Treasures of the British Museum: Statue of a Knight

While I’m doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month requiring 50,000 words in a month,), I’m posting treasures of the British Museum every Monday.     This month’s treasure is a Statue of a Medieval Knight  from about AD 1350–1450 from England.  This small statue is an accurate representation of a knight in full armour from the Medieval period. The cross seen on the shield has led to suggestions that it is a depiction of St George. At the very least, the figure is of a man-at-arms, as only the nobility or knightly classes could afford armour of this quality in the period the statue was made. The figure holds a weapon in his hands, either a lance or bow, and also carries a sword from a belt around his waist, the hilt of which can be seen below the shield. The shield is also suspended by a strap over the knight’s right shoulder, leaving both arms free for battle. He is wearing plate armour defences on his body, including a belted cuirass made up of a breastplate and backplate and full arm and leg defences. During this period steel was the preferred material for armour manufacture. The poleyn, or knee defence, which allowed the leg to bend but remain protected, is visible on his right knee. The arm defences can be identified by the articulated lames, or small, overlapping plates, on each shoulder, and the knight also wears gauntlets with articulated fingers.

For added protection a haubergeon, a mail shirt which comes to the upper-thigh, was worn beneath the plate armour as seen here. The helmet worn by the knight, a bacinet, did not give any protection to the neck and shoulders, so a mail aventail was attached to a lining band in the helmet to protect these vulnerable areas. Later the bacinet was succeeded by the great bacinet, superior because it incorporated longer plates which replaced the mail aventail and protected the neck. Around the bacinet the knight wears a bejewelled coronet, supporting the suggestion that this may be a figure of St George.     © Trustees of the British Museum

Next week, A Special Salute    Rita Bay

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