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FFOULKES C. Armour & Weapons

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FFOULKES C.
Armour & Weapons
page 22



As the manufacture of mail progressed the whole of the wearer's person came to be protected by it. In addition to the coverings of the body we find continuations that protected arms and legs, and in course of time the neck and head were protected with a Coif or hood of mail, which is shown in use in Plate I, No. 12, and thrown back on the shoulders on No. 8. Although of no protective use, the Surcoat is so essentially part of the war equipment of the knight that it needs more than a passing notice. It first appears on Royal seals at the beginning of the thirteenth century, in the reign of King John. Some modern writers have suggested that it was first used in the Crusades to keep the sun off the mail ; however this may be, we have written proof that it was of use in protecting the intricate fabric of chain armour from the wet, which by rusting the metal played havoc with its serviceability. It will be seen in different lengths in the figures on Plate I. In The Avow-ynge of King Arthur, stanza 39, we find— With scharpe weppun and schene Gay gowns of grene, To hold thayre armur clene And were1 hitte fro the wete. Like the hauberk, the surcoat was slit to the waist in front and behind for convenience on horseback, and was usually girt at the waist with a cord or belt. It was frequently decorated with the armorial bearings of the wearer. When the barrel helm was worn, concealing the whole face, some such cognizance was necessary that the knight might be recognized. The Setvans brass (Plate III) shows the armorial device powdered over the surcoat. The headpiece characteristic of the Norman Conquest is the conical nasal Helm. We should draw a distinction between the Helmet and the Helm. The former is, of course, a diminutive of the latter. At the time of the Norman Conquest the head covering would rank rather as a helmet, as it did not entirely cover the face. The Norman helmet was conical, usually formed of four triangular pieces of metal plate riveted in a ring and 1 Protect. CHAP. I THE AGE OF MAIL 25


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