descent, trained to be elite horsemen at their master’s expense) and organized militia-like infantry.
Chivalry also developed during the Crusader era, possibly influenced by furussiya, the Islamic equivalent of chivalry regarding horsemanship and martial arts. In the Policraticus (c1150), John of Salisbury set goals for knights to “defend the Church, assail the Infidel, venerate the priesthood, protect the poor and pacify the province.” Thus, it appears that clergymen attempted to use knights to establish peace for Christendom against frequent raids by the Saracens who failed to make progress against the Franks ever since Tours. However, the Crusades are a rather complicated topic, and so are better off being explored as its own article. Suffice to say, that most of these Christian holy wars were political campaigns under the guise of religious conviction. This is especially true regarding the Cathar Crusade and Teutonic Crusade, which posed Christians against Christians in the great slaughter in the next century.
Most shields seem to have become kite-shaped, but round shields were still used. Kite shields differed in that they potentially had no boss or handle, but instead a few straps riveted into the backside to put the arm through and then grip. The straps could be riveted into the backside of the shield and so be arranged diagonally, vertically, or horizontal, allowing a few variations to holding the shield. Kite shields also could be slung around the neck by a long strap called a guige. Kite shields were made of boards glued together, held together with a rim of hide, and covered with leather; the front was often painted. Kite shields during this time tended to be tall, and would weigh up to several pounds depending on how big they were. Smaller kite shields are popularly called heater shields. Kite shields were also used by Muslim forces in the Middle East up into the 14th century. Magnus Barefoot mentioned earlier, called a sword of his “Leg Biter”, for his habit of swinging into the legs of enemies who had old-fashioned round shields, which, unlike kite shields, did not cover the legs unless very large. This provides a hint as to why kite shields replaced round shields, as a long kite shield could also simply have the pointy bottom placed on the ground and so becomes a stable defence for the legs. Kite shields were made in the same manner as other European wooden shields: planks were laid side by side, glued together, covered with leather, and then rimmed with hide.
Historically, kite shields and heater shields were simply called shields; the shape did not affect the name. The length of a kite shield allowed the wielder to move on foot while protected, but the length meant it could potentially have limited use on horseback as to turn with it would make it hit the horse’s neck. Straps could be arranged diagonally, allowing the wielder to hold a kite shield in an angle. There is no clear answer or reason as to why the kite shield suddenly became so popular throughout Europe. By the end of the 12th century, shields got a bit smaller, and so mail became longer, covering the arms, reaching the knees, and potentiality having mail mittens, sometimes fingerless at least by the 13th century. Kite shields were potentially made with strong curvature. These features thus mentioned can be seen in many sources of evidence, such as in the manuscript Life of St Guthlac which clearly exhibit knights in somewhat long-sleeved mail shirts with coifs, their shields being short and flat-topped, essentially heater shields with strong curvature. Norman knights seem to have continued wielding long kite shields throughout the 11th and 12th century, and they tend to be depicted as such. Fighting abroad in the Holy Lands, they needed larger shields to better defend against amassed arrows shot by archers on foot and horseback, and the popularity of the crossbow also suggests larger shields would be useful to block many bolts that potentially broke through mail armour as Anna Comnena reported.
The pattern-welding technique soon disappeared upon the arrival of the Middle Ages. Germanic swords forged via pattern-welding were of exceptionally high quality and of nearly pure steel at the edges, and were of better quality than most medieval swords. However, advances in forging allowed more swords to be available, so as the Middle Ages progressed, more and more commoners could afford swords. Sword hilts were fitted in the same manner as that of the Viking Age: the crossguard, handle, and pommel were slid up the tang, and then the tang hammered against the bottom of the pommel, peening it.
Swords developed into the arming sword style, characterized by disc-shaped pommels, wider cross-guards, and slightly longer blades, however, some arming swords nevertheless had broad blades designed for slashing and cutting. Pommels also could be rectangular and hat-like, and many styles and shapes would develop. The swords that had pointed tips were better suited to piercing mail and padded armour. The Germanic and Viking-style hilts ceased to be produced by the coming of the Middle Ages, but it is probably that they continued to be wielded for some time. Since a few Viking style swords are found in Chinese museums, it suggests they were traded through the Rus, Tartars or Mongols, and then ended up in China sometime during the Middle Ages.
Daggers were essentially miniature swords in shape and construction, initially referred to as coustel or cultellus, having blades 8-12 inches long or so, and seem to have negative connotations, as the term coustillers would refer to marauding bands of bandits. This type of early dagger would eventually evolve into the baselard. The langseax during this time potentially had a very long handle, possibly for two-handed use. These kinds of knives did not have a pommel but peened to the bottom of a bone or wooden handle. Knives do not seem to have been wielded by knights as a sidearm, so probably were a sidearm for the commoners.
Spearheads were socketed on the ends of poles about two metres long, then riveted into them, and potentially had wings or lugs at the base of the spearhead. Spears made to kill large animals, such as bear, stag or boar, were very large, broad, and leaf-shaped, designed for maximum blood-letting, cutting, and penetration.
The lance was a common weapon used on horseback, around three metres long, and made a strong appearance in the Middle Ages due to the arrival of the knight, which made the huscarl and Viking rather obsolete as the Middle Ages progressed. The Song of Roland mentions knights having lances made of ash or apple-beam. The power of the lance is also depicted in the Song of Roland: “He splits the shield, and cleaves the close-woven hauberk, clean through his breast drives lance and pennon both” and, “Into the torso lance-point and pennon plough, from breast to back the shaft runs through and out.” Modern tests of couched lances also show similar results. However, there are historic accounts of lances failing to pierce mail. Usamah ibn Munquidh mentions in his memoirs that his lance failed to pierce a Frankish knight’s hauberk, as well as mentioning another case of which a lance failed to pierce a mail shirt. Thus, the quality of armour and attacker’s lance would be important factors. However, even when a lance peirced a man, it did not always kill. the horseman who struck Philip the knight, for verily the Franks have all been astounded on account of that blow which pierced two layers of links [back and front] in the knight’s coat of mail and did not kill him. Usamah ibn Munquidh mentions in his memoirs, Memoirs of Usamah, that he drove a lance through a knight named Philip, skewering him, but did not kill him. Philip went to the Muslim camp to show-off his hardiness, and Usamah tells us, “. . .Franks have all been astounded on account of that blow which pierced two layers of links in the knight’s coat of mail and did not kill him.” An account that will be slightly paraphrased, mentioned by Sir Walter Scott in History of Scotland, published in 1841, mentions that, at the Battle of Gasclune in 1392, “ . . . Sir David Lindsay, having run his lance through the body of one of the Highlanders, bore him down and pinned him to the earth . . . in his dying agonies, the Highlander writhed himself upwards on the spear and exerted his last strength in fetching a sweeping blow at the armed knight with his two-handed sword. The stroke, made with all the last energies of a dying man, cut through Lindsay’s stirrup and steel boot. . .” The blow did not cut any flesh, but inflicted enough pain for the knight to retire the battle. Therefore, it can be noted that defeating a man’s armour does not necessarily mean he is killed or incapacitated. After the lance was driven home, it was often discarded or let go of, for the knight to then unsheathe his sword to fight in a melee or gallop away to regroup with his comrades, perhaps for the reason it did not guarantee a kill! Like spearheads, lance heads were socketed and then riveted at the end of a long pole about three metres in length, and could have wings or lugs at the base of the socket.
The crossbow would develop in the Middle Ages, and became a common ranged weapon, especially in the Iberian peninsula and Italy, and used by Crusaders starting in the 12th century. Crossbows consisted of a stick or tiller, with a stave of wood, horn, or composite assembly, set at a right angle at the front of the stock, and having a long trigger to shoot the weapon. The string was pulled back down the stock over a mechanism called the nut, which was a revolving grooved disc with a section carved out to form two hooks at either side of the groove to hold the string in place, and the nut was then released by use of a trigger. Crossbows were potentially powerful, and Anna Comnena mentions in the 12th century that “not only can a crossbow bolt penetrate a buckler, but a man and his armour, right though.” However, other sources depict bolts and arrows failing to penetrate armour. The 10th-century historian Richer in his Historia mentioned King Lewis and his army attacking Senlis in 947, and were repulsed by vigorous activity of the city’s crossbowmen. Staves for the crossbow could be made of wood or horn, or layers of horn. Composite staved for crossbows seem to have been learned from the Saracens during the Crusader era. In England, there is mention of “Peter the Saracen”, who was working for King John in 1205, suggesting the origin of the composite-staved crossbow. The Genoese exported mercenary crossbowmen, first with crossbows having composite staves and then two centuries later steel ones. Famously, Pope Innocent II, in the Lateran Council, cited his anathema against “the deadly art, hated by God, of crossbowmen and archers” but did not condemn its use against Saracens. By the looks of it, this edict was mostly ignored.
Bows, sometimes called self-bows or hand bows, did not seem very popular in Europe during this time, but the Welsh did use war bows of elm, a possible precursor to the longbow of later centuries. Gerald de Barri, writing sometime in 1188, records the power of a Welsh bow during the Siege of Abergavenny Castle in 1182, mentioning to have witnesses shot arrows piercing an oaken door to a depth of “nearly a hand”. On another occasion, famously such an arrow was said to pierce a rider’s chausses, pinning him to his horse. Arrowheads could be broad, barbed, or pointed, sometimes case-hardened, which would be useful against opponents wearing mail. These Welsh-made precursors of the English longbows were probably made of elm or yew. Such war bows seem to have been confined to Wales, as they do not make an appearance anywhere else. Composite bows were used in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Greece. Anna Comnena mentions once that the Byzantines had to shoot arrows into Frankish horses as their bows were not strong enough to pierce their mail armour, suggesting that even stronger war bows did not easily break mail armour. Bow staves were cut from the radius of a tree, then carved into shape, with the sapwood facing the back. Other woods used for bows were maple, ash, hazel, and oak, but elm was the better choice, and yew the best choice.
Slings sometimes appear, such as for hunting small game, but slings ceased to be used in warfare it seems. The fustibal was essentially a staff-sling, used to hurl things over castle walls, such as flaming pots or stones, but not much information can be found on them and their effectiveness. Slings were made of braided leather, with the middle consisting of a pouch, which was loaded with a stone or clay bullet. Whirled around and around, one-half of the sling was let go, thus hurling the bullet. Slings at the end of a staff hypothetically were used simply to hurl, without much need for technique.
Axes did not seem to have been used extensively by knights, however, Roger de Hovedan notes that King Stephen of England, during the Battle of Lincoln in 1141, “was equal to a thunderbolt, slaying some with his immense battleaxe and striking down many others” until it broke from too many hits, and then the king unsheathed his sword. This suggests that some Norman knights and warriors may have used the axe as a primary weapon until it broke. Richard the Lionhearted was also said to have wielded a battleaxe with both hands, generally known as a long axe. Battleaxes of the Middle Ages developed a hammer, spike or fluke at the opposite side of the blade, and sometimes a spike at the top of the shaft, a feature not seen in Ancient Times, increasing the uses of the battleaxe against armoured opponents. Battleaxes with extended handles would evolve into the halberd, used in Europe, the Middle East, and India. European battleaxes would develop into many shapes and sizes, such as the berdiche, glaive, Dane axe, voulge, and Lochaber axe. Maces were also used as concussive weapons, but not much details can be studied from them in how they were fought with. They were used to smash people senseless, what else is there to say? Like axe heads, mace heads were socketed at the end of a handle, the end narrow than the rest of the handle, and then wedged at the top to spread the wood apart, holding the head in place. Contrary to popular depiction, flails do not seem to have been a medieval weapon, but appear in the Renaissance era.
The Vikings do not seem to have made extensive use of siege weapons, but the Middle Ages utilized catapults, ballistae, mangonels, battering rams, siege ladders, siege towers, and trebuchets. During the First Crusade, Crusaders often built siege engines, such as siege towers and catapults, to besiege cities. The Muslim armies do not seem to have utilized siege engines very much during the First Crusade, which allowed the Crusaders to utilize the constructs and overcome walls and towers. Saladin did make use of siege engines when he came to power. The Crusaders built two siege towers to besiege Jerusalem, one being put on fire and destroyed by the defenders, but the other reached the walls, and so the Crusaders took Jerusalem in 1099. Since medieval European soldiers were modelled off the Roman legions, many soldiers were also craftsmen or tradesmen, which suggests this was why they could build siege engines, both from cut timbers, as well as using wood from deconstructed boats and buildings. The Byzantines also utilized siege engines during this time.
Armour did not change much since the Viking Age, but as already mentioned, mail shirts got longer and had longer sleeves, as well as a potentially added with an integrated mail coif. Production of mail did not change as described earlier, however, it is likely that by the Middle Ages, there were tools specifically meant for the production of mail. There are depictions of mail-makers later on in the Late Middle Ages, showing that the Middle Ages did have tools meant for the production of mail armour. Hypothetically, tiny rods of soft, malleable iron were hammered out, or iron wire was wrapped around a mandrel, chiselled or cut along the mandrel to get individual links, which were then perhaps pushed through a simple punch and former, the ends pierced by a tool of some kind (possibly similar to pliers but with a single tooth rising into a hole), and then riveted closed by gently hammering tiny triangular rivets through the pierced ends and so closing the link, then formed into a 4-in-1 pattern (four links through everyone), connecting these patterns together, and then making the mesh to match the wearer’s body. It took about 30,000 links to make one mail shirt. Once the mail shirt of soft iron was finished, it would be case-hardened, or if mild steel, quench-hardened. The mail probably would still be of the 4-in-1 pattern, but there are also references to “double-mail” but it is not clear if it refers to the second layer of mail or an 8-in-1 pattern of the mesh. Sometimes, an additional flap of mail was linked to the front of a hauberk, to provide additional protection. Mail also developed into mittens, and leggings of mail, known as chausses, were worn over the legs and tied at the back. The mail coif was worn under or over the helmet, and over a padded hood. Mail armour would have been tailored to match the individual’s body shape and size.
Helmets remained mostly the same, still consisting of triangular plates riveted into a dome along a framework of iron bands, and then having a nasal guard. Some helms were made of two half-skulls. The Middle Ages introduced helms forged from a single piece of iron, such as the helm of St Wenceslaus in the Treasury of Prague Cathedral; other solid conical helms forged from a single piece of iron can also be found in Poland’s museum collections at Glucka Purzcza, Ostrow Wednicki, and the State Archaeological Museum, Warsaw.
Since shields became narrow, changing from large and round to the long kite shape, hauberks developed longer sleeves, but large round shields continued to be carried, too. The seal of Louis VII depicts him wearing mail armour with sleeves reaching his wrists, and chausses that cover his legs down to the ankles; he carries an arming sword and a short heater shield with strong curvature. The aventail, which is mail covering the neck and hanging over the shoulders and collar bones, also appears. The Song of Roland mentions an aventail being split apart by a sword blow, suggesting that mail armour could indeed shatter from heavy strikes.
Mail armour worn by the Mamluks and other Muslim forces tended to be doubly or singly riveted, rings of the intermediate rows punched out from sheet iron to form a solid ring. Saracenic warriors are also depicted wearing lamellar armour and wielding heater shields and straight double-edged swords. The Norman knights who went on Crusade would probably have encountered such armoured Saracens.
In addition to mail armour, the gambeson (also known as aketon and arming jacket), thickly padded garments, were worn beneath mail armour, to cushion heavy blows. Padded cloth was also worn for the legs and head. Gambesons were usually made of linen or canvas, and tailored to match the wearer’s body, and could be worn on their own as light armour. Padded garments worn underneath mail provided a good defence against most kinds of attacks, and helped cushion concussive blows from maces and clubs, and slightly softened falls off horseback. Scale and lamellar armour seem to have greatly diminished during the Middle Ages. A knight wearing scale armour is depicted on a decoration part of the Gross-Comburg chandelier, circa 1140.
Hardened leather (rawhide can be hardened by boiling and baking) armour may have been worn during the early Middle Ages as well, but gambesons seem to be the dominant form of light armour, due to being cheaper, lighter and stronger than hardened leather, without having the need to kill an animal to produce. It seems leather was left for the faces of shields, but hardened leather armour is still a possibility.
Overall, it seems that most Norman knights wore a nasal helm over a mail coif, and a hauberk over a gambeson, especially in the 12th century. In the 13th century, their helmets would develop a distinctive face-mask, which would then evolve into the transitional helm, and then finalize into the great helm. Norman knights wore great helms especially in the Holy Lands during the 13th century, which were a heavy, large and limited vision, but protected the head incredibly well, making the Norman’s head almost immune to damage. Larger great helms were worn and supported by the shoulders, so that if a knight fell and landed on his head, his shoulders, not his neck, would take most of the impact and so lessen the chance of a broken neck. As already mentioned, for the most part, the armour did not change much from the Viking Age to the start of the Middle Ages.
Cavalry greatly developed in use in the Middle Ages, with the horseshoe appearing at least in the 9th century. The saddle, stirrup, prick-spur, lance and warhorses changed warfare in Europe significantly. The Song of Roland mentions Oliver and Roland as being hit by blows that would have knocked them off their steeds were it not for their saddles and stirrups. Norman knights were known for forming powerful, courageous charges, especially against the Muslims in the Holy Land. The 12th century was important as knights would charge in a rather organized, disciplined form, but this would not be as good as Mongolian horsemanship and strategy of the next century, and it really was not until after the Middle Ages had ended that Europeans employed cavalry in professional charges and manoeuvring. However, knights still practised individual combat against other knights during tournaments and mock battles. As mentioned earlier, horses were bred to have a bodily form to better carry a heavy rider, such as shorter backs, longer legs, and larger bodies, so that there was less stress on the steed’s spine. The mounted knight came to dominate European battlefields throughout most of the Middle Ages. It was not until the arrival of the pike, halberd and longbow of later centuries that would put a stop to the knights.
Norman knights probably mostly fought on horseback in battlefields as shock cavalry, but they would fight on foot when the situation demanded it, such as during the assault or defence of a castle or city, or while sailing in a boat.
The fortitude and reputation of the Norman knight was proven during their invasion of England, where the knight annihilated the huscarl, and in their participation in the Crusades, where the Normans’ indomitable charges overran their foes, forever changing the method of warfare throughout medieval Europe and the Middle East. Ironic, that the Normans and Seljuks shook the foundations of Christendom at roughly the same time in opposing continents, and once the two forces met, it was the lances of the Normans that proved the victor, claiming the Holy Lands for Jesus Christ, and making Jesus the patron king of Jerusalem. It would take the arrival of Saladin to reclaim the city of Jerusalem in the next century.
Of course, not all riders were knights, and retainers, middle-class soldiers, and lesser nobles could have horses yet not the full equipment of a knight. Not as heavy as knights, lighter cavalry probably rode behind the heavier knights, or at the flanks, to then pursue fleeing foes or skirmish enemy forces. In Iberia, there are a few manuscripts showing riders with small crossbows, possibly an influence of the Berbers who conquered southern Spain and made extensive use of mounted warfare, raiding, and skirmishing. Clerics are also sometimes depicted as riding horses, as can be clearly illustrated in Life and Miracles of Saint Maurus (Troyes Library, ms 2273) which dates to the 11th century, showing a few monks on horseback. Clerics sometimes went to war as well, such as the bishop Odo, depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry as wearing mail and a helmet, and armed, apparently, with a big stick, probably because men of the cloth were not allowed to shed blood, and so concussive weapons such as clubs and maces were the only alternative.
The Normans used ships for transport obviously, but did not seem to have kept their heritage of producing longships or knarrs and sailing overseas as marines or seafarers, however, early medieval boats were still built in the similar form of lapstrake construction (the edges of hull planks overlap). They probably sailed along the Mediterranean in galleys for transport, and as for Atlantic waters, used whatever boats they could get, probably vessels that were made of oak and square-rigged or clinker-built, gradually differing from the longships of the previous era as the Middle Ages progressed. A notable feature of medieval ships was the appearance of a stern rudder, and then the gradual development of multiple masts, making ships better at sailing. Medieval ships seem to have been modelled off the cog and holk used especially in the Baltic coastline for trade, as well as sailing along rivers and canals. Long voyages spanning over entire coasts and seas seem to have been rare during the early Middle Ages at least for mainland Europeans. True sailing ships would appear later on in the 14th century. The Byzantines also used a primitive flamethrower on their ships against Arabs and Crusaders, and to counter the flames, sailors would soak their sails with vinegar, a natural fire-repellent. Nevertheless, the Greek fire thrower was a fearsome weapon, as it continued burning even in water, and the prospect of catching on fire is naturally an unnerving thought. Anyone unlucky enough to get flaming fuel on them would potentially meet a fiery death.
Overall, naval confrontations were rare during the early Middle Ages, and probably relied on the use of crossbowmen or archers and then boarding. However, Norwegian Crusaders under King Sigurd I did set sail with 60 boats in 1107, spent a few years fighting and pillaging in Iberia and the Balearics, rested at Sicily, and then finally reached Jerusalem in 1110, where they were welcomed by King Baldwin I. The Norwegians won all their battles and returned home in 1113, having sailed to Byzantium after leaving the Holy Lands, giving their ships to Emperor Alexios I in exchange for horses (some of his men stayed to fight for the Byzantines as mercenaries), they then rode through Central Europe, reached Denmark, and then sailed home to Norway. Thus was the last Viking adventure, but the Baltic Crusade of the next century would attract Norse adventurers and mercenaries to fight with the Teutonic Knights against the pagans of the Baltic states.
Thus was the simplified yet informative exploration of the Norman knight, from his Norse routes as a heavily-armed infantryman loyal to his lord, from his Frankish routes as a heavily-armed paladin loyal to Charlemagne, and then the merging of the huscarl and the paladin, leading to his rise to knighthood into the Middle Ages as a devoted Christian knight loyal to his lord and to God. It can be seen how the paladin and the huscarl, their weapons and their armour, and even their psychology, evolved over the centuries to forge the Norman warrior, going through Christianization, horsemanship, and then finalize into the feudal knight. This does not only apply to knights of course, for a majority of soldiers throughout most of history fought with spears and shields, on foot and horseback, but different cultures developed their own ethos, codes of conduct, and fighting styles, but for the most part, were quite similar in execution.
The descendants of Rollo followed in his footsteps, setting out as adventurers and some of them becoming aristocrats. Only a few features were lost, such as the very large round shields, the longships, the paganism, and the laws obliging to react with violence to insults, but for the most part, the Norman knight kept the basics of his origins with him. He continued to wear mail and a helmet, just like the huscarls and paladins, and continued the use of the spear, the sword, the axe, and the shield on horseback and on foot, at home and in faraway lands. It was not until the 13th century that Norman knights wore greaves since the Franks did way back in the 8th to 9th century, and the Normans continued with the rest of European arms and armour as the centuries progressed, but after the 13th century, the Normans gradually began to lose their wanderlust. The last Norman invasion was that of the Canary Islands, which occurred from 1402-1405, and there was little glory, as the natives, unable to match European arms and armour, had no chance of victory, and were enslaved.
Knights would not last forever. Modernization of armies, firearms, and the costs of equipping and maintaining fully-equipped knights being too expensive, made European kings eventually moved away from the Middle Ages. The knight was replaced by demi-lancers, horsemen who wore less plate armour, and then as firearms advanced and grew in availability, armour became less of an issue. By the arrival of the 17th century, the armoured knight was no more, he having been degraded to princely jousting rather than charging the battlefields in the 16th century, and so ends the adventure of the Norman knight. If one is to consider the Norse and Frankish origins as part of the Norman warrior as explored, his adventures lasted a thousand years.
(disclaimer: all citations, quotes and themes explored paraphrased and simplified for ease of reading, and then I forgot to note the page numbers for citations. You’ll just have to get these books and read them on your time.)
David Edge & John Miles Paddock, Arms, and Armour of the Medieval Knight: An Illustrated History of Weaponry in the Middle Ages (Random House: New York, 1996)
Auguste Demmin, An Illustrated History of Arms and Armour from the Earliest Period to the Present Time (USA, unknown publication date, presumably 20th century)
Philippe Aries and Georges Duby, A History of Private Life from Pagan Rome to Byzantium (USA, 1987)
Philippe Aries and Georges Duby, A History of Private Life Revelations of the Medieval World (USA, 1988)
H. Russel Robinson, Oriental Armour (New York, 2002)
Walter Buhr, Warriors’ Weapons (New York, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, Established 1834)
Suggested websites for further resources: