Armor, Armory, Knights, Suits of Armor -

Awkward Knights in Sparkling Armor?

To say that the silver screen has a way of exaggerating things is like saying water is wet. People dodge bullets, one man can lay out thirty, and armored knights move with ballet-like elegance. In this post, we will deliberate on the last point. In reality, how effective was full-body medieval armor? Was the make so concerned with safety that movement was compromised? Perhaps yes.

Spanish Armour with Etching

There is a likelihood that these battle suits did more harm than good. The armor may have sparkled regally and staved off arrows but the soldier protected by it did not quite move with the grace like we often see on the screen. According to research from the University of Leeds, running in a suit of armor was twice as tough and walking in it nearly two and a half times more exhausting.

Interlocking steel plates covering the body heightened courage but greatly diminished battlefield potential. Imagine having 60–100 pounds of metal covering you while you are burdened with the task of taking out the enemy who might be similarly protected. The choreography between battling knights in the medieval period must have been painful viewing. Heavy legs and arms would have slowed down and physically drained the brave warriors, a problem that was magnified with older soldiers. Also, the heavy metal hindered respiration and breathlessness was common, which in turn led to lack of resistance in soldiers.

There were reasons why the armor was so heavy. It would be unfair to dismiss that people of that era had no thought behind such protective equipment. One major reason was to guard against powerful weapons, such as the crossbow and the longbow. They had the option between safety and ease of movement and opted for the more natural human choice.

The trend started to change as people started seeing the benefit of lighter armor. One turning point was the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, when the French army clad in heavy metal plates lost to a distinctly smaller English force that was unencumbered by expansive armor. By the mid-16th century, metal suits gave way to breastplates and steel vests in which it was was easier to move. When firearms entered the fray, heavy armor became redundant.


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