Iron Men: Fashion in Steel (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) 26 March – 26 June [Exhibition review]

Vienna usually spoils visitors with an interest in arms and armour with the Hofjagd und Rustkammer housing one of the best collections of its kind. However, the ‘Iron Men’ exhibition curated by Stefan Krause elevates this experience and offers a unique educational trip on the subject of armour that mainly spans from the 15th to the 16th century. A combination of harnesses, armour parts and art lead the visitor on an amazing journey.

The field armour from the Eagle Garniture of Archduke Ferndinand II by Jorg Seusenhofer makes a stunning first impression on visitors.

The aim of the exhibition is to present the many functions and contexts of armour: a tool for war, a staggering display of power, a diplomatic gift, an inimitable fashion statement and a unique manner in preserving memory. Visitors will be able to see some of the best examples of field and tournament armour made for some of the most renowned princes of their time, armour designed for children and funerary purposes. Armour is discussed as a method of constructing identities, expressing masculinity and martial prowess. The often-overlooked subject of women in martial culture and in relationship to armour is also presented. The owners of armour, with their bodies imprinted in steel, are first presented as larger than life humans, then as everyday people that could afford unique carapaces that served multiple functions and besides power and wealth also often possessed a sense of humour, style, and an interest to the aesthetically pleasing. These qualities shift historical figures from two-dimensional beings to being somewhat relatable. Since fashion is often at the forefront the decorative methods of armour are explored in depth. The use of fabric as a layer underneath or over armour is demonstrated through amazing extant examples, as well as the use of precious metals and stones. The exhibition ends with past reimaginations of armour in previous centuries both as objects as well as in art, demonstrating how as objects they always spurred interest. Armour is presented as a method of interpreting intercultural barriers or a glorified past with examples of armour alla turca and all’antica.

Whereas the strongest part of the exhibition is unquestionably some of the most impressive examples of armour surviving, the texts accompanying are masterfully written and edited to complement the content of the various rooms. The precision, sensitivity and scholarly meticulousness is balanced with simplicity without dumbing down the content -a sin that many modern museums often commit- and sets the standard for exhibitions on the field of arms and armour. Without relying on the overused crutches of modern pop-culture or the conservative displays of previous decades ‘Iron Men’ shatters many of the norms that armour is usually presented in similar exhibitions, captivates the attention of the visitor, and invites them to imagine and learn.

The ‘Iron Men’ exhibition truly raised the bar regarding the presentation of armour both as an object as well as conceptual ideas. It is engaging, thoughtful and often reinvents how the subject is framed and presented, rendering it a useful educational experience for the general audience as well as for specialised scholars. An excellent catalogue was produced for the purposes of the exhibition covering all objects in it as well as featuring numerous essays on various topics related to armour.

Cite this article as: Iason-Eleftherios Tzouriadis, "Iron Men: Fashion in Steel (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) 26 March – 26 June [Exhibition review]," in Martial Culture in Medieval Town, 23/06/2022,

How Common Men Shall Be Armed: Equipment of the Common Soldier of England 1450 to 1500

By the second half of the fifteenth century, the martial equipment of the elite class of England was as impressive as it was encompassing. Enclosed in an expertly wrought suit of plate armour from head to toe the knight had never been so well defended. We have a fairly in-depth view of the types of equipment available to the elite warriors of this day as there are several complete harnesses remaining in collections such as those of Mantova and Churburg in Italy, and from a plethora of documentation such as the Hastings Manuscript f. 122b. In this manuscript, the author describes in great detail the armour and supplementary equipment needed to equip a man-at-arms, not only from head to toe but also in sequence. While the elite warrior of the day has been the focus of much research the common soldier typically gains less attention. Perhaps this is due to the rather simple equipment they utilized compared to the much more complex systems of armour that developed for the elite. As well much of the arms of common troops must have been used until its eventual disposal. While the man-at-arms was a crucial part of later medieval warfare other soldiers shared in the burden of war.

English military organization went through major developments throughout the late medieval period. The retinue system came to replace the outdated feudal summons of English knights and other soldiers with a more efficient system of contracted service allowing the king to create armies of soldiers that would fit his needs. While the feudal summons was relegated to near abandonment in England, the old system of the general levy and the more streamlined version of the Commission of Array continued to be used to create the bulk of many English armies. In this article, the martial equipment of commoners of 1450 to 1500 will be examined and the capacity they fulfilled. It will be divided between commoners as levied men by both rural and urban accounts, and last by exploring the types of equipment and soldiers that were used by men in a retinue of a great magnate. By looking at these three areas of recruitment a more complete view of how these common soldiers would have been armed can be made.

The Levy

The General Levy and Commission of Array all go back to the same concept. The right of the English king to demand military service from his male population was an ancient custom by the later medieval period, with evidence of this dating from Anglo-Saxon England and centuries before.[1] In 1495 Henry VII reasserted this right and stated that all men were required to be able to do service if required.[2] He also required that all men be adequately armed and armored to do this service.[3] This was nothing new; from the reign of Edward I on to his grandson Edward III’s reign increasingly heavier demands were required for the arms and armor the men of their kingdom possessed.[4] The use of commoners as soldiers had remained a mainstay through the entire medieval period and continued to be such into early modern times, in many ways intensifying. The king expected the men to be equipped for war but as revealed below the actual items used varied immensely.


Towns were a common recipient of demands for soldiers by the king. They also were charged to maintain their own martial forces, ready, and equipped. A review of such a force exists from the Town of Southampton in 1488. The Southampton Book of Fines 1488 to 1540 sheds light on the types of soldiers and equipment provided by townsmen.[5] This entry from the late fifteenth century is a summary of men present in total, troop types they represent, and their armaments, presumably for fines issued for men not present or lacking such equipment. Unfortunately, the opening page is now difficult to read, but that which is legible shows a large number of soldiers and martial equipment was indeed present in Southampton at that date.

The civic soldiers presented at the time are listed as 150 archers, 295 billmen, and 2 pikemen.[6] There is a possible addition that is hard to make out that appears to be gunners, which would add 17 gunners to the tally. This seems probable as the four wards listed have 120, 119, 75, and 156 men listed respectively, totaling some 470 people, and when listed by troop type there are 464 men listed. With the numbers matching so closely, the addition of 17 gunners seems to fit into the total numbers nicely. That said, traditionally in Southampton, there was a fifth ward which would indicate that these numbers were actually higher than recorded.

Fig. 1: © British Library Board. London, The British Library, The Holkham Bible 1327-1335, Additional 47682 f. 40.

Along with these categories of soldiers and the number of men per ward, there are a number of items listed. These include habergeons, harnesses, jacks, bills, pikes, handguns, and half pikes. Of these most are clear enough to make out with certainty: 23 habergeons, 162 harnesses, 9 jacks, 134 bows, and 120 pikes. The numbers of bills, handguns, and half pikes are difficult to make out entirely. There appear to be at least 200 bills and around 10 handguns, sadly half pikes are simply illegible. In all cases, there are more men listed in the specific soldier category than arms, except for pikes which may make up for the discrepancy with only 2 pikemen and 120 pikes.As well, there is a category under equipment that is difficult to identify though there are 107 of them. If the current trends in such reviews are in common, then they are perhaps sallets as it is an item consistently found in such documents, but conspicuously missing from this one. At times sallets may be included under harnesses as well, which is another possibility.

There are several phenomena that can be seen here. First, a rather large number of the men present had some form of arms. As far as we can ascertain all men could be provided with a weapon. As well many were armored, at least 42% having some form of armour, mostly ‘harnesses.’ Lastly, if archery was still of importance to English armies Southampton has a rather small proportion of them with only roughly a third being archers. This document, while difficult to decipher, indicates a large number of men largely readied for war with both arms, and to a lesser extent, armour demonstrating what may have been present in the town in the late fifteenth century.

There are some other variables to consider as well. There is significant evidence that the town of Southampton owned arms and armour to equip their townsmen. The steward’s inventory in 1468 lists one linen banner with the king’s arms, another unidentified, three old poleaxes, six lead mallets, five pavises, and rusty, broken harnesses.[7] Not only do we have a list of objects but specific examples of such objects being lent out. John Payn of Southampton bought several brigandines in 1470 for the town armoury.[8] In 1481 the town paid to have three loads of weapons brought from Christopher Ambroise’s house for town use.[9] In March 1484, Henry Brathwayte, one of the collectors of the king’s customs, borrowed a pair of brigandines from town.[10] On the last day of March, Robert Wilson was loaned a pair of brigandines and a sallet.[11] So in addition to the equipment personally possessed by the townsmen from the 1488 review, they also would have been reinforced with equipment from the town which would improve the numbers above.

While these documents are useful to see general arms and types of soldiers provided by urban bodies, individual inventories can give an enhanced view of the types of equipment owned by a single citizen-soldier. York was another important city of England and a frequent provider of soldiers for the armies of the king. We have an excellent source for the types of arms and armour of the men of York in the form of the Probate Inventories of the York Diocese.

From this document, the types of arms and armour the citizens of York possessed are demonstrated. The inventories range from the Archbishop of York, William Bothe, who died in 1464 and owned a fairly large cache of arms and armour, to those with arms only sufficient for themselves such as Thomas Kirkeby. From a total of fifteen inventories which included arms, seven have supplies of arrows but only four have bows. There were fifteen axes present, five swords listed, four knives, and two baselards. Of pole weapons eight bills and two pikes were reported. Regarding defensive armour, there were two bucklers and one shield, nine men had jacks, and seven had sallets. Only two men, Robert Fawcett and John Carter, had any plate armour outside a helmet listed and these were elbow defenses for Robert and a pair of splints for John. With the civic promotion of all men having sallets and jacks, it is surprising that about a third of these accounts lack jacks and half lack sallets.

Fig. 2: © British Library Board. London, The British Library, The Holkham Bible 1327-1335, Additional 47682 f. 29.

Upon looking at these specific examples a few trends are drawn into focus. Few were as heavily armed as a man-at-arms, with most owning little or no plate armour. This is curious compared to Southampton, which had far more harnesses, presumably of plate of some type as their review included both mail and jacks. As well, the lack of sallets in both York and Southampton is interesting as the head is so vulnerable. This may be due to the small sample size of York’s accounts. As for Southampton, as the document is difficult to read we cannot be certain if sallets were originally listed or not. One deduction is that some citizen-soldiers possessed more arms than they could use themselves.

The leading example of a man with far more martial equipment than could be used personally would be William Bothe, Archbishop of York: fourteen jacks, thirty-seven sallets, eighteen handguns, and twenty sheaves of arrows (c.480 arrows).[12] But his was not an isolated case. Robert Fawcette, a pewterer, had a bill, a Carlisle axe, two swords, a variety of arrows, a black quiver with various arrows, seven broad head arrows, a pair of plate elbow defences, doublet, yellow staff, and a shield.[13] Thomas Vicar possessed three axes, two slaughtering axes, an iron pike, and a bill.[14] Richard Symson is reported to have had five old battle axes, three Normandy bills, two broken bills, and an old worn sallet.[15] John Stubbes, a barber, had two bows, and arrows for them.[16] These men possessed more equipment than could possibly have been used by an individual. The Archbishop alone could have armed all the people included in these probate inventories with his jacks, sallets, guns, and arrows. Yet even men of lesser means such as Robert, Thomas, Richard, and John had enough weapons to provide for themselves in a fashion as well as others. Thomas Vivar with a total of five axes, a pike, and bill, or Richard Symson with five axes and five bills, could have provided arms for a half dozen men or more each. And even though bows are lacking in number it is probable archery still played a major part of the town’s military activity as about half the people of these fifteen had archery equipment, especially arrows.

Most men seemed to have had arms largely for themselves. Jack Carter is an excellent example of a man who seems to have been equipped as an individual. Jack Carter, a tailor by trade, had a jack, doublet, sallet, pair of splints, a dagger, baselard, sword, arrows, and a bow maker (a tool to bend the bow used in the shaping process).[17] We see several other examples of men with equipment for themselves including Thomas Kirkeby with a bow, arrows, and jack[18]; John Gaythird, a husbandman, with an axe and bill[19]; John Jakson, a husbandman, with sallet, bow, dozen arrows, Carlisle axe, and pike staff [20]; John Jackson, son of John a husbandman, with jack, bow, and arrows[21]; William Gale owned a sword, jack, and buckler[22]; John Brown with three knives, two battle axes, doublet, and sallet[23]; Jacubus Lune had a sword, buckler, and sallet[24]; Thomas Symson, a parson, had a doublet, sword, and small baselard[25]; and John Stevynson a jack and Sallet[26]. Although no doubt there is a wide variety of equipment owned by these men, these inventories paint a picture of how a common man might have been armed for war.

We can gain further information by examining some of York’s civic documents. York not only enforced the king’s demands for the proper armaments of war but created their own as well.[27] In one example, the minimal required arms and armour are set forth as, “All men in wards should have a jak, salet, bow, arrows and other defensive weapons.”[28] Although rules were created, we don’t know how well the town abided by them. Sadly, we have no muster from this period but we do have other information. With a larger sample of townsmen, the general trends found above might change substantially, but given the information available, the individual townspeople and their inventories give some idea as to how they may have been equipped at least minimally. As we saw before in Southampton, York also helped to equip their troops.[29]


From the villages of England came many thousands of soldiers throughout this period. As the bulk of the population of most European states was rural, it was an invaluable resource for the masses that would fill the ranks of medieval armies. Employed here are two examples of men that would have been raised in this manner. The first is from 1457 at Bridgeport, Dorset County, and the second from c. 1480 in Ewelme, Oxfordshire. Here can be seen the types of soldiers, probable equipment and trends relating to commoners from rural environments of this time.

As Dr. Richardson points out the Bridgeport muster was in response to a commission of array originally ordered in 1453-1454.[30] The muster of Bridgeport included 201 people though not all are legible. Of the 201, some 119 have equipment listed, though 82 have nothing listed. Offensive equipment listed comprises 114 bows, many arrows, 69 swords, 64 daggers, 11 glaives, 10 pollaxes, 10 axes, 5 spears, 3 bills, 3 heavy maces, 2 staves, and 1 hanger. Defensive equipment included 74 sallets, 67 jacks, 27 bucklers, 23 pavises, 4 pairs of gauntlets, 3 mail shirts, 2 brigandines, 2 complete armours, 1 set of leg armour, and 1 cuirass.[31] Of the 119 that appear, it is apparent that some were well-equipped and others had more modest protection.

A few examples demonstrate how a man from the rural environs of England may have appeared. John Cye had come to the muster well provided for with a jack, sallet, sword, dagger, glaive, bow, and two sheaves of arrows. One unknown man brought a full suit of armour with two jacks, two sallets, two bows, two daggers, and two sheaves of arrows.[32] Here it is probable that he was either bringing an extra in case his bow broke or to provide for another man arrayed alongside him.

Several points should be made examining this, first that many had no equipment. Out of 201, 82 were unequipped at all, fully 40% of the men present. Only a third had jacks and 37% had sallets. It is possible that the arrayers would have been required to outfit them for conflict though. A second assertion is that even though there was a great degree of variation, from no equipment to fully equipped, archery was of great importance. There were 114 bows from the 119 armed men present, enough to equip 95% of them with arms and 60% of the total number. Perhaps the most surprising finding is the lack of pole weapons, especially bills with only three.

From the review of arms of Ewelme in Oxfordshire and several surrounding villages in 1480, we can see another such example. The listing of men (including constables) includes about 100 men. Of these, we can only assess the armaments of 30  by looking at their designation of archers or billmen. Of these thirty men, eighteen were archers, six were billmen, five had staves and one had an axe. As the majority of the entries simply state ‘men,’ it is probable that archers, billmen, and other soldiers make up this group of unidentified commoners. If the pattern for these 30 men carried over, the unaccounted 70 men were mostly archers. From this muster, as before, we can see the continued focus on archery. Of the 30 men where details are given fully 60% are archers. And of the total group there are listed 46 in harness. With 46% with some armour, this is actually one of the higher percentages of armored men we have examined here between the urban and rural men raised.

This muster is vague in details of the equipment and the types of soldiers provided for most entries. Even the term ‘harness’ is complicated as some are listed as full harnesses in the first entries, but the latter are simply stated as harnesses, present or not. One example from this muster is Richard Slythurst who has a harness and a bow, and another being John Holme with a ‘hole’(whole) harness and a bill. An obvious question raised by this is: what is the difference between a ‘harness’ and a ‘whole harness’ in this document? We can assume a whole harness is more complete protection than simply a ‘harness’ but to what standard? A full plate harness? Head-to-toe protection of textile and iron elements combined? What does that mean of those listed with simply a harness then? Does that include a jack and sallet, or a brigandine and/or jack and sallet? As most simply are listed as to whether their harness is present or not, what do these 46 people actually have as far as armour? So while the document provides excellent information on the types and proportions of troops raised and some of their equipment, there are still a number of unanswered questions.

One other interesting example of the types of equipment common soldiers may have possessed is from a rebellion in the mid-fifteenth century. During the Jack Cade rebellion of 1451 in the Southeast of England, thousands of commoners rose up against the government. Following years of loss in the Hundred Years War, including all English possessions in France but parts of Gascony and Calais, people in several counties in the Southeast began attacking various targets, especially those with links to unpopular government offices. A number of royal records account for these attacks and in addition to  numbers and at times names of men listed as assailants their equipment is often listed as well. One account from this event in Kent states the men were, “armed with staves, bows, arrows, shirts of mail, defensive doublets, battle-axes, briganders, scythes, salets, iron caps, longbills (longis rostris) and other arms”[33] and “swords, ‘jakkes,’ salets, bows and arrows.”[34] Another account from Essex states perhaps summarily that the assailants were “armed with swords, staves, bows, arrows, jakkes and palets,”[35] From such a document we can see a large variety and some of the types of weapons and armour that had disseminated amongst commoners from the beginning of the second half of the fifteenth century. Although the percentages of troop types are not available, this is still palpable evidence that these citizen soldiers were present and armed as listed above.

The Retinue

Retinues were the other major method of raising troops for English kings of the later medieval period. For offensive actions, the retinue was a very valuable means for the king to raise a specific number of soldiers or desired varieties for a specific duration of time. In these contracts, it is clear the king expected these men to be well-armed and armored, which would provide better-equipped troops. Retinues could range from a few archers and the contracted knight or man-at-arms, to archers numbering in the hundreds or more. Larger retinues were often made up of smaller retinues merging into larger ones. A good example of this is from the campaign of 1475.

George, Duke of Clarence, brother to King Edward IV had one of the largest retinues of the campaign to France in 1475. It incorporated some 120 men-at-arms and 1000 archers.[36] This force was made of smaller units under contract to the Duke of Clarence. One such example was John Archer, esquire. On February 28, 1475, he contracted to serve George, Duke of Clarence, with himself as a man-at-arms and provide three archers. These four men made up John’s retinue and many of these smaller groups together created the 120 men-at-arms and 1000 archers. Something also of interest is that it is stated in the indenture that the archers would be “wele and suffisantly abled, armed and araied.”[37] The strong emphasis on archery remains constant but also provides the means to create such large forces with higher percentages of better equipped men by contract.

One excellent document to see the types of equipment that such men in these retinues may have been equipped with is the Howard House Books. This collection is the accounts of John Howard, Duke of Norfolk and Lord Admiral of England. Jacks, brigandines, sheaves upon sheaves of arrows, sallets, bows, knives, swords, spears, bills, doublets de fence, mail standards, cuirasses, harnesses, arm armour, gorgets (of steel), greaves, bolts for crossbows, guns, pavises, darts, and other objects show up in Howard’s accounts.[38] Many of these are in large volumes, sallets, brigandines, standards of mail, jacks, bows, and sheaves of arrows being found in the dozens in the ledgers. One entry lists three chests of arrows alone.[39]

It is evident Howard equipped his retainers for his service with these armaments. In 1463-1464 there are a few interesting examples of this process. In one instance there is the provision of ten bows along with twenty sheaves of arrows for his armed retainers. At the same time, John Strawenge is given a brigandine, a standard of mail, a bow, and a sallet with a visor, more or less fully equipping him. One Throston Par is lent a jack, brigandine, and a sallet with visor.[40] Will Hervy received a doublet of fence but already owned his own sallet with visor so he did not need to borrow that equipment.[41] As well the author of the entries includes whether they are on their own horse or not, indicating the duke often has to provide horses. As can be seen, the great magnates of the land could equip many troops at need but it appears to have been to supplement items the retinue soldiers lacked to become ”wele and suffisantly abled, armed and araied” as seen above. Archery once again has a great focus for retinues of the period in these examples. It also appears that the retinues were indeed better equipped than their levied counterparts, for the most part having a higher percentage of well-equipped men to urban or civic soldiers, though in many of these cases lent by the contract captain.


Several phenomena can be seen from these various examples. One is that there were many sources of soldiers available for English kings and nobles. Kings could draw upon towns, villages, and lords to raise armies for their various needs but that does not mean they were all equal in quality. This inequality probably would lead to utilizing soldiers by specific troop type.

From these few examples, archers are obviously important but not overwhelmingly so in all cases. The Southampton review of 1488 shows of the total men present only around a third are archers. While perhaps not indicative of all English towns, Southampton’s proportion of archers compared to the rural musters is a major difference, with roughly half what the Bridgeport and Ewelme had, proportionately. Additionally, the retinues of 1475 also greatly favor archers, with John Archer’s retinue being 75% archers, and that of George Duke of Clarence’s being 88% archers. That said it has been argued that the campaign of 1475 was not characteristic of warfare in the last decades of the fifteenth century. However, we have evidence when reviewing Lord Howard’s accounts that archers made up a large part of the common soldiers in retinues well into the end of the fifteenth century.

What is perhaps surprising is the lack of larger numbers of men with pole/staff weapons in rural environs. In towns such as Southampton and York, pole weapons appear commonly among the examples above, around two-thirds of the Southampton examples being billmen. At Bridgeport, the total staff weapons (bills, spears, pole axes, and more) made up only 10% of the total weapons present. The Ewelme muster indicates roughly a third had pole weapons. Retinues archers do seem of great importance but there are also a number of bills and spears that appear so it is probable that some men of the retinues fought as non-missile infantry troops.

Another consideration is the equipment these men possessed. As far as documented men in harness, the 100 of Ewelwe are the best armoured of those levied with 46%, though by comparison it appears Southampton and Bridgeport were not far behind. While this holds true for armour, Southampton by far has the most arms present numerically, by the percentage they are roughly the same as Bridgeport. With Ewelme we have no finite number. In all cases, arms matched or came close to the number of men present, though many men owned more than one weapon. That said the information from the retinues above indicates all men were expected to be armoured and armed in actuality, not just theory, which indicates that the retinues would have provided a significant number of well-armoured soldiers. Men such as John Strawenge, Throston Par, and Will Hervy were armed with weapons and armour to be well suited for the war of the day. In all these cases there probably were sufficient weapons for all present, though armour seemed to have been lacking for a significant number of the non-retinued soldiers especially. It is worth adding though that the captain they took a contract with did much in providing their military equipment to be fully armed. It is possible that the town and counties provided some degree of equipment to the levied soldiers as well. Though it is unclear how well these levied soldiers were arrayed by the town or county, we have indisputable evidence for retinues of the great lords being very well equipped in this fashion.

One of the most interesting aspects of this research has been seeing the types of equipment commoners owned or were able to access. We can see that men that were from urban or rural levies or in retinues all might possess similar types of armour and arms. Bows, bills, axes pikes, swords, daggers, and other arms seem to have been ‘common’ weapons for ‘common’ soldiers. While it appears to be more common for men in retinues to have been better equipped, men like Jack Carter from York, John Holme of Ewelme, and others could be well-armed and equipped with arms and armour. It is also apparent that some were like the 82 from the Bridgeport Muster, men like Thomas Chere, who showed up with no equipment at all. So in the end, one could be from a retinue or levy and be armed well or even very well, but on the other end of the spectrum, a retinue soldier would be equipped with some form of armour while those of the levied men may not have had any at all.

While commoners often are looked at as being unimportant or a simple rabble of poor, this research shows that is an overly simplistic view. Although there may have been some that closely fit the stereotype of a peasant with torch and pitchfork, there were others that were very much equipped with arms and armour that would have been satisfactory for their required duties. As thousands upon thousands of the soldiers that made up armies from 1450-1500 in England were from this social group and played a vital role in wars, it is well that most were adequately prepared.

Cite this article as: randallpmoffett, "How Common Men Shall Be Armed: Equipment of the Common Soldier of England 1450 to 1500," in Martial Culture in Medieval Town, 01/10/2021,

Recommended Bibliography:

Claude Blair, European armour, circa 1066 to circa 1700 (London: Cambridge Press, 1958)

Peter M. Konieczny ,”London’s war effort during the early years of the reign of Edward III “, in The Hundred Years War : a wider focus, ed. Andrew Villalon and Donald Kagay  (Boston: Brill, 2005) pp. 243-61 (pp. 244-248).

Clifford J. Rogers, Soldiers’ Lives through History: The Middle Ages (Santa Barbara: Greenwood Press, 2007)

Thom Richardson, “The introduction of plate armour in medieval Europe”, in Medieval Warfare 1300–1450 , ed. Kelly DeVries (London: Routledge, 2010) pp. 441-46 (pp. 441-43).

Thom Richardson, The Tower Armoury in the Fourteenth Century (Leeds: Royal Armouries, 2018)

[1] Calendar of Close Rolls of Edward I 1288-1296, p. 439; Calendar of Close Rolls of Edward I 1296-1302, pp. 112, 388 and 395; Calendar of Close Rolls of Edward I 1302-1307, p. 86; Calendar of Close Rolls of Edward II 1313-1318, pp. 122 and 201; Calendar of Patent Rolls of Edward II 1324-1327, p. 219; Calendar of Close Rolls of Edward III 1343-1346, p. 450; Calendar of Patent Rolls of Edward III 1343-1345, p. 427; Statutes of the Realm volume 1 ( London: 1963), p. 259.

[2] Statute of the Realms volume 1, p. 336.

[3] York House Books volume 1, ed. by Lorraine Attreed (Avon, 1991), p. 381.

[4] Calendar of Close Rolls of Edward I 1288-1296, p. 439; Calendar of Close Rolls of Edward I 1296-1302, p. 112, 388, 395; Calendar of Close Rolls of Edward I 1302-1307, p. 86.

[5] Southampton Books of Fines, 1488-1540, SCA 5/1, f. 1 and The Book of Fines: The Annual Accounts of the Mayors of Southampton, vol. 1 1488-1540, ed. by Cheryl Butler, Southampton Record Series 41 (Southampton: 2007). 

[6] Unfortunately the number of archers listed is very difficult to read. Over the years I have looked this manuscript page over many times and am fairly confident there are three letters, the first being C and the last L. The middle is very hard to decipher as it is nearly non-existent under special lights or with digital manipulation. Thought if I, V or X it changes the number very little if it were a C it would be far more significant. It may be there that were no other letters and that it is simply CL. Cheryl Butler thought they were two X’s but with the UV lights I am fairly confident the letters are C?L.

[7] Steward’s Book of Southampton 1467-1468, ed. by Berry N.D. Chinchen (Eastleigh), p. 34.

[8] Steward’s Book of Southampton 1470-1471, ed. by Berry N.D. Chinchen (Eastleigh), p. 1.

[9] Steward’s Book of Southampton 1481-1482, ed. by Berry N.D. Chinchen (Eastleigh), p. 19.

[10] The Books of Remembrance of Southampton 1485-1563 vol. 3, ed. by Harry W. Gidden, Southampton Record Society 30 (Southampton: 1930), p.3.

[11] Ibid, p.3.

[12] The Probate Inventories of the York Diocese, ed. byP.M. Stell and L. Hampson (York, 1998), p 133.

[13] Probate Inventories, pp. 58, 129 & 130.

[14] Probate Inventories, p. 101

[15] Probate Inventories, pp. 181-182.

[16] Probate Inventories, p. 97.

[17] Probate Inventories, p. 160.

[18] Probate Inventories, p. 157.

[19] Probate Inventories, p. 180.

[20] Probate Inventories, p. 134.

[21] Probate Inventories, p. 135.

[22] Probate Inventories, pp. 143-144.

[23] Probate Inventories, p. 147

[24] Probate Inventories, p. 168.

[25] Probate Inventories, p. 177.

[26] Probate Inventories, p. 186.

[27] L. Attreed, House Books I, p. 381.

[28] L. Attreed, House Books II, p. 662.

[29] L. Attreed, House Books II, pp. 551 and 662.

[30] Thom, Richardson, “The Bridgeport Muster of 1457”, Royal Armouries Yearbook 2 (1997)p. 1. Thom Richardson’s translation of the Bridgeport muster provides the most current version of this document.

[31] T. Richardson, “Bridgeport”, p. 1.

[32] T. Richardson, “Bridgeport”, p. 2.

[33] Calendar of Patent Rolls of Henry VI 1446-1452,  p. 453.

[34] Calendar of Patent Rolls of Henry VI 1446-1452, p. 469.

[35] Calendar of Patent Rolls of Henry VI 1446-1452,  p. 503.

[36] M.A. Hicks, Bastard Feudalism (New York:1995), p. 190

[37] ER 3/667, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

[38] Howard House Books: The Household Books of John Howard 1425-1485, Volumes 1 and 2, ed. by Anne Crawford (Avon: 1992).

[39] Howard House Book vol 1, p. 440.

[40] Howard House Books vol 1, p. 195.

[41] Howard House Books vol. 1, p. 444.


Crying over spilt Castlemilk: The Tale of Sir William and the Silver Sallet Part 6

In this sixth and final part we discover the fate of both our protagonist and his silver sallet. This, in turn, opens up a wider debate as to the fate of so much of the martial material culture of the period.

A Bloody Red Herring

Sir William would never return to redeem his sallet. He, his big brother Sir John, and the vast majority of his countrymen fell in the sair fecht against the Auld Innemie. At Rouvray on 12 February 1429 a Franco-Scots force sought to cut off a supply train loaded with barrels of herring headed for the invested city of Orléans. The Scots were abandoned by their pusillanimous native allies including Duke Louis of Orléans’ natural son Jean (count of Dunois from 1439) (Figure 1). This Bâtard d’Orléans, however, would prove himself to be a key figure in turning the tide for King Charles. Once trapped in the net of the wily Sir John Fastolf at this Battle of the Herrings, the Scots felt the bitter edge of this English commander’s ‘werre cruelle and sharpe without sparing of any parsone’.[1]

Figure 1: A Knight in Prayer, Stone figure sculpture, French, 15th century, Glasgow Museums, 44.25.

‘white harneys of old facion’

Where then, is Sir William’s sallet now? And indeed the harness of so many of those who fought at this time? Documentary evidence such as indentures, household, business and governmental accounts, and wills attest to the fact that there was a great deal of it.[2] The final act of the Orléans play, alluded to in the first essay, has the defeated English soldiers marched away bareheaded – their sallets in their hands (‘la teste nue […] leurs salades en leurs mains’).[3] Sumptuous artworks depict harness in fine detail (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Ordeal by Fire of St John the Evangelist (detail), stained glass panel, France, c. 1510, Glasgow Museums, 45.390.a.

            Sir John Fastolf, a commander who had grown filthy rich from the wars in France, was dead by 1459. In 1462 an inventory was made of his goods at his house at Southwark. There listed are ‘viij white harneys of old facion […] x peyre breganders, febill […] x basenettes, xxiiij salettes, vj gorgettes […] ij haberions and a barell to skore [t]hem’.[4] On 4 November 1454 two London armourers were tasked with providing a valuation of the stock of Court Pothof, late of Southwark, armourer.[5] Of those classed as an ‘old haubergeon’ (‘vet’ haberion’) three were valued at 20d., one at 16d. and another at 12d. There was one sallet that was black from the hammer, meaning it had not been planished or polished (‘j nigra Salet’) worth 10d., one old basinet (‘j vet’ Basenet’) worth 16d., and one pair of greaves (‘j par’ Greves’) (lower leg defences) worth 8d. These sorry scraps were probably not worth much more than the roll of parchment on which they have been recorded.

Figure 3: Sallet/salade/ barbut, Italy, late 15th century, originally fabric covered, Glasgow Museums,

            The answer, then, to our question is simple: until the Gothic Revival of the eighteenth century, mail and plate armour was considered perfectly reusable iron and steel. A good example is to be found in Glasgow Museums’ collection. A mid-fifteenth-century helmet has had its face opening crudely sheared back, most probably to provide an archer with a better view (Figure 3). Visitors to Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum can gaze in awe at the ‘Avant’ harness (Figure 4). It is a remarkable survival from the fifteenth century. Yet it is also a sight that would have once been commonplace in every town, city, and castle and on every battlefield across Europe.

Figure 4: Milanese Armour by Corio Workshop, Italy, c. 1445, Glasgow Museums, E.1939.65.e.

From the Siege of Orléans to the Soo side

Today Scottish schoolchildren readily recognize the name Lord Darnley as that of the notorious second husband of Mary Queen of Scots (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Portrait of Lord Darnley, Henry Stuart (1545-1567), 16th century, Glasgow Museums, PL.1927.248.

Yet the vital role of his ancestor – and so many of theirs – in weakening the English cause in France is largely forgotten. Darnley is a neighbourhood in, what is now, the Southside of the City of Glasgow very close to Glasgow Museums Resource Centre. In nearby Castlemilk, Sir William’s castle was demolished to make way for an (also demolished) country house, the stables of which have been converted into a community hub. Here can be seen a fantastic nineteenth-century fireplace carved with the dramatic scene of Sir William and his men fighting heroically at the gates of Orléans (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Old fireplace rescued from Castlemilk House depicting Sir William fighting at the siege of Orleans.

[1] Letters and Papers Illustrative of the Wars of the English in France […] Vol. 2, Part 2, ed. by Joseph Stevenson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1864, repr. 2012), p. 518.

[2] R. Moffat, ‘Armourers and Armour: Textual Evidence’, in The Encyclopedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of the British Isles, c. 450-1450, ed. by Gale Owen-Crocker, Elizabeth Coatsworth and Maria Hayward (Leiden: Brill, 2012), pp. 49-52.

[3] Mistère du siège d’Orléans, ed. Guessard and De Certain, p. 745.

[4] London, British Library, Additional MS 39848, fol. 50r-fol. 53r, printed in Paston Letters and Papers of the Fifteenth Century, Part I, ed. by Norman Davis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 107-14 (at pp. 113-14).

[5] London, London Metropolitan Archives, Plea and Memoranda Roll A80, membrane 4.

Crying over spilt Castlemilk: The Tale of Sir William and the Silver Sallet Part 4

This fourth, and the following piece, of this six-part essay examines the evidence available to provide an explanation as to where such equipment as Sir William Stewart of Castlemilk’s silver sallet may have come from: purchase and plunder.

Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s Silver Banner

Glasgow’s Mitchell Library holds an exceptionally rare document. It is a later copy of the now-lost original will made by Sir Robert Maxwell of Calderwood at Angers in 1420. Calderwood Castle (now demolished) was just seven miles south of Sir William’s at Castlemilk. The arms of the Maxwell kindreds are variations of argent (silver), a saltire sable.[1]

Fig.1: Battle of Otterburn – Death of Douglas and Capture of Sir Ralph Percy by Sir John Maxwell, Glasgow Museums, NR.89.

Sir Robert bequeaths one armour (‘vna’ armatura’’), one Milanese-made hauberk (‘vnam lauricam de milam [sic]’), and ‘totam Integram armatura’ meam factam apud poictiers’.[2] His ‘complete armour made at Poitiers’ is an enigma. There is, as yet, no information on armour production in this city. It must be borne in mind that there were places of production other than such celebrated urban centres as Milan. As the Baron de Cosson sagely advises in reference to one of the largest of the city’s family firms: ‘we must not get Missaglias on the brain’.[3]

Fig.2: Right gauntlet, probably made by the Missaglia armour-making family of Milan, 15th century. Associated with the ‘Avant’ armour E.1939.65.e, Glasgow Museums, E.1939.65.e.13.

Indeed, A. V. B. Norman has convincingly argued that a pauldron (plate shoulder defence) in Glasgow Museums’ collection has a mark that is most likely that of a Milanese craftsman who had set up in Tours.[4]

Fig.3: Steel Pauldron, Italian or French, 1490–1500, Glasgow Museums, E.1939.65.o.[2].

Pierre Terjanian has discovered that a sallet in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection was made by a previously-unknown craftsman in Basel.[5] There are bound to be many more just waiting to be identified.

This bequest is evidence that Sir Robert had commissioned bespoke armour. Four of the harnesses (complete plate armours) purchased from our Tours-based Milanese – as identified in the second essay – were made to measure (‘harnoiz faiz à mesure’).

Not Scot-Free

Another glimpse of the goings-on in France is an entry in an inventory of an armourer’s workshop at Tours compiled in 1512. There is ‘one pair of gauntlets worth 2 écus, made for a Scot’ (‘une paire de gantheletz prisés deux escuz, fait pour ung Escossoys’).[6] As with the makers and urban centres there must be much more documentary evidence of this nature in libraries and archives.

Armour and weapons might be acquired in the most unusual of circumstances. A good example is the extraordinary phenomenon of merchants being granted permission to purchase armour in London for a Scottish earl at exactly the same time as this formidable warrior was waging war against his English foe in the Borders.[7] That Sir William may have paid for the silver sallet himself is a strong possibility. Yet there is another – a grim scenario that will be dealt with in the next installment.

Cite this article as: Ralph Moffat, "Crying over spilt Castlemilk: The Tale of Sir William and the Silver Sallet Part 4," in Martial Culture in Medieval Town, 24/02/2021,

[1] Those of Calderwood (‘de quarehut’) are recorded in Berry Herald’s Armorial on fol. 160r, as are other Maxwells on fol. 158r and fol. 161v.

[2] Glasgow, Mitchell Library, T-PM99/1.

[3] C. A. de Cosson, ‘Milanese Armourers’ Marks’, The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, 36 (March 1920), 149-53 (p. 153). For more on the wide popularity of Lombard and South German products see R. Moffat, ‘Armour’, in A Companion to Chivalry, ed. by Robert W. Jones and Peter Coss (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2019), pp. 159-85.

[4] A. V. B. Norman, ‘A Pauldron in the Scott Collection’, Scottish Art Review, 7 (1960) 8-11.

[5] Pierre Terjanian, ‘Armor Made in Basel: A Fifteenth-Century Sallet Attributed to Hans Blarer the Younger’, Metropolitan Museum Journal, 36 (2001), 155-59.

[6] J.-B. Giraud, Documents pour servir à l’histoire de l’armement au Moyen Âge et à la Renaissance, 2 vols (Lyon: Giraud, 1895-1904), I, 174, citing Tours, Archives d’Indre-et-Loire, minutes Foussedouaire, t. IX. These are almost certainly the minutes of Jacques Foussedouaire, notaire royal (1495-1532): cote 3E1.

[7] R. Moffat, ‘“A hard harnest man”: The Armour of George Dunbar, 9th Earl of March’, Transactions of the East Lothian Antiquarian & Field Naturists’ Society, 30 (2015), 21-37.

Crying over spilt Castlemilk: The Tale of Sir William and the Silver Sallet Part 3

This third, and the following two parts, of this six-part essay examine the evidence available to provide an explanation as to where such equipment as Sir William Stewart of Castlemilk’s silver sallet may have come from: royal gift, purchase, and plunder.

‘A ung homme d’armes natif du pays d’Escoce […] un harnoiz’

On 26 May 1447 King Charles forked out 2,726 livres 5 sous tournois for seventy-five harnesses and thirteen brigandines. A harness is the term for a complete plate armour. A brigandine is a flexible torso defence constructed of fabric and metal plates (Figure 1 and Figure 2). A number of these were gifted and distributed (‘donné et fait distribuer’) thus:

A ung homme d’armes natif du pays d’Escoce nommé Matasselin; un harnoiz, à un grant homme d’armes du dit pays d’Escosse nommé Unfroy Coningnam, un harnois; à Gilbert, archier de la garde du corps dudit seigneur, que ledit seigneur luy a donné pour envoyer en Escosse, un harnoiz […] à Robert Hounter, homme d’armes, ung harnoiz […] à Robert Conignan, trois harnoiz et une brigandine dorée; à un archier, une brigandine commune.[1]

The payment for these was made to ‘Balsazin de Trez, marchant de Milan, armurier’. Such royal gifts of martial equipment were entirely dependent on urban centres and their inhabitants.

Fig.1: Glasgow Museums, Hercules and his Companions on Mount Olympus or Hercules Initiating the Olympic Games (detail), 46.80, tapestry, Belgium, c. 1465-1470.

Wise Guys’ Supplies: The Milanese Connection

On 12 October 1455 Francesco, duke of Milan, wrote to Charles VII to request safe conduct for Balzarino da Trezo, armourer of our City (‘armorero de questa nostra cita’). He also asked that this be revoked if necessary ‘so that Balzarino does not bring any craftsmen of his art outwith our jurisdiction’ (‘non condure alcuni lavoratori de l’arte sua fuora della nostra jurisdictione’).[2] But the Duke could not put the genie back in the bottle. Balzarin and his brother Gasparin (Lombard versions of Balthazar and Caspar – presumably there was a third brother to make up the Magi: the Three Wise Men) had been granted letters of naturalization between 1449 and 1450 and were firmly ensconced at Tours.[3] An extract from the letter granted to their fellow Milanese business partner conveys the importance of such men to the French war effort. The King extends his thanks for ‘the good and agreeable service that the said supplicant has done us in times past with sale of harness, wishing to attract this in our said realm’ (‘bons et aggreables services que le dict suppliant nous a faiz le temps passé ou dict fait de marchandise de harnois, voulans icelui attraire en nostre dict royaume’).[4]

Fig.2: Royal Armouries, Brigandine, III.1664, Italy, 1470.

It is up for debate if Balzarin and his compatriots were craftsmen or merchants (or indeed both). In a document of 1477 Gabriel de Trez is named as the son of ‘sire Balsarin de Tres, valet de chambre et armurier du roi’.[5] What is indisputable is that they were able to shift a quality product.In Parisian regulations of 1407 the charge was levelled that German-made haubergeons are ‘not of such sure work as is made in parts of Lombardy’ (‘pas si seurs ouurages que on fait esd[i]c[t]es partes de lombardie’). It is, it was claimed, in ‘good towns of Lombardy where they are accustomed to make and work good and secure armours’ (‘bonnes villes de lombardie ou len a acoustume faire & ouurer de bonnes et seures armeures’). Worse still, these knock-offs were being flogged off to unwitting buyers with false marks or signs (‘faulses marques ou saigns’).[6] Three years later an unscrupulous merchant was slapped with a fine of 100 Parisian sous for attempting to sell three haubergeons ‘signe et m[ar]quez du saing de milan’.[7]

Fig.3: Glasgow Museums, Haubergeon, E.1939.65.e.14, Germany, 14th century.

English fighters too, appreciated the quality. For instance, one hauberk of Milan (‘vna[m] lorica[m] de milayne’) was bequeathed by Sir Philip Darcy in his will of 16 April 1399.[8] In 1464 Sir John Howard lent out ‘a salate of fyn melen wethe a veser’, ‘a fyne salat of melen wethe a veser’, and another of his men ‘hathe on[e] of my fyneeste salates of melen, wethe a veser’.[9]

That the silver sallet was a gift to Sir William is a strong possibility. The next two instalments deal with two alternatives: purchase and plunder.

Cite this article as: Ralph Moffat, "Crying over spilt Castlemilk: The Tale of Sir William and the Silver Sallet Part 3," in Martial Culture in Medieval Town, 15/01/2021,

[1] Chronique de Mathieu d’Escouchy, ed. by G. Du Fresne de Beaucourt, 3 vols (Paris: Renouard, 1863-64), III, 255-56. The original document – if it survives – is probably in the Archives nationales.

[2] Jacopo Gelli and Gaetano Moretti, Gli armaroli milanesi. I Missaglia e la loro casa (Milan: Hoepli, 1903), p. 5, citing Milan, Archivio di Stato di Milano, Missivi ducale, no. 25, fol. 139r.

[3] Paris, Archives nationales, JJ//180, no. 1403, fol. 94r: ‘Gasparinon et Balsarino de Trez’. The toponymic Tres/Trez reflects the Lombard pronunciation of Trezzo.

[4] Paris, Archives nationales, JJ 180, no. 111, fol. 50r, printed in Françoise Mighaud-Fréjaville, ‘Être naturalisé dans la vallée de la Loire (1450-1501)’, Annuaire-Bulletin de la Société de l’histoire de France, unnumbered(2011), 3-13 (p. 12).

[5] Tours, Archives départementales d’Indre-et-Loire, 37, 3E1/2.

[6] Paris, Archives nationales, Y//2, Châtelet de Paris, Livre rouge vieil, fol. 237r.

[7] Paris, Archives nationales, Registres des sentences civiles du Châtelet, Y//5227, fol. 173v.

[8] York, Borthwick Institute, Abp Reg. 16: Richard Scrope, fol. 134v. The Latin name lorica was specifically applied to the hauberk at this time. See R. Moffat, ‘The Manner of Arming Knights for the Tourney: A Re-Interpretation of an Important Early-14th-Century Arming Treatise’, Arms & Armour, 7 (2010), 5-29 (at pp. 13-14).

[9] Manners and Household Expenses of England in the Thirteenth and Fifteenth Centuries Illustrated by Original Records, ed. by T. H. Turner (London: Nichol, 1841), p. 440. The original document is likely in the archives at Arundel Castle.

Crying over spilt Castlemilk: The Tale of Sir William and the Silver Sallet Part 2

The second instalment this six-part essay identifies the most likely owner of the silver sallet. It explains why he, his kinsmen, and many of his compatriots were to be found in France’s urban centres at a critical juncture in the Hundred Years War.

A Desperate Dauphin

To say that Charles’s fortunes were at a low ebb by the start of the siege of Orléans in October of 1428 would be far too generous. A fairer oceanic metaphor would be that his fortunes were stranded in mudflats facing a rushing incoming tide. But the tide was to turn. Thanks to the Auld Alliance of 1295 French monarchs had secured the aid of the Scots. Such scholars as Michael Brown have demonstrated that the large forces of fighting men (and boys) commanded by Scottish magnates were raised from their own private retinues bound by ties of landholding and kinship.[1] There are, therefore, no detailed records of the nature of those of England such as muster rolls and service indentures. It is likely that up to 15,000 Scots were involved, many of them skilled archers.[2] This is a staggering number given the small size of this northern realm. For the crucial role played by the Scots one need only refer to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entries for such war leaders as Archibald, earl of Douglas, John Stewart, earl of Buchan, and Sir John Stewart of Darnley.

Desperately-needed aid was soon to arrive at Orléans in the form of a cyclops, his brother, and some hard fighting men.

Fig.1: John Hassall, Bannockburn, 1914-15, Glasgow Museums, ID No. 1386.

Billy the Kid Brother to the Connétable

Two Stewarts appear as characters in a play about the siege of Orléans, probably written not long after the conflict itself. One is ‘Le Connétable d’Écosse Lord John Stuart de Darnley’ the other is ‘Messire Guillaume Estuart’.[3] Sir John had been appointed to one of the highest military ranks. There are royal lettres patentes of 1423 granting ‘la ville, leur chastel et Chastelline d’Aubigny […] à Jean Stuart, seigneur de Darnelle et Concressault, conestable de l’armee d’Ecosse, [… et] à ses hoirs [sic] males descendants de son corps’.[4] In a payment to his Connétable, Charles refers to ‘his ancient enemies and adversaries of England’ (‘ses anciens ennemis et adversaires d’Angleterre’).[5] This is somewhat of an understatement. Sir John lost his half-brother, great grandfather (and his two brothers), and great great grandfather in battle against them – he even lost an eye before his capture at Cravant (31 July 1423). Such epic clashes with the ‘Auld Innemie’ have proved themselves an enduring inspiration to many artists across the centuries (Figure 1, Figure 2, and Figure 3).

Fig.2: Sir John Maxwell, Battle of Otterburn-Death of Douglas and Capture of Sir Ralph Percy, 19th century, Glasgow Museums, ID No. NR.89.
Fig.3: Sir William Alan, Heroism and Humanity, 1802-50, Glasgow Museums, ID No. 1233.

The coat of arms of ‘Le s[eigneu]r de dernele’ is recorded in Berry Herald’s beautiful armorial produced in the middle of the fifteenth century (Figure 4).[6] On the following folio is ‘Le s[eigneu]r de chastelmont’ (Figure 5).[7] The blazon on each features a gold field with a distinctive central, horizontal, band checkered with blue and silver – or, a fess chequy azure and argent. This proclaims their kinship with the royal Stewart dynasty. The second has a diagonal red band (bendlet gules) that passes under the fess chequy as a mark of difference. These are the arms of Sir William Stewart of Castlemilk, Sir John’s younger brother, and the most likely candidate for the owner of the silver sallet.

Fig.4: Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Français 4985, fol. 158r.

Sir William’s lactose-like title comes from the lands of Castlemilk in Lanarkshire. The name’s origin lies with an ancestor’s castle on the Water of Milk, a tributary of the River Annan in the far south-west of the country.

Fig.5: Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Français 4985, fol. 159r.

So, how did Sir William come into the possession of such a fine piece of armour as the sallet? One possibility is that it was made in, or imported into, his own realm. Unfortunately, due to the paucity of sources, it is incredibly difficult to construct a picture of armour production in Scotland.[8]

In the next three installments I examine three possible explanations: gift, purchase, and plunder.

Cite this article as: Ralph Moffat, "Crying over spilt Castlemilk: The Tale of Sir William and the Silver Sallet Part 2," in Martial Culture in Medieval Town, 10/12/2020,

[1] Michael Brown, The Black Douglases: War and Lordship in Late Medieval Scotland, 1300-1455 (East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 1998), p. 153 and pp. 216-23. See also M. H. Brown, ‘“Men, Brave and Strong”: Bannockburn, the Auld Alliance and Scottish Martial Identity in the Later Middle Ages’, in Scotland and the First World War: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Bannockburn, ed. by Gill Plain (Lanham, MD: Bucknell University Press, 2017), pp. 49-64 (esp. pp. 55-57).

[2] R. Moffat, ‘Armour’, in A Companion to Chivalry, ed. by Robert W. Jones and Peter Coss (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2019), pp. 159-85 (at p. 164).

[3] Le Mistère du siège d’Orléans, ed. by F. Guessard and E. De Certain (Paris: Imprimerie Impériale, 1862), p. xlviii and p. 255.

[4] Paris, Archives nationales, K 168, no. 91.

[5] Jules Loiseleur, ‘Compte des dépenses faites par Charles VII pour secourir Orléans pendant le siège de 1428’, Mémoires de la Société Archéologique de l’Orléanais, 11 (1868), 1-209 (p. 184). The account published by Loiseleur is a seventeenth-century copy of a lost original.

[6] Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 4985, fol. 158r.

[7] Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 4985, fol. 159r.

[8] A detailed study drawing on surviving royal records is David H. Caldwell, ‘Royal Patronage of Arms and Armour Making in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Scotland’, in Scottish Weapons and Fortifications, 1100-1800, ed. by David H. Caldwell (Edinburgh: Donald, 1981), pp. 73-93.

Crying over spilt Castlemilk: The Tale of Sir William and the Silver Sallet Part I

The aim of this six-part essay is to investigate the fortunes of a fighting knight in the 1420s, his armour, and the key role of urban centres in supporting the martial culture of his ilk. They are illustrated with objects from Glasgow Museums’ collections and others.

A Silver Sallet at Orléans in 1437

On 7 February 1437 the notaire of Orléans scribbled the following entry:

Olivier des Brosses et Jehan Phelippe, armeurier demourant a Orliens, receurent de Jehan Bourgeoys, cousturier demourant a Orliens, une salade appartenant a Guillaume Stewart, Escossoys comme ils disoient, bordee d’argent, avecques une hoppe d’argent, tout ledit argent pesant deux marcs sept onces comme ilz disoient, que ledit Bourgeoys avoit en gaige dudit Escossoys pour trois reaulx d’or

Olivier des Brosses and Jehan Phelippe, armourer of Orléans, have received from Jehan Bourgeoys, couturier (tailor) of Orléans, one sallet belonging to William Stewart, a Scot, as they claim, bordered with silver with a silver hoop, all the said silver weighs two marcs seven onces, as they claim, that the said Bourgeoys had accepted as a pledge from the said Scot for three royaux d’or.[1]

‘The most common and the best, as seems to me’

The sallet is a type of helmet. An anonymous Frenchman writing in 1446 of the arms and armour of his day understood that it afforded the fighting man good protection whilst allowing ease of movement, vision, and breathing: ‘the most common and the best, as seems to me, are the head defences called sallets’ (‘la plus co[m]mune et la meilleur a mon semblant est larmeure de teste qui se appelle sallades’).[2] It might be of one piece (Fig. 1) or fitted with a visor (Fig. 2). Some are beautifully-decorated works of art: examples being the one crafted as part of the harness for Archduke Sigismund of the Tyrol in the Kunsthistorisches Museum,Vienna, the sallet of Emperor Maximilian I in New York’s Metropolitan Museum and that of Philip I in the Real Armería, Madrid.

Fig. 1: Sallet forged in one piece with central flattened keel form ridge over the skull passing into long pointed tail at the back and descending sharply to horizontal sight slit in front, the lower edge of which juts beyond the upper; lining rivets surround the base of the skull at eye level and are continued inside on metal strap fixed to the brow of the sight slit. Germany.;id=32743;type=101

 The silver borders referred to in the notaire’s entry were applied strips of decoration. An elegant survival of this type is the sabaton (plate foot defence) from the components of armour for the young Dauphin (later Charles VI) dedicated to Chartres Cathedral in the 1380s (now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Chartres). On it are the remains of a border of silver-gilt fleur-de-lys.[3]

Fig. 2: Sculpture featuring a visored sallet. Stone head of a warrior, possibly from a statue of St George. Made in France , circa 1520.;id=40277;type=101

We now have our silver sallet, but who was its owner? What was he doing pawning his martial equipment in this urban centre and why? Find out in the next installment.

Cite this article as: Ralph Moffat, "Crying over spilt Castlemilk: The Tale of Sir William and the Silver Sallet Part I," in Martial Culture in Medieval Town, 16/11/2020,

[1] Orléans, Archives départementales du Loiret, 3E10151, fol. 114v. I am extremely grateful to Prof. Kouky Fianu for her kind assistance locating this document and generously sharing her transcription.

[2] Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 1997, fol. 64r. A full scan of this MS is available at:

[3] F. H. Cripps-Day, ‘The Armour at Chartres’, The Connoisseur, 110 (1942), 91-95.

[Museum talk] Armour: More than protective clothing. (Prof. Regula Schmid)

On the 24th of June, Prof. Dr. Regula Schmid Keeling was invited to participate to a museum talk at the Old Arsenal of Solothurn (Museum Altes Zeughaus). The museum has one of the largest collections of armour in Europe. The conversation was part of a series of lunch talks at the museum, with a Q&A format. Prof. Dr. Regula Schmid Keeling had the opportunity to present research finds of this current project, as well as of her own research to a broader audience. Through various questions the discussion addressed subjects such as: what are the different types of armour, who possessed it, what was the value of such objects, and when were they worn were addressed. She brought to light many examples of local history from research conducted on documents from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries kept in Swiss archives. The talk was recorded and you can listen to it following the link below. Beware, the ltalk was held in Swiss German dialect.

[click here to open the podcast]
Cite this article as: Daniel Jaquet, "[Museum talk] Armour: More than protective clothing. (Prof. Regula Schmid)," in Martial Culture in Medieval Town, 30/06/2020,
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