The Maids Armor

" ...With this army Jeanne was sent. The King had caused armor to be made for her..."(1)
The Duc d'Alencon, Trial of Nullification

Armor was a very important part of the 15th century soldier. It had gone from the days of the lorica segmentata through chain mail to what was in the time of the Maid to complete sets of armor which covered the entire body. However this type of armor was expensive therefore it remained in the hands of the nobility, and royalty. The basic soldier could count himself fortunate if he possessed even the most even the most rudimentary helmet and Gambeson. By the time of the Hundred Years War, armor making had developed into a highly skilled profession. The latest improvements were incorporated into armor as well as better steel. While we do not know with exactitude what the Maid's armor actually looked like the print above is a fairly excellent representation from contemporary sources that are in existence and those which were most common.

The description "White harness" means that the armor is without any embellishments. In the miniseries, "Joan of Arc" with Lee Lee Sobieski, the armor she wears is not white harness. She has a lys on her chest and lyse around the besagues (small round 'shields' laced to the mail at the shoulder to defend the armpit.) contrary to modern belief armor of the time was about 50 lbs or so. The modern idea that has been passed down from the 19th century that knights had to be lifted up onto their horse by use of a crane is nonsense. The Constable of France, Bertrand du Guesclin, was noted for leaping onto his horse and climbing rope ladders while fully clothed in his armor. Jehannes armor was made for fighting in. She could be found in the thick of the actions urging the troops on. Her armor saved her on several occasions. While at Orleans, Jehanne wearing her armor was in fact wounded by an arrow, which penetrated her armor. She was taken from the battle, and the English perceiving an advantage in this screamed obscenities. They believed that they had won the encounter. Jehanne stayed behind the lines but returned just before dusk. This turn of events was a psychological blow to the English and to the French it appeared as a miracle

"...Jeanne was there wounded by an arrow which penetrated half-a-foot between the neck and the shoulder; but she continued none the less to fight, taking no remedy for her wound...."
Jean, Bastard of Orleans, Count de Dunois.

"...When she felt herself wounded, she was afraid, and wept; but she was soon comforted, as she said. Some of the soldiers seeing her severely wounded wished to "charm " her; but she would not, saying: "I would rather die than do a thing which I know to be a sin; I know well that I must die one day, but I know not when, nor in what manner, nor on what day; if my wound may be healed without sin, I shall be glad enough to be cured." Oil of olive and lard were applied to the wound. After the dressing, she confessed herself to me, weeping and lamenting..." Fr Jean Pasquerel, Trial of Nullification

"...The King's troops remained there from morning to night, and Jeanne was wounded: it was necessary to take off her armor to dress the wound; but hardly was it dressed when she armed herself afresh and went to rejoin her followers at the attack and the assault, which had gone on from morning without ceasing..." Louis De Contes, Trial of Nullification

"...During the assault on Jargeau... ...Jeanne made the attack; in which I followed her. As our men were invading the place, the Earl of Suffolk made proclamation that he wished to speak with me, but we did not listen, and the attack continued. Jeanne was on a ladder, her standard in her hand, when her Standard was struck and she herself was hit on the head by a stone which was partly spent, and which struck her calotte. (Head-covering without visor, "chapeline casque leger en fornie de calotte sans masque.") She was thrown to the ground; but, raising herself, she cried: "Friends! friends! come on! come on! Our Lord has doomed the English! They are ours! keep a good heart." The Duc d'Alencon, Trial of nullification

Recently armor that was reported to be la Pucelles was found in France. It appears at first glance to be that which was made for a child about5 feet tall. While in some respects it there is a possibility that it could be la Pucelle's I have to agree with Virginia Frohlick in discounting that it was. Her views may be found here. My conclusions are the same except for this addition, namely armor must fit the body. This is obviously armor for a male. Take note of the waist. This is not the waist of a young woman. To be able to move around in armor it must fit comfortably. Take note of my statement about Bertrand du Guesclin above. Having worn flak jackets in war I can say with out a doubt that if the armor is too big it is hell to wear, uncomfortable and it moves by itself. If it is too small and it does not provide adequate protection. Next, notice the helmet, the Duc d'Alencon specifically remarks that her helmet (he calls it a calotte) a sallet that had no visor. This was common for the day, and even Knights would not wear a visor, or would lift it to provide better visibility. There are no holes or dents visible in the armor, even with a good repair job this would have been necessary for the continued use of the armor. Even a patch would be seen at the left shoulder where the arrow went inches though her armor. Lastly this armor is too clean. Made of steel it should show signs of oxidization. I have viewed the armor in the Tower of London and even that shows some signs of patina. This is, in 2 words real shiny.

So where is The Maids armor? Perhaps we shall never know.

Virginia continues,"...Some historians believe Joan left her white armor in the Abbey church of Saint Denis, after her failed attempt to take Paris. Once King Charles and his entourage left the town of Saint Denis, it was retaken by the English. The English entered the church and stole Joan's armor and took it back with them to England. Regine Pernoud disagrees with this theory. She believes Joan did not leave her armor, but gave instead, as a votive offering, the armor of a captured Burgundian knight. This armor is now in the Musee de L'Armee at the Invalides, Paris..."

Perhaps it is rusting away in an attic in Luxembourg or Belgium, maybe it was melted for scrap during one of the incessant European wars. We may never know exactly what happened to this Saint's armor. In any event she leaves us with the armor of her Faith in God and in her sure knowledge that she was about God's business.

Parts of armor in the Middle Ages and Renaissance
Under Clothes - Linen Under-shirt and under-pants. Woollen stockings. Underclothes were important as they prevented the armor from chafing the Knights skin
Sabatons - these were the first armor to be put on. Sabatons was armor for the foot and consisted of riveted iron plates on the boots
Akelon - arming doublet
Arms - Layer of chain mail over the arms of the Medieval Knights
Besagues which were small round 'shields' laced to the mail at the shoulder to defend the armpit
Rerebrace for the defence of the upper arm
Vambrace for the defence of the lower arm
Greaves - Plate armor which protected the calf and ankles
Poleyns - Plate armor which protected the knee cap
Cuisses - Plate armor which protected the thigh
Chest Armor - Breast Plate
Back Armor - The Backplate
Faulds were rings of armour which were attached to the breast plate and protected the hips, abdomen and lower back of the Medieval Knights
Head and Neck armor - the helmet was called the Bascinet which had a skirt of mail called an aventail to protect the neck. There was also a great helm, and a sallet.
Face protection - A Visor was a detachable piece of armor which protected the face and eyes
Gauntlets -ringed metal plates over the fingers.
Spurs - Spurs were attached to the heel by straps and used to 'spur' the Knights horse on in battle. The spurs became a symbol of knighthood
Surcoat-A robe, with a belt around the waist, was placed over the body armor. The surcoat was emblazoned with the cote of arms or device of the Medieval Knights in order for identification purposes
Weapons - A Dagger and Sword were attached to the Knights belt
Shield - Carried in defence and displaying the Knights heraldic blazon, by the 15th century these were getting smaller and smaller as the armor became more incasing until they disappeared altogether.

(1) In the Accounts (formerly kept in the Chamber des Comtes at Paris), of Maître Hemon Raguier, Treasurer of War, there is an item relating to this suit of armor: ..."To the Master Armorer, for a complete harness for the said Pucelle, 100 livres tournois."... "


1 comment:

alexandre de Bothuri Bàthory said...

The full armor of Joan of Arc? She gave one at Saint Denis in September 1429 and one was kept by her family and heirs until 1791 and then stolen during the French Revolution with a sword... Fake ones reappear from time to time in private or public collections, France or England At Chantilly or at the Musée de l'Armée at the Invalides but none of them are consistant with her height, measurements and gender... A stone carved in the 15th century Joan of Arc in full armor disappeared after 1925 but I have the photograph done in 1910... the mystery surronded her memorabilia sickens...