Sunday, 20 October 2013

Knight time

Since 1759 the Greville family have passed the time of day being the Earls of Warwick. They also seem to have had a bit of a thing for armour, especially George Greville, the 4th earl in the 19th century, who bought a large part of the collection. Apparently it made great fancy dress costumes for parties in the 1950s. Perhaps the family has kept back a few suits of armour to liven up a Friday night, where you can still find the remnants of canapes in the visor hinges or martini stains on breastplates, but I expect that the armour on display in Warwick Castle, which they sold in 1978, represents the best of the collection.

There are two suits of horse armour on display, both from the late 16th century. The one below was designed for jousting and is much heavier than the armour above which was designed for battle. In battle a horse would need to be manoeuvrable where as in jousting it was required mainly to run in a straight line but directly at a chap with a lance. I also noticed that the field armour had a fairly substantial plate for the horses flanks where as there isn't nearly so much on the armour for jousting (you'll have to take my word for that one - the picture showing it is too poor to put up here)

This suit of armour was made by Italian armour maker Pompeo Della Chiesa in the 16th century (the name on his  Wikipedia page is a little different from that on the label. Also the English is a little clumsy, probably because it's a translation. Try the original Italian if you want)

Recent restoration of this armour has found evidence that it may have been gold plated when it was made. Even without the gold, it's a pretty fancy suit covered with engravings and pictures.

This is an example of Maximilian armour . According to the sign this was made in the workshops of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I in the 16th century and that the fluting in the armour imitates the fluting in clothing of the day. Wikipedia suggests that the fluting may have added strength and helped deflect blows.

Back in Blighty, here's a suit of armour from the 17th century made in Greenwich in London. It was thought for some time that it belonged to James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose who made a habit of doing the kind of business where a suit of armour was a plus. He eventually came to grief, which is always the risk when conducting politics at the head of an army and was hanged and quartered in 1650 (no mention of the drawn bit). His head remained on a spike outside St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh from 1650 to 1661 when he seems to have fallen back into favour (if a little late) and a funeral was held for him. Recent research has suggest that the armour might actually have belonged to Charles I instead. I don't know how they tell these things but it is certain that he didn't have much luck with his head either.

These pins on the breast plate are designed to rest a lance on. Similar fittings can be seen on several coats of armour in the collection (if you look back, there are fittings for a lance in the same place on both previous suits featured here). This painting of Charles I in a very similar suit of armour to this one (could it be this one?) has similar fittings in the same place. Not that I'd visualised Charles I doing much jousting but I could be wrong.

As mentioned before, most of the armour was bought by the Greville family as part of a collection. This piece was also bought by the family and the only piece here to have seen service by an owner of the castle. It was Robert Greville's, who was a roundhead general in the English Civil war and owned Warwick Castle before the family became Earls of Warwick. The information says that there is a small dent from a musket ball in the armour as proof of it's quality. And although it says that Robert died at the Seige of Lichfield in 1643, it fails to let on that he reputedly has the dubious honour of being the first man killed by a sniper.


Dominic Rivron said...

Fascinating. I went to the Cathedral School in Lichfield. Everyone there knew the story of how Dumb Dyott had shot Lord Brooke from the Cathedral. Interesting to see his armour. The moat and walling around the Cathedral lent itself to fortification.

Head on a spike for 11 years? They knew how to hold a grudge in those days. As I read my brain expected you to write
"...1661 when he seems to have fallen..." off the spike. :)

Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

I am currently in the middle of a three book read about a post apocalyptic event where gunpowder no longer works (well it is a work of fiction needless to say) and everyone has reverted back to arrows, swords and lances in doing each other in. So naturally the need for body armor comes back into play thus this post is especially meaningful for me. The author (S.M. Sterling) does well in describing it all. I can't imagine not only wearing all of this but also the horse having to carry the extra weight. He brings that point up frequently in his story.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

I went to Castle Rising recently and noticed a good many of the lords of the manor commemorated in the church had Greville as a middle name; must be a branch of the same family. As someone who hates even wearing an overcoat I can't imagine wearing armour at all.

Sandy's witterings said...

Dominic, I good when somebody else has a story from a different angle. Thanks for adding Dumb Dyott to the story.

John, It is hard to imagine wearing this. But I saw a suit of armour in Glasgow a couple of years ago and according to the information with that one, at the height of the technology, armour wasn't nearly as heavy as it looked - in some cases less than a modern soldier is expected to carry. Gunpowered stopping working - now there's an idea. Mr Sterling obviously couldn't visualise a situation where in that case, people might just want to give up killing each other (apart from far fetched, it isn't going to make such a gripping read either I suppose)

John, Greville is not a common name so a connection is more than likely. I can push it a little closer together with these two little snippets of fact.
1) Fulke Greville (1554 - 1628) was the first Baron Brooke (the title of the assasinated chap in the blog) was awarded Warwick castle by James I.
2) Fulke Greville (1773-1846) of Levens Park, was the MP for Castle Rising and held the castle after his father in laws death.
Can 2 Fulke Grevilles be unrelated.,_1st_Baron_Brooke

Shundo said...

Nice to have you back, and on top form Sandy. It is interesting what you say about the weight of this against what today's soldier has to carry around, but the craftsmanship of this is of course on a different scale, and something else rather lost to the mists of time.
I always notice how small these guys were when you look at their armour - even if their portraits make them look pretty imposing.

Sandy's witterings said...

Thank you Suzy

Shundo. Indeed I am back - actually I hadn't noticed I'd been away until suddenly it had been a month since my last post. And everyone elses posts to read too. What happened to the last few weeks - I reckon somebody has sneeked a few decaff teabags into the tea caddy!!!

In the portrait Charles I looks pretty much like the main man to me - well he was I suppose. The more I look at it, the more i'm sure that the suit of armour I saw was the same one. It wasn't a huge suit. I'm not sure it would fit me let alone being king sized. I think I must have been bigger than Charles I, though I doubt I wouldn't have towered over him by as much as a head (well maybe laterly)

The Glebe Blog said...

Very detailed and interesting stuff Sandy.
How is Fulke pronounced I wonder, I can imagine a slight slip of the tongue could render you headless.
Some armour looks quite comical, I guess the designers may have been the Jean Paul Galtier of their day.
Did women wear armour ?

Sandy's witterings said...

I should think Fulke was pronounced carefully Jim.

I've had a small investigate into ladies and armour. It seems that there is no evidence of Elizabeth the first ever wearing any though Hollywood did make a set for Cate Blanchet

Apparently Catherine of Aragon had a breastplate that she wore over her clothes and 'usband 'enery (the 8th I am, I am) had a set that could have been mistaken for a woman from a distance, though who was going to tell him.

It seems the most likely definite armour wearer is old favourite, Joan of Arc. Charles VII (of France I assume)had a set commissioned for her.

(not quite sure how the helmet goes on over the halo in that picture)

En route in this small investigation, I think I may also have found the Jean Paul Galtier of the day. I don't know who made it but this set belonged to George Clifford in 1585. He was Elizabeth I's champion.

Not that long after Henry, the prince of Wales, had this equally blingy suit made. Poor lad, very popular by all accounts, died young in 1612 aged just 18. This left little brother Charles to become king and it all went kind of wrong for a while (I think that brings me nicely back to the actual blog.

The Glebe Blog said...

Goodness me Sandy, you have found a couple that wouldn't be amiss in a Vivienne Westwood parade. Dandy is the word that springs to mind.

Pam said...

Like John, this post reminded me of the Game of Thrones series I just finished reading. I'll be checking out his author as I also enjoy watching Revolution which is a "our world without electricity" show though they haven't started wearing armor. How heavy was the armor? At least the weight was spread out compared to the gear modern soldiers have to lug around.

Sandy's witterings said...

Pam, No Electricity!! I'd have to nail my blog to trees.

Accoring to wikipedia a 15th century suit of armour weighed about 15-20Kg (33-44 lbs). The set I saw in Glasgow weighed 26 kg - it's in this blog

Jousting armour could weigh as much as 50kg which is a good deal more.

Louise said...

A really interesting post, I remember seeing these displays at Warwick a few years ago but I didn't pay a great detail of attention to reading all the info boards and finding out about them!

Glad you enjoyed my Chatsworth post - yes there was a 3 part BBC documentary on a couple of years ago which featured the head going on to the posts.

Sandy's witterings said...

Louise, I did look at the information boards there, but in a lot of places I don't read it at the time and photograph the board, especially if there is a big pile of writing. it was quite difficult to work out which board belonged to which suit of armour (I had to ask)