For a medieval knight, physical combat in a full suit of armor could hardly have been a simple matter — but then, nor could the task of putting it on in the first place. You can see the latter depicted in the video above from Norwegian history buff Ola Onsrud. He describes the armor as a “detailed reconstruction based on the effigy of the Black Prince (1330-1376) in the Canterbury Cathedral, other relevant effigies, paintings in fourteenth-century manuscripts and late fourteenth-century armor displayed in The Royal Armories in Leeds.” If you’ve so much as glanced at such imagery, Onsrud’s armor should strike you as looking quite like the real deal.
But this is functional clothing, after all, and as such must be put to the test. Onsrud does so in the video just below, a demonstration of how the wearer of such armor would actually do hand-to-hand combat. “To make comments, the visor of my helmet is open through most of the video,” he notes.
“This will of course make my face an interesting target for my adversary.” In a real medieval battle, of course, the helmet would be closed, and thus the combatants wouldn’t simply aim for the face. As Onsrud explains, the idea is to use one’s sword “against the weak spots of the armor. After finding a weak spot, I can put all my body weight behind it and drive it in.”
Medieval suits of armor turn out not to be as impenetrable as they look. Onsrud runs down a few of their major weak points, including the insides of the gloves, the armpits, and — most wince-inducingly of all — the groin. The defense capability of armor also varied depending upon the weapons used; even the best-suited-up had reason to fear an enemy with a poleaxe. “But the absolute best way to take down an armored knight is by using a lance from a horse,” especially a horse “galloping up to 40 kilometers an hour” whose combined weight with its rider could reach 700 kilograms. Surely even the most committed reenactor won’t do that on Youtube.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.