How to Get Dressed & Fight in 14th Century Armor: A Reenactment

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.

Relat­ed con­tent:

How to Make and Wear Medieval Armor: An In-Depth Primer

What It’s Like to Actu­al­ly Fight in Medieval Armor

How Well Can You Move in Medieval Armor?: Medieval­ist Daniel Jaquet Gives It a Try in Real Life

What’s It Like to Fight in 15th Cen­tu­ry Armor?: A Sur­pris­ing Demon­stra­tion

How Women Got Dressed in the 14th & 18th Cen­turies: Watch the Very Painstak­ing Process Get Cin­e­mat­i­cal­ly Recre­at­ed

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.

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