Construction of a 15th. Century cap-à-pie armour

Design for the cap-a-pie armour

Outline design of the proposed cap-à-pie armour

The period from 1430 - 1500 became known as the 'Tabard period' following the 'Surcoatless period' which lasted from 1400 to 1430. During the mid 15th. Century the cuirass retained the globose shape of previous times but the breastplate was formed from two sections, the lower overlapping the upper, allowing a degree of mobility. The lower section, called a demi-placcate, arose from the waist with it's upper edge scalloped into one or more cusps. By the introduction of sliding or almayne rivets a degree of flexibility could be imparted to the cuirass. The backplate was likewise constructed from several pieces, giving freedom of movement. The outline drawing above is taken from a cap-à-pie armour dating from c.1470 in the Wallace Collection in London and it is my intention to adhere to this quite closely in the construction.

The articulated tassets or taces extended outwards from the waist and, at the front, separate sections called tuilles, being made of either a single plate or a number of lames, were attached with straps to the lowermost tace, affording protection to the upper thigh.

The cuisses or cuissarts covering the thigh were often made in several sections with the upper edge turned outwards to give additional strength and prevent it digging in to the wearer. The articulation at the knee comprised the poleyn with one or two lames above and below. There was often an elaborate wing extending from the rear of the outside of the poleyn called the genouillière, which occasionally wrapped partially around the back of the knee. The lower leg was protected by gracefully shaped greaves or grevières extending to cover the ankle. The foot defense at this time was known as the solleret and was formed of a number of lames producing a pointed shape often of extravagant length. These were later replaced with the more boot-like sabatons shown in Project 2.

The arm defense was so constructed so as to give a great degree of flexibility which was necessary for the extreme quickness of sword-play that was required in combat, often after the lance had been shattered. The shoulder was covered by epaulieres formed of a number of lames or spalders with the vulnerable area around the arm-hole of the cuirass being covered by a circular fluted palette. This later became enlarged and incorporated into the epauliere to form the pauldron. The elbow defense, or coudière, was often quite large - particularly on the left side where it was of supreme importance in the warding off of a blow. It was attached by laces to the upper arm defense above and the vambrace below, a form of articulation known as floating articulation. The gauntlets were long and elegant, with long pointed cuffs, the fingers being separated rather than of mitten form.

Protection for the head was afforded by the salade ( giving rise to the English sallad or sallet ). This rested entirely on the head and was not attached to the body armour, unlike the great helm or tilting hem. Sometimes it was formed in one section or had a hinged front visor which could be raised to expose the face. The lower part of the face to the level of the mouth was covered by the mentonnière, which was attached to the upper part of the breastplate.

The fabrication of this armour started in May 2005 and I have been posting the pages detailing the construction as it progressed. The finished armour is shown below. I will make the patterns available if enough people want them - e-mail me if you're interested.

the finished armour January 2006

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