Archive for May, 2016
Within the UK re-enactment and living history communities, we get a lot right. But we also get a lot wrong, One particular area of focus is badly fitting or incorrect armour – and in particular the Bevor.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at this ticklish subject.
The Bevor is a throat and lower face protector, covering the area between the breastplate and the helmet.
There are two areas where we believe many re-enactors arguably get it incorrect. These are
- It’s use in conjunction with a breastplate
- It’s placement level on the torso.
Let’s take a look at the first point – aka the great “over or under” debate.
Many re-enactors wear their bevor underneath their breastplate, fixed in place.
The weight of evidence is that these were primarily worn on top of the breastplate, rather than underneath and was attached either via strap like the one shown on the relief sculpture above, or often on German harnesses via a clip onto the breastplate like the example shown below. This appears to be known as stapled.
The evidence is that some were padded on the inner layer, and occasionally had integral maille protection for the back of the neck as in the Higgins Museum example, and in artwork from the period.
The Pastrana Tapestries can also be consulted for contemporary usage in the later 15th C which shows a number of bevors worn by the combatants. (In the late 15th century, a set of four large tapestries was commissioned to commemorate the battle of Asilah. They were woven by Flemish weavers in Tournai, Belgium. The tapestries are notable highly for their portrayal of a contemporary event. The works are regarded as among the finest Gothic tapestries in existence.)
One argument used by many is that we cannot apply usage in Italian or Mediterranean harnesses to what was occurring in England but again if we consult effigies and artwork from England this also holds true, see for example the wonderful frescoes at Pickering Church.
In the interest of openness, there are admittedly are a few museum examples where the bevor is fixed underneath the breastplate, but the consensus from curators is that these seem to be for using in jousting, i.e. within a tournament rather than battlefield context – and is required to deflect or contain the full force of a lance.
There is also some evidence that the gorget (a different style of throat protection without the lower face cup) was worn underneatha breastplate, as per this statue from Ulm dated to 1482.
From a purely practical view, mounting the bevor on top of rather than beneath the breastplate does have merit. It is one piece of armour the wearer is most likely to want to remove when not in need of it. Given that people are illustrated dining with their armour on, we can only imagine how annoying it would be to strip down beyond the breastplate in order to eat your dinner when on campaign..
So, to conclude point one – the weight of evidence is that it was over the breastplate.
Let us now take a look at the second point – namely it’s placement level.
From what we have seen above, the bevor is worn high, protecting the neck, throat and lower face. However many re-enactors wear this piece of armour as a chest adornment protecting their pectorals. There are we think a couple of reasons why this is.
Firstly, they may not have purchased a breastplate and are using the lower lame of the Bevor for this purpose.
Secondly, they are using the cup of the bevor as a ‘stop rib’ lower down the torso, in order to deflect bill weapons away from the face that drift up from the central chest target common in most mock combat systems in the UK.
Thirdly, and most probably, because the recent flood of cheap imported Bevors usually means they are wearing a “one size fits all and dwarf’s many” piece and it does not work in conjunction with their chosen helmet.
In artwork, the *only* example we have been able to find for a slightly lower placing is below. We believe context is key here however, and that the bevor has been loosened (the lower point ties are not tied) and the individual is leaning over which causes the Bevor to hang away. The more probably explanation is that the artist is showing us a scene where he wants us to be able to see the expression on the individuals face.
At this point, it would probably be pertinent to show images of examples of where re-enactors have got it wrong. But this would on balance be unfair – many “re-enactors” are in the hobby for the sport of mock combat as opposed to serious historical interpretation. Secondly, some individuals are resistant to improvement and will not like being singled out.
Therefore let’s use a generic image as to what “wrong” looks like, and “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” helpfully provides us an illustration!
As you can see, the bevor is far lower than the images we have seen in artwork. Yet, you will see this “Masters of the Universe” look at battle re-enactments across the land this summer.
So, to conclude – let’s take a good look at what in our opinion a good historical interpretation should look like. The image below looks like those in contemporary artwork, and clearly protects the face and not the upper chest. It works *with* and not *against* the Sallet helmet in order to protect the wearer.
Obviously, this level of interpretation may be beyond the reach of some, but it does show what is possible and what living historians should be aiming towards, rather than remaining just re-enactors. It shows that it is worth getting something made to measure where possible, rather than just accepting a large voluminous bevor because it’s cheap.
After all, no one wants to end up with egg on their face…
Disclaimer: Neither the author or the Harrington Company accept any liability for any injury arising from interpretations and research contained within this article. This is provided for historical research, and should not be taken as providing any indemnity for Personal Protective Equipment.
You are responsible for your own safety equipment and it’s efficiency when participating in any mock combat – not us.
Below are the results from the shoot.
Thanks to all those who came and made it such an enjoyable day.
Viv (WFAC) 328
Nicky F. (WFAC) 284
Corin B. (WFAC/Harringtons) 214
Howard S (WFAC) 208
Ali L. (WFAC) 206
Kyle A. (MSS) 192
Martin S. (MSS) 180
Tony H. (Harringtons) 172
Ant F. (WFAC/Harringtons) 164
Keith A. (MSS) 158
Lenette W. (WFAC/Harringtons) 140
Ben G. (Bayards) 124
Cheri S. (Harringtons) 110
Chloe M. (WFAC/Harringtons) 90
Pete W. (Harringtons) 90
Sam C. (Harringtons) 72
Marcus B. (Harringtons) 64
Jess D. (Harringtons) 58
Shot of the day was possibly this one, against a vicious French sapling that wanted to invade…
11:30 Archery Tournament
A display of the English Longbow. Discover why this was one of the most feared weapons in the Middle Ages. Culminating in a contest to find the best archer, and to earn points for their team!
12:00 Medieval Come Dine with Me
Being a noble wasn’t just about the combat. ‘Come Dine with me’ – medieval style! Learn about medieval food, manners, and why it mattered.
13:00 – Firepower!!
Showcasing the development of medieval fire power with the Compagnie of Seint Barbara’s range of field pieces and handguns that would have been present at the 1460 Battle of Northampton. Loud!
13:30 The Essential Guide to the 1460 Battle of Northampton
Come and watch the Harrington Companye and the Compaignie of Seint Barbara display key scenarios from the 1460 Battle (in conjunction with the Northampton Battlefields Society)
14:45 Arming the Knight
Wander through the medieval encampment and watch our Fighting Knights as they don their armour for the Tournament.
15:00 Tournament of Foot
Watch an authentic recreation of a medieval tournament as our Knights, squires and valets lock horns in brutal combat, under the watchful eye of their approving Ladies. Discover the different weapons used at the time, and come and cheer for your Knight. Who will carry the day?
15:45 Kiddie Knight
Kids – You’ve seen our Fighting Knights – now it’s your turn! It’s time to learn the Knightly Arts and put them into practice. A great opportunity to wear your children out..
(Below is Sunday only)
16:15 Battlefield Walk to the Eleanor Cross & anniversary commemorations.
The Companye have returned from our annual April event at the splendid Kenilworth Castle. Staged by Historic England (previously English Heritage) we celebrated the festival of St George – patron Saint of England.
Kenilworth Castle is located in the town of the same name in Warwickshire, England. Constructed from Norman through to Tudor times, the castle has been described by architectural historian Anthony Emery as “the finest surviving example of a semi-royal palace of the later middle ages, significant for its scale, form and quality of workmanship”. It is certainly an impressive place to spend the weekend!
The castle was built over several centuries. Founded in the 1120s around a powerful Norman great tower, the castle was significantly enlarged by King John at the beginning of the 13th century. Huge water defences were created by damming the local streams, and the resulting fortifications proved able to withstand assaults by land and water in 1266. John of Gaunt spent lavishly in the late 14th century, turning the medieval castle into a palace fortress designed in the latest perpendicular style.
Many castles, especially royal castles were left to decay in the 15th century; Kenilworth, however, continued to be used as a centre of choice, forming a late medieval “palace fortress”.
Henry IV, John of Gaunt’s son, returned Kenilworth to royal ownership when he took the throne in 1399 and made extensive use of the castle. In 1403, after the Battle of Shrewsbury, Sir James Harrington was knighted and it is highly probable that it was at this very castle.
Henry V also used Kenilworth extensively, but preferred to stay in the Pleasance, the mock castle he had built on the other side of the Great Mere. According to the contemporary chronicler John Strecche, who lived at the neighbouring Kenilworth Priory, the French openly mocked Henry in 1414 by sending him a gift of tennis balls at Kenilworth. The French aim was to imply a lack of martial prowess; according to Strecche, the gift spurred Henry’s decision to fight the Agincourt campaign. The account was used by Shakespeare as the basis for a scene in his play Henry V.
English castles, including Kenilworth, did not play a decisive role during the Wars of the Roses (1455–85), which were fought primarily in the form of pitched battles between the rival factions of the Lancastrians and the Yorkists.
With the mental collapse of King Henry VI, Queen Margaret used the Duchy of Lancaster lands in the Midlands, including Kenilworth, as one of her key bases of military support.Margaret removed Henry from London in 1456 for his own safety and until 1461, Henry’s court divided almost all its time among Kenilworth, Leicester and Tutbury Castle (where we were the previous month) for the purposes of protection. Kenilworth remained an important Lancastrian stronghold for the rest of the war, often acting as a military balance to the nearby castle of Warwick. With the victory of Henry VII at Bosworth, Kenilworth again received royal attention; Henry visited frequently and had a tennis court constructed at the castle for his use.His son, Henry VIII, decided that Kenilworth should be maintained as a royal castle.
The Festival of St George is a firm favourite with English Heritage members and members flock from all over the country, and well as a large local turnout. As well as the Harrington Companye, the event featured performances by Mark Vance as St George, a rather humorous (and pungent) Dragon, as well as music by Myal Piper, and activities from Griffin Historical.
As well as our award winning living history encampment, we undertook two arena displays each day.
In the morning, we staged a display of archery from the fifteenth century. The public were entertained with speed shoots, a display of accuracy and really got into cheering our archers on. This culminated with a Companye specialty – the Reduced Harrington Companye portrayal of the Battle of Agincourt.
Thousands of French knights met their deaths at the hands of our skilled archers, the stench of garlic was truly horrendous.
In the afternoon, we staged a display of fifteenth century combat. Starting with a close up view of how a man shall be armed in harnesse, we then showcased the various weapon types from the period. Dagger, Sword, Longsword, Spear, Poleaxe were all showcased to the cheering crowds – who soon caught on and cheered.
Finally, it was time for a group melee – the Circles of Honour, and Treachery.
Last year, Master Stan has used this to great effect – hiding in an castle alcove until the end and ambushing the winner – this year he wasn’t allowed to run off an hide but he gave an excellent account of himself in the first round.
Back at camp, there were two undisputed stars of the show. The new forge, which had been debuted at Tutbury had a keen following and Alec the smith didn’t get a rest from the public all day. This meant that neither did Sam, who did pretty much the full days shift on bellows duty. Well done Sam, proof that Child Labour is alive and well 😉
Meanwhile, Adrian our ever popular Hospitaller and his medical instruments were of great interest to the public. Little did he know it, but it was going to be a special weekend for him – but more on that later!
In other news, we were delighted to meet Evie, the newest member of our Companye. She was really popular with our members as this next photo shows. Evie was especially popular with Sarah, and Rosie was lucky she handed her back..
For the Companye though, the highlight of the weekend actually came after the public had left on the Saturday evening. Little did Adrian realise when he woke that day, what we had in store for him.
The Companye operates a recognition system for our members. The Order of The White Lion was created for those members who truly go above and beyond in terms of the accuracy of their portrayal, their knowledge of the period, and their conduct on and off the battlefield. On April 23rd, we awarded this to Adrian.
Why Kenilworth? Because as mentioned, according to historians it is highly probable that Sir James Harrington received his knighthood in the Great Hall there in 1403. Hence, we would recreate this ceremony for our first inductee…
A number of trusted members of the Companye were in on the act, but it was a great surprise to most. As evening fell, Adrian was taken to a place of Solitude to reflect on what the Companye meant to him. Traditionally we needed a full 24 hour vigil, but with the public arriving the following day this was tricky!
He was then collected by his Aide de camp carrying his sword and his esquire carrying his tournament helm, and brought to the Great Hall of Henry IV, which was now lit up by candlelight and torchlight.
As Adrian entered the chamber, our musicians played and sang The Agincourt Carol, fitting given the Great Halls’s connection to the Agincourt Campaign – for it was here that Henry V received the gift of tennis balls from the Dauphin.
Adrian was then paraded to Sir William, where he received the Colee stroke – the last blow he would receive unanswered. There is some disagreement among historians on the actual ceremony and in what time period certain methods could have been used. It could have been an embrace or a slight blow on the neck or cheek. It had been decided to use the accolade of a sword, after studying this Early 15th Century image.
Words such as Advances Chevalier au nom de Dieu were possibly spoken at this point. Given the move to English in English Court by this point it was decided to accolade him in the name of Saint Michael and St George, the patrons of Soldiers and England respectively.
Following this, Sir Adrian was now awarded the White Lion Livery of Wolfage Manor, and recognised by all.
The award ceremony was not yet complete for we also took the opportunity to recognise Sam C., and the Martindale clan and award them their livery Knot after their probation period.
Lastly, Sir William supplied some mead for all, and we toasted those ancient walls – for they must have witnessed many such scenes.
For those interested, the full video is here below:
The ceremony was complete and the Companye took advantage of the Spring evening to enjoy ourselves – part of the wow factor of this wonderful hobby is the privilege of staying at such wonderful historic sites. We think Adrian was quite happy with his accolade as he was full of the joys of Spring the following morning..
Sunday saw a repeat of our displays and even more public. A little over 2500 public visited the site over the weekend, and many were repeat visitors who love what we do – and we love entertaining them. Kenilworth always draws an appreciative crowd and Sunday was no exception.
Finally just as the event drew to a close, a bout of inclement weather meant the public hurriedly left – leaving Myal Piper playing to an empty field.
Now, the Companye is many things, but one thing we are most certainly not is unappreciative. So, quick as a flash we ran up the hill and proceeded to show our appreciation through the ahem, medium of Interpretive Dance.
Not to be outdone, we treated the Pipers to a full rendition of “Father Harrington” – complete with actions. We believe as fully trained musicians they appreciated our efforts, though running off screaming was admittedly a strange way of showing it.
And so the event came to an end. A special one for us all, and one to cherish for a lifetime. We will return there again this year, in June – but for now it was time to take the Companye on Campaign once more to Hedingham Castle…