Jeanne d'Arc's Suit of Armour
Charles VII provided Jeanne with a suit of armour costing 100 écus, either 2 500 sols or 125 tournois pounds. This was not an outstanding sum and contributed towards the inventory that Jeanne established during her trial:
Through the Count of Laval’s testimony, we learn that the suit of armour was in fact a “harnois blanc”, or “all-in-one” suit of armour, rather than a suit comprising of several detachable pieces. In comparison, this suit of armour cost twice as much as the cheapest equipment used, yet cost eigh time less than the most expensive.
This suit of armours was offered to the town of Saint Denis in ex voto after failed attack on Paris. Fom that moment on, Jeanne wore a suit of armours taken from a Bourguignon, the value of wich remains unknown.
The Saint Denis suit of armours was almost certainly not destroyed but possibly suffered the same fate of the sword that was offered to Sainte Catherine de Fierbois by a soldier, and then borrowed by Jeanne d’Arc. 1
After the inquest at Poitiers, Charles VII commissioned a suit of armor for Jeanne at the samme time that he set up a military household for her. The registra of the city hall of Albi, who saw her, testified that “Jeanne went armed in white iron, entirely from head to foot.” Moreover, Guy and André de Laval saw her on horseback near Romorantin “armed entirely in white, exept, for the head, a little ax in her hand, seated on a great black courser.”
The accounts of the treasurer Hémon Reguier refer to the purchase of that suit of armor in April 1429: “100 livres tournois were paid and delivered by the afforesaid treasure to the master armorer for a complete harness for the afforesaid Maid.” With this harness, Jeanne was equipped in the same fashion as the men-of-arms of her era.
Jean Chartier reported that she was “armed as quickly as possible with a complete harness such as would have suited a knight who was part of the arma and born in the king’s court. “She was equipped, moreover, like knights of a certain rank: 100 livres tournois was a significant sum.
The Maids Armour
Armor was a very important part of the 15th century soldier. It had gone from the days of the lorica segmentata through chain mail to what was in the time of the Maid to complete sets of armor which covered the entire body. However this type of armor was expensive therefore it remained in the hands of the nobility, and royalty. The basic soldier could count himself fortunate if he possessed even the most even the most rudimentary helmet and Gambeson.
By the time of the Hundred Years War, armor making had developed into a highly skilled profession. The latest improvements were incorporated into armor as well as better steel. While we do not know with exactitude what the Maid’s armor actually looked like the print above is a fairly excellent representation from contemporary sources that are in existence and those which were most common.
The description “White harness” means that the armor is without any embellishments. In the miniseries, “Joan of Arc” with Lee Lee Sobieski, the armor she wears is not white harness. She has a lys on her chest and lyse around the besagues 3 contrary to modern belief armor of the time was about 50 lbs or so.
The modern idea that has been passed down from the 19th century that knights had to be lifted up onto their horse by use of a crane is nonsense. The Constable of France, Bertrand du Guesclin, was noted for leaping onto his horse and climbing rope ladders while fully clothed in his armor. Jeannes armor was made for fighting in. She could be found in the thick of the actions urging the troops on.
Her armor saved her on several occasions. While at Orleans, Jeanne wearing her armor was in fact wounded by an arrow, which penetrated her armor. She was taken from the battle, and the English perceiving an advantage in this screamed obscenities. They believed that they had won the encounter. Jeanne stayed behind the lines but returned just before dusk. This turn of events was a psychological blow to the English and to the French it appeared as a miracle.
“…During the assault on Jargeau… …Jeanne made the attack; in which I followed her. As our men were invading the place, the Earl of Suffolk made proclamation that he wished to speak with me, but we did not listen, and the attack continued. Jeanne was on a ladder, her standard in her hand, when her Standard was struck and she herself was hit on the head by a stone which was partly spent, and which struck her calotte. (Head-covering without visor, “chapeline casque leger en fornie de calotte sans masque.”) She was thrown to the ground; but, raising herself, she cried: “Friends! friends! come on! come on! Our Lord has doomed the English! They are ours! keep a good heart.”
The Duc d’Alencon, Trial of nullification.
“…Jeanne was there wounded by an arrow which penetrated half-a-foot between the neck and the shoulder; but she continued none the less to fight, taking no remedy for her wound….”
Jean, Bastard of Orleans, Count de Dunois.
“…The King’s troops remained there from morning to night, and Jeanne was wounded: it was necessary to take off her armor to dress the wound; but hardly was it dressed when she armed herself afresh and went to rejoin her followers at the attack and the assault, which had gone on from morning without ceasing…”
Louis De Contes, Trial of nullification.
“…When she felt herself wounded, she was afraid, and wept; but she was soon comforted, as she said. Some of the soldiers seeing her severely wounded wished to “charm ” her; but she would not, saying: “I would rather die than do a thing which I know to be a sin; I know well that I must die one day, but I know not when, nor in what manner, nor on what day; if my wound may be healed without sin, I shall be glad enough to be cured.” Oil of olive and lard were applied to the wound. After the dressing, she confessed herself to me, weeping and lamenting…”
Fr Jean Pasquerel, Trial of nullification.
The term “harness” designated the diverse garments of war; to be more precise, one spoke about “of the head” or “of the arm.” Every piece was independent, as attested in the accont books of the armores, from whom pieces were ordered separately: a leg harness, an arm harness, a gaunlet, and so on. Jeanne also wore a military garment of Oriental origin, made of rectangular metal plates (usually of steel)-the jaseran, which was widely used in fourteenth century.
She also wore a brigandine, an armed vest made of a great number of small plates of metal joined by rivets, the heads of which formed a kind of geometric design. The right arm was protected in a lighter fashion than the left, so that a sword or lance could be wielded more freely. The armor of the left arm, by contrast, was folded back to assist in holding the horse’s reins.
We know that the first suit of mail-the blanc harnoys made for her in Tours-had been left be her in the Abbey church of Saint-Denis after the failure of her attack on Paris, and its subsequent history is unknown. We are ignorant of what happen to her second suit of armour. It has been estimated that the purchase of a complete set of military equipment corresponded to two years’ wages for a man-at-arms.
It took 8 weeks for the Jeanne’s armor to be made and 600 years later it still takes 8 weeks.
The helmet shown here–a bascinet of the type worn during the 14th and early 15th centuries–is one of these works fraught with historical associations. It is believed to be the helmet that Jeanne d’Arc wore at the Siege of Orléans (1430), one of the turning points of the Hundred Years’ War. It is reported to have hung above the main altar of the church of St. Pierre le Martroi in Orléans (a short length of chain is still attached to its peak): it was considered to have been given as an ex voto by the Maid after she had been wounded at the siege by a crossbow bolt. There are marks of crossbow bolts on the helmet.
Jeanne made use also of a capeline, a steel hat equipped with a wide brim, frequently used when scaling fortifications. But her contemporaries remaked that she often went about with her head bare, which was hardly surprising since military commanders of high rank often wore a simple hood or a hat rather than a helmet.
Information from Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the helmet is today
Date: ca. 1375–1425. Dimensions: H. 11 7/8 in. (30.2 cm); W. 7 1/4 in. (18.4 cm); D. 8 1/4 in. (21 cm); Wt. 5 lb. 1 oz. (2268 g) Marking: Marked on the right cheek: a shield charged with a six-pointed star surrounded by a circle. Provenance: Above main altar in church of St. Pierre du Martroi, Orléans, where it hung as an ex voto. Ex coll.: Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Duc de Dino, Paris.
According to an attribution traceable only to the nineteenth century, this helmet was said to have been worn in battle by Jeanne d’Arc and to have been given by her to the church of Saint Pierre du Martroi at Orléans, where it hung over the main altar. Although the legend is probably untrue, the helmet does have what looks like damage from use in battle.
Note on the Casque of Jeanne d'Arc
As a rule, ancient armor cannot be safely attributed to historical personages, and it is doubtful whether the “Casque of Jeanne d’Arc” which the Museum exhibits has more than a legendary pedigree. Nevertheless, we have received a letter from Mr. Andrew Lang, an authority on the history of Jeanne d’Arc, which bears upon this matter. The letter from St. Andrews, Scotland, is dated
November 23d, and reads:
“Mr. Bruce-Gardyne has sent me a photograph of a basinet in your Museum, from Orleans, traditionally attributed to Jeanne d’Arc. (see picture next to this text) At the siege of Jargeau, in June, 1429, her life was saved by her chapeline (a light headpiece without vizor) when a heavy stone knocked her off a scaling ladder. From Jargeau she went to Orleans for two or three days and she might naturally have dedicated the chapeline. 4
“The coincidence is curious: we do not on any other occasion hear of her wearing a vizorless headpiece.”
In this connection we may add what Baron de Cosson has written of this basinet. 5
“It is a French basinet dating from the end of the fourteenth or beginning of the fifteenth century. It retains part of the small chain which denotes that this casque has been suspended as an ex voto in a church.
A heavy dent in the region of the left cheek may well have come from a warhammer (bec-de-corbin), and two others on the right cheek appear to have been the result of lance thrusts.
According to information obtained by the Due de Dino it seems that this basinet formerly hung above the main altar in the church of Saint Pierre du Martroi, at Orleans, where it passed as having belonged to Jeanne d’Arc.”
As the case stands we are convinced that the casque is French, that it is of the period of Jeanne d’Arc, and that it bears marks of contemporary service. In the last regard the evidence is satisfactory: for one reason, the injuries clearly antedate the ancient rusting of the headpiece. This then makes it probable that the object was preserved because it was an ex voto – an assumption still more probable by reason of the fragment of chain which is attached to it — the ancient rivet showing clearly that its attachment to the basinet was primitive.
It next remains to be proven that the casque formerly hung above the main altar in the church of Saint Pierre du Martroi, at Orleans, and it would be interesting to confirm the observation which is reported to have been made by the Due de Dino, that the links of the chain now attached to the basinet agree with those said to be still hanging in the church. But even granting this provenance of the casque, it yet remains to be demonstrated that the ex voto belonged to the maid and not to one of her officers. Unhappily, too, the casque can hardly be the “chapeline” referred to in the record which Mr. Lang cites, at least if the contemporary term was accurately chosen, for a chapeline is well known to have had a brim, while the present casque is a typical basinet which has merely lost its face guard. Moreover, its injuries were not caused by a crushing stone, but were effected by pointed weapons, one of them probably a crossbow bolt.
It is unfortunate for our present purpose that there is no contemporary portrait of Jeanne d’Arc which would give us a reasonably accurate picture of her armor. The earliest portrait hitherto known 6 dates sixty or seventy years from the time of her death; and its armor is of this late period, with an armet, florid epaulieres and tassets.
No better evidence is forthcoming in a second miniature (also on parchment) which dates from a slightly earlier period: this was discovered in Paris a few months ago by Mr. Jacques Reubell, to whose courtesy the Bulletin is indebted for the opportunity of reproducing it for the first time. It is especially interesting that although in this picture the armor is unlike that in the first miniaure, the face is the same, strongly suggesting that the early artists were familiar with an authentic portrait of Jeanne d’Arc.
Name of parts of armor in the Middle Ages and Renaissance
– Linen Under-shirt and under-pants. Woollen stockings.
Underclothes were important as they prevented the armor from chafing the Knights skin.
– these were the first armor to be put on. Sabatons was armor for the foot and consisted of riveted iron plates on the boots Akelon – arming doublet.
– Layer of chain mail over the arms of the Medieval Knights
– which were small round ‘shields’ laced to the mail at the shoulder to defend the armpit
– for the defence of the upper arm
– for the defence of the lower arm
– Plate armor which protected the calf and ankles
– Plate armor which protected the knee cap
– Plate armor which protected the thigh
– Breast Plate
– The Backplate
– were rings of armour which were attached to the breast plate and protected the hips, abdomen and lower back of the Medieval Knights
Head and Neck armor
– the helmet was called the Bascinet which had a skirt of mail called an aventail to protect the neck. There was also a great helm, and a sallet.
– A Visor was a detachable piece of armor which protected the face and eyes
– ringed metal plates over the fingers.
– Spurs were attached to the heel by straps and used to ‘spur’ the Knights horse on in battle. The spurs became a symbol of knighthood
– A robe, with a belt around the waist, was placed over the body armor. The surcoat was emblazoned with the cote of arms or device of the Medieval Knights in order for identification purposes
– A Dagger and Sword were attached to the Knights belt
– Carried in defence and displaying the Knights heraldic blazon, by the 15th century these were getting smaller and smaller as the armor became more incasing until they disappeared altogether.
Sources: Museum of French Art, French Institute. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Credit: www.jstor.org & “Arms and Armor”: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, v. 32, no. 4 (1973–1974)
- In the Accounts (formerly kept in the Chamber des Comtes at Paris), of Maître Hemon Raguier, Treasurer of War, there is an item relating to this suit of armor: ..."To the Master Armorer, for a complete harness for the said Pucelle, 100 livres tournois."... "
- Source - Olivier Bouzy,"Jeanne d'Arc, Mythes et Réalités", Atelier de l'Archer.
- (small round 'shields' laced to the mail at the shoulder to defend the armpit.)
- (Proce's: Vol. Ill, pp. 96-97.)
- (Le Cabinet d'Artnes de Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigovd. Paris. Rouveyre, 1901.)
- (it has been cited by Mr. Lang in his life of Jeanne d'Arc)