Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The lion armour at Leeds..backplate

A closeup of the join between the breast plate and backplate, shewing the gap between the two plates, and the buckles. The wearer has a gorget underneath there as well, so any sword crashing down on this shoulder will have to go through the strap and buckle, the backplate tab and the gorget. The unknown owner must have felt very secure, if a bit constricted. A strap comes out from the gorget to hold the pauldron in place,so there is a one inch wide gap between the breast and back plate. This oft neglected detail is very plain in the top picture, above.


The world famous "Lion" armour in the Tower of London Museum in Leeds is worth looking at through a different glass. In the future, I may discuss the wonderful repousse work, or the browning and mercury guilding, but they are topics for another day. My focus here is on the armour itself. I believe that an unknown armourer made a beautiful armour, and handed it off to be decorated by somebody who would normally decorate dinner plates or loving cups. The stunning decoration has obscured the fact that this is a very nice armour in its own right, and I shall attempt to peer under the fancy frou-frou and see why this was an above average armour in its own right. This is such a complex task that I shall only do it a bit at a time. The part I always like to start with is the part that most people never see in pictures...the back.
The above picture shows some interesting features. The backplate is gently rounded to match a man of average size, slim, but not an athlete. He likely would not have worn much in the way of a gambeson under it since it is really well fitted, the inside being as well finished as the outside. The backplate consists of three parts, the backplate itself, and two "splints" in the small of the back. The splints overlap upwards...something that was never done on the continent. (This points to an English armour maker. Moreover, there is an interesting articulation just at the side....one wonders just exactly "why" these pivot rivets are there. A closeup reveals the reason....you can just see the ends of the slots that the rivets slide in under each plate.


Okay, now we come to a couple of very large brass rivets dead centre in the small of the back. They didn't put them in there on a lark,there was a very good reason. It might have been the mounts for a leather skeleton, but somehow I doubt it. They are most likely sliding rivets as well. But why two of them side by side? I can only speculate.


There is no faulds or lames back there, the armour simply flares out over the wearer's buttocks, the flare being neatly made over the edge of the anvil. And the very devil of a roped roll across the bottom edge is there just to show off the skill of that armourer. Just look at how crisp that rope is! Oh my! One very tricky part is the angle formed between the flare and the bottom lame (bottom splint) of the placquart. It is perfectly fitting to the one above it. This would NOT have been easy to do. The big brass rivets all around the bottom edge would have been there to hold leather picadills in place

The top part of the lion armour backplate comes up in a very high edge, so high in fact that the neck hole ends up being nearly perfectly level. It isn't of course, it must be cut out like all backplates, but the left and right tabs extend very far, in fact, far enough to nearly underlap the breastplate. It won't, of course...there is a leather strap coming up from the gorget which will act as a stopper there. (I bet that strap was replaced pretty regularly!
The backplate rolls at the neck and underarm are very simple and plain, likely wire filled. But still, very very crisp indeed.

Now,go and admire the fabulous green man embossed on the top of the backplate.....

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1 comment:

@Angpang said...

Very interesting post! I am going to blog on this armour too soon, but perhaps not with the technical detail of your post. This will be invaluable to me though, thank you.