History of War

HELMET CRESTS

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Crests formed part of a knight’s personal arms. They appeared on the helm in the late-12th century as fan-shaped pieces, three-dimensiona­l devices or even miniature pennons. Crests or horns (especially in German lands) often of moulded boiled leather (cuir bouilli), parchment or sometimes whalebone only became common after about 1300. The fixing points were disguised by a circlet of twisted silk round the top of the helmet, often in the two main colours of a knight’s coat-of-arms, or a crown or coronet for men of rank. From the 14th century barons and higher ranks had a cap of maintenanc­e.

Some helmets had a cloth mantling hanging down the back, which may have helped protect the steel from the sun’s heat. By the 14th century it was becoming obvious that crests provided a convenient handle to pull a knight from his saddle, and along with the helm they were generally relegated to the tournament field. Feathers had sometimes been worn and now ostrich or pheasant feathers were fixed in a plume holder on various helmets.

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