The Chainmail was the earliest form of metal armor worn by the average soldier during the Middle Ages. Chainmail was a flexible armor which was made from interlinked metal rings. The word 'chainmail' was an English combination of two words. 'Chain' meaning a series of metal rings or links fitted into one another to make a flexible ligament and 'mail' from the French word "maille" which is derived from the Latin "macula" meaning "mesh of a net". Chainmail is also referred to by derivatives of the word such as:
- Chain armor
- Ring armor
In the early feudal period of the Middle Ages a knight wore a cloth or leather tunic covered with iron rings or scales, and an iron cap with a nose guard. About the beginning of the twelfth century he adopted chain mail, with a hood, or coif, of the same material for the head.
It is believed that chainmail was invented by the Celts. Chainmail history dates back to antiquity and was adopted by the Romans after they realised its potential after fighting the celts. A vatiety of materials were used to make chainmail including brass and iron but the most popular material was steel. In the 14th century, plate armor began to replace the chainmail worn by knights. However the chainmail was not completely disgarded by the Knights who continued to wear a shirt of chainmail beneath plate armor to protect the joints and the groin. Plate armor was extremely expensive and the average soldier during the Middle ages still used chainmail as their most effective form of protection. The history of chainmail shows its decline and use with the invention of the musket in 1520 and the subsequent use of gunpowder in variuos weapons.
Chainmail armor provided protection against being cut by the opponents blade. It was effective against the sharp points and blades of the spear, axe and sword. It helped to prevent the skin being pierced stopping the fatal infections which often followed such injuries. Chainmail armor was ineffective against heavy blows from a blunt weapon. A padded, or quilted, garment known by various names such as Aketon, Arming coat, Doublet, Gambeson, Hacketon was worn in conjunction with chainmail as a form of additional defence. These garments consisted of a quilted coat which was either sewn or stuffed with linen or even grass. This served as padding for additional armour worn over the top. Shirts made of chainmail weighed up to 25 kilograms, depending on the size and the number of chainmail garments worn.
Chainmail Hauberk and other garments
The word chainmail refers to the material of the armor. Various clothes and garments were made from the chainmail material. Each piece of chainmail was fashioned specifically for whichever part of the body it was
intended to protect.
- Chainmail Hauberk - A hauberk was a knee-length shirt made of chainmail
- Haubergeon - A haubergion was a waist-length shirt
- Chausses and Sabatons - Chausses and Sabatons were socks made of chain mail
- Chainmail coif - A coif was a hood, protecting the head
- Camail - A camail was the chain mail collar which hung from the helmet
- Mitons - Mitons were the mittens worn to protect the hands
The Advantages of Chainmail
The advantages of using chainmail a protection during the Middle Ages were as follows:
- It was flexible
- Easy to Make
- Easy and fast to repair
- Cheap and easy to fit many men, of all sizes
- Allowed ease of movement
Making chainmail during the Middle Ages was undertaken by the blacksmith. Making chainmail armor involved the linking of iron or steel rings, the ends of which were either pressed together, welded or riveted. The rings were formed when they were stamped out of a sheet of iron and then used in alternate rows with riveted links.
The demand for chainmail during the period of the Middle Ages was substantial. Each piece of mail was fashioned specifically for whichever part of the body it was intended to protect. Chainmail patterns were used for creating this type of armor, resembling a modern knitting pattern. There was a basic chainmail pattern used for each part of the body it was intended to protect. Sizing was easily accomodated by the addition of extra rings. The most common form of chainmail patterns was the "four-in-one" pattern in which each link had four others linked through it.
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