“KNIGHTS HAD TO BE HOISTED ONTO THEIR HORSES”

Not ev­ery­thing you’ve read about in the his­tory books is en­tirely true...

How It Works - - HISTORY MYTHS -

Al­though they look in­cred­i­bly heavy, 15th cen­tury suits of ar­mour weigh in at around 14–23 kilo­grams. De­spite this, they were not dif­fi­cult to move about in or mount a horse while wear­ing. Knights had to re­main as ag­ile as pos­si­ble in or­der to stay com­bat ef­fec­tive, or even just sur­vive a melee. If ar­mour re­ally had been so heavy that a fallen knight could not have stood up again on his own, or been able to re-mount his horse, the small­est trip in bat­tle would have been a death sen­tence.

While the metal plates had to be tough enough for am­ple pro­tec­tion, they also had to be light enough for pro­longed ac­tion and a range of move­ment. A suit of plate ar­mour could be com­prised of around 18 main sep­a­rate pieces, each pro­tect­ing a dif­fer­ent limb or vi­tal or­gan. Im­por­tantly, each piece had to move flex­i­bly with the wearer, and with­out re­strict­ing any move­ment such as a sword swing or even some light run­ning.

One of the ori­gins of the im­pos­si­bly heavy ar­mour is found in the 1944 film Henry V, pro­duced by Lau­rence Olivier. This de­picts knights be­ing hoisted onto their mounts us­ing cranes — a bizarre fic­tion with no his­tor­i­cal ev­i­dence. By con­trast, there are his­tor­i­cal ac­counts of ar­moured sol­diers per­form­ing al­most ac­ro­batic feats, in­clud­ing Ber­trand du Guesclin, who is recorded leap­ing to and from his horse.

Mod­ern-day sol­diers, by com­par­i­son, reg­u­larly take more than 50 kilo­grams of ar­mour, weaponry and equip­ment into com­bat, the ma­jor­ity of which is car­ried in their back­packs. With a suit of ar­mour, the weight is spread mostly evenly over the wearer’s en­tire body, mak­ing it much eas­ier to bear and bal­ance while wear­ing. This means that far from be­ing re­stricted by im­pos­si­bly heavy ar­mour, knights fight­ing cen­turies ago were ar­guably more light and ag­ile than their 21st-cen­tury coun­ter­parts.

Ar­mour grew pro­gres­sively thicker in later cen­turies to pro­tect against the threat of firearms

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