The generic description for a man-at-arms defensive gear, including undergarments, armoured elements, and integral equipment such as spurs , sword , etc.. Field harnesses were armours of war, designed for use in the field. During the 14th century some specialization in armour was begun, where tournament gear first begins to be separated from field harness in inventory records. There may well have been leather gear also, used for practice, but this might not have proved valuable enough to record, though decorated tournament gear of leather was often recorded.
All of the elements used in the defense of the arm. Under the armour might be an aketon or gambeson. Prior to the 14th century, the arm was defended by a mail sleeve over an aketon. The early 14th century saw the enhancement of a couter added to protect the elbow point. During the middle of the 14th century this couter was attached by rivets and lames to the vambrace which defended the lower arm and the rerebrace that defended the upper arm. Generally the resulting "arm harness," in one piece, was laced to the gambeson by a point from the top edge of the rerebrace at the outside of the arm. Over the rerebrace was then laid the spaulder , a defense that covered the shoulder and uppermost arm. This piece was also laced to the gambeson by a point along the top edge. This defense remained more or less constant during the 15th century, except that the wing was expanded in size to cover more of the inside of the elbow and the spaulder was sometimes expanded to become more cumbersome but more protective pauldron . During this period reinforces were sometimes fitted to the couter to enhance the protection for the joust. The 16th century saw an explosion of this kind of defense, but it was used only in the joust. Also during the 16th century, the size on the couter wing was reduced again and there was a brief flirtation with articulation on the inside of the elbow joint. Major Developments during the 14th century
- 1300 three-piece vambrace , couter , and rerebrace dominate early experimentation with arm defenses. German and Italians use splinted defenses frequently, and examples in both countries often retain the three piece model even after the splinted defenses have been supplanted by plate. Italian, English and French development followed the following points, though there too the simpler three-piece model is sometimes found for the duration of the period.
- 1320 Earliest known defense known from the effigy of Don Alvéro de Cabrera in the Monastery of Santa Maria de Belpuig, Bellaguer, Spain. A splinted defense, three part construction.
- 1325-1330 Vambrace begins to be constructed in two parts, hinged and secured with buckles .
- 1330s on small plates defended the shoulder points, as found at Wisby and shown on contemporary effigies. These were often attached to the brigandine defenses or to the gambeson itself.
- 1330s Laminated spaulder shown on Ifield, Sussex (England), reinforced with disks bearing a lion mask, the same being attached to the couters .
- 1335 Lames and couter articulated in English examples
- 1340 Fully articulated arm harness in plate appears in England (see Clehonger, Herefordshire)
- Rerebrace fully enclosed
- Vambrace fully enclosed
- Spaulder formed in lames extends down the arm, permanently attached to the rerebrace
- Couter often formed of smaller plates, rather than the pointed variety. Often rounded in shape.
- 1350 besagews disappear completely (More... )
Referring to all of the armour pieces defending the knight's leg, including the cuisse (thigh), poleyn (knee), lames (connecting plates), and greave or shynbald. During the 14th century the transition was made from the mail defenses called chausses to the fully articulated leg harness, although the development was not even from place to place. By 1400 the fully leg harness had developed in the form that would survive until the 16th century.
Major Developments during the 14th century:
- 1300-1350 Chausses still used to defend the leg , with the addition of plate or leather shynbalds to protect the calf.
- 1320-1360 Poleyns are laced directly to the chausse, defending the knee. These poleyns appear to have extended around the knee and to have provided a flared lower edge to ease the transition to the shynbald or chausses for the calf.
- 1320-1340 Poleyns are occasionally reinforced with the addition of a small rondel to the side, additional protection for the back of the knee.
- 1330-1375 The chausse is eliminated in some harnesses in place of a plate cuisse that defends the thigh. By 1375 this plate was made in a single piece and articulated with the poleyn through the use of two or three lames (only one lame is used to articulate the cuisse to the poleyn; two lames are sometimes used for the demi-greave attachment).
- 1340-1400 Instead of a rondel attached by a central rivet , the poleyn itself is extended to form a "wing" on the side of the knee cop, usually some variant on the heart shape. As the century progresses the poleyn is reduced in size and the wing flared in the beginnings of the very broad flair seen on 15th century leg harnesses .
- 1340-1400 Plate greaves become increasingly popular, being made in two pieces front and back, hinged on the outer edge and latching by snaps or buckles on the inside.
- 1375-1400 The full leg harnesses is complete and becomes fully
adopted throughout Europe.