Guy's Blog

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Tag: armour

Armour of the English Knight, 1400-1450 is the best book on the subject of armour that I have ever read. I bought it last week at the Wallace Collection museum shop, and was simply blown away.

I’m not really an armour man; I prefer fighting out of armour, but I bought this book because I had just had lunch with its author, Toby Capwell, and when I asked him why the English knights preferred to dismount and fight on foot (eg at Agincourt), he said (charmingly) “I answer that in my book”.

And oh my does he ever.

This was the first time Toby and I had met, so you need not fear for my impartiality, but it’s not the first book of his I’ve read. Perhaps my favourite before this was The Real Fighting Stuff, a delightful survey of arms and armour in the Kelvingrove museum, where Toby was curator of arms and armour before taking up the same job at the Wallace. I should also point out that Toby is a serious practitioner of HEMA- primarily on the jousting scene. He’s one of us, but with better kit.

The basic premise of Armour of the English Knight is that funerary monuments can provide detailed information about the armour that the person being represented would actually have worn. This possibly controversial thesis is proven beyond reasonable doubt (to my mind) with a breadth of examples, including details of repairs to armour carved in the effigies that still exist on surviving pieces of armour.

He then uses this data to describe, in great depth and detail, how English armour developed over the course of 50 years or so.

The book is worth buying for the 60 page introduction alone. Or for the photos alone. Or for the rest of the text alone. It’s a coffee-table sized book, produced in exceptionally high quality.

Let me make a prediction: this book is, like most other high-end books on this topic, going to go out of print quite quickly. When it does, instead of paying a measly £50 for it you’ll end up paying hundreds. Because you’ll have seen it in your friend’s library, realised I was right all along and that you simply must have it, and you'll toddle along to amazon only to find you have to sell your house to get a copy: you’ll end up homeless, but with a really good book.

Save yourself the pain and get it now. It’s already over 250 dollars on, so don’t even try it there.

Best get it from the Wallace Collection, here. It’s only £50 + shipping. It's £40 if you go there in person and buy it, so Londoners, that's your best bet.

Or you can get it straight from the publisher: It’s £54, EU £65, Rest of the World £75, including shipping. (It's a big heavy book, so those charges aren't unreasonable.

OK, that’s my public service announcement for the week- best get back to editing, and getting ready for my trip to Seattle on Wednesday.

I am resistant to change in the English language. I dislike the use of ‘reference' as a verb. Refer to something, don't reference it. And as for the astonishingly lazy and stupid “I could care less” when the speaker means “I couldn't care less”, well, that makes me quite cross.

But every now and then a new word comes along that is the only fit and proper way to describe something. And that word, today, is “awesomesauce”.

When I visited Seattle in March this year, I saw one of my young students in an armour hoodie. Really, a hoodie that looks like armour, with pauldrons and everything. I admired it vocally, and the lad's father Matthew heard me, told me that his wife had made it, and asked me if I'd like one. Hell yes! I replied. And so, on my last trip over, there it was, hand crafted by the astonishingly kind and skillful Ren Roche.

What the well-dressed swordsman about town is wearing this season.

I wear it to the delight of my younger daughter and the despair of my elder; it's perfect on planes and playgrounds alike. And it's armour. Awesomesauce is the only word that captures all that.

That by itself justifies the neologism, but as if it wasn't enough, look what arrived from America the other day:

You may recall from my trip to Edinburgh that I'm something of a cinquedea nut. I just love them. And Brian Kerce, in Florida, got wind of this and just upped and made me one. It's breathtaking. The blade is canarywood, fullered with 4,3,2 and 1 as you go up the blade; the crossguard is wenge, the handle is maple inlaid with leopard wood. Most importantly, it doesn't just look gorgeous, it fits my hand to perfection. You can find some of his other work on Etsy.

Again, the only word I can think of that conveys amazement, delight, and a touch of awe, is AWESOMESAUCE.

And I hereby declare Brian and Ren the King and Queen of Awesomesauce!

My armour is coming along, and hit a milestone yesterday. My arming jacket finally had the necessary pointing holes for attaching the arm pieces, which have been ready since December. So this is the first time they have been tried on properly. And oh my, what happy bliss to be clanking about in STEEL!!

There will be some adjustments needed to the arms to get them fitting perfectly, but the armourer, Marko Saari, is a genius and a craftsman of the highest order, and so perfection is well within the realms of possibility.

This piece is a reproduction of the Avant armour, held in Glasgow's Kelvingrove museum, and the closest surviving example to the armour we see in Il Fior di Battaglia, especially the Pisani-Dossi MS.

Helmet next. Then legs. Then proper gauntlets.


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