District 186 || District School Sites || Teacher Resources

Elizabethan England

Decorative Armor

by LaDaryl Hale and Zak Manes

The Elizabethan Period was known for many special things, but probably one of the most intriguing was the armor of that period. The armor of that period was used mainly for decoration in parades and ceremonies - not for protection purposes in war.

Armor is mostly associated with the Middle Ages, but during the Elizabethan Period armor existed as a form of art. For instance, during the 1300's and 1400's, chain mail served as a major form of protection. Suits of chain mail covered the the knights from head to toe - protecting them from swords and other sharp weapons. The knights also wore helmets which protected them. Most of the helmets were decorated with beautiful art and designs, which caught the eyes of all who viewed them. In the following centuries, the weaponry used in battle became larger and more dangerous, thus causing chain mail to become less and less effective in times of war.

The next step in armor was plates of steel that only covered soldiers' chests, knees, and thighs. Gradually, into the late 1400's and early 1500's, many more soldiers turned to full body plate armor. Even though the head-to-toe steel plating was relatively heavy, it provided excellent protection in battle along with a major factor of intimidation.

During the Elizabethan Period, spanning from the late 1500's to the early 1600's, the main objective of armor makers was to make the suits more and more elaborate with decoration. As displayed in the picture of the blue and gold armour worn by Charles I, the extent to which the decoration reached in the Elizabethan Period was magnificent. Armorers would work hand in hand with artists and designers to create the suits of protection for kings and nobility.

One of the factors which made a difference in how elaborate one's armor would be was how much money he had. Full body armor of this period cost great sums of money. For one suit of armor, many men paid an armorer as much as a small farm.

Most of the suits of armor contained around ten or eleven different pieces. All these pieces had different functions: the crinet was the neck piece; the solleret, the knight's shoe; the greave, the shin guard; and all the other pieces covered and protected the soldier's body.

Even though armor was still being made at a high rate in the Elizabethan Age, it was not used for battle in that time. The use of guns and new weapons bsed on gunpowder caused the use of armor to be limited to decorative purposes. The Elizabethan Period was filled with many attractive things, and decorative armor was one of those things that made this period great. Armor that had served at one time as the primary form of protection in battle was still being honored for its mystique and beauty in an age in which it became virtually useless. It had protected many kings and many great warriors of the Middle Ages, and if it had not been for the armor, many important lives would have been lost.


Works Consulted

Coggins, Jack. The Fighting Man. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1966.

This book gives detailed descriptions of the methods of fighting for every era of time. It explains the different roles of the armour in the Elizabethan Period.

*Vessey, Norman. Arms and Armour. London: Octopus Books Limited, 1964.

This book gives a great detailed outlook on the armour of the Elizabethan times. It shows great pictures of the amour used by many wealthy knights. Photographs of Henry VIII and other nobility are pictured in their armour.

"Weaponry and Armor." The World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia . CD Rom. Chicago: World Book Inc., 1995.

This article notes the different changes in armor from the 1400's through the 1600's. It depicts the uses of armor in every and includes information on century - German, Italian, and English armor.

Wilkinson-Latham, Robert. Antique Weapons and Armour. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1981.

This book gives excellent pictures of the different styles of armor from the different parts of the Middle Ages and includes great photographs of English armor from the Elizabethan Age.

Wise, Terence. Medieval Warfare. New York: Hastings House, 1976.

This book includes excellent descriptions of war during the Elizabethan Age. It is also a concise and authoratative survey of the methods of warfare during the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries.

*Woodward, G.W. King Henry VIII. Sussex (England): Pitkin Pictorials, Ltd., 1969.

Historical Figures and Events /Everyday Life /Arts and Architecture /Shakespeare and His Theatrre/About this Site / Links