Arms and Armour of the
Crusading Era, 1050-1350
By David Nicolle
29A-J 'Participants in the Crusade of Louis IX' (?), stained glass window,
County of Blois, c.1255
(in situ choir clerestory window of Cathedral, Chartres, France)
The identification of these figures with men who accompanied St Louis on the disastrous Seventh Crusade is tentative, but various coats-of-arms can be identified, including those of Dreux (A), the Beaumont family (J) and the Royal Arms of France (B). A further figure in intentionally old-fashioned arms and armour represents St George (D). With the exception of the Saint, the supposed Crusaders are in largely uniform equipment except, interestingly enough, for their helmets. They wear mail hauberks with, where visible, mail mittens and coifs (A-C, E, G-I). Some surcoats have horizontal and sharply angled shoulders which indicate that substantially padded shoulder protections or even semi-rigid leather cuiries are worn beneath the heraldic surcoats themselves, but over the mail hauberks. All figures have mail chausses, and shields are almost triangular with rounded or square upper corners. Only one horse wears a caparison (C). All the men save St George carry spears, most of which have large pennons repeating or adding variations to their heraldry. Swords are broad and slightly tapering with decorated quillons (A and G), though, again, St George wields an earlier type with a trefoil pommel. Is it a coincidence that the man carrying the arms of Dreux (A) appears to be losing his sword over his horse's rump? The supposed pommel of Peter of Dreux's sword captured or found at the Battle of Mansurah in 1250 subsequently emerged in the Damascus bazaar. It is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (fig.33). A second figure (G) has adopted the Muslim fashion of looping a cord or thong from his sword's pommel over his wrist while a third figure (H) seems to have a second scabbard on his right hip. The varied helmets in these windows include normal mid-13th-century flat-topped great helms (A, B, G, Hand J) plus two of an earlier form that does not come so far down the back of the neck (E and F). These also apparently lack vertical strengthening bars at the front. But the two most interesting helmets are flat topped with face-mask visors, one clearly shown (C) and one less clearly so (I). They are closely related to helmets in earlier windows at Chartres and again represent a transitional phase in the development of the true great helm.
30 Helmet, French (?), possibly 13th century or a fake
(Musée de l'Armée, Paris, France)
This extraordinary helmet has no parallels in western Europe until the very late 14th and 15th centuries, and even then in Italy and Ireland rather than France. Nor are comparable helmets shown in 13th-century works of art. This does not, however, preclude thepossibility that the helmet is an unusual local variation on the great helm, although the weight of evidence points towards it being either wrongly dated or being a fake.
31 ' A knight of the Clement family receiving the Oriflamme from
St Dionysius of Paris', stained glass window, County of Blois, mid-13th century
(in situ Cathedral, Chartres, France)
This figure has also been tentatively identified as St Maurice of the Theban Legion. He is clearly wearing a long-sleeved mail hauberk with mittens and mail chausses. Presumably his mail coif was of the contemporary separate kind. The slightly-raised shoulders of his surcoat may indicate padding beneath. His sword with its slightly curved quillons hangs from a knotted sword-belt which also has a series of bar-like stiffeners. It is, however, unusual to see such stiffeners on a knotted rather than buckled sword-belt.
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