(About): Mid-15th Century Knight Gauntlets
Our Knight Gauntlets hark from the glory days of plate armor in the 15th-century, when complete garnitures of plate armor with interchangeable parts were ordered and made as unified, integrated armor systems. The new kind of society emerging in Late Middle Ages Europe had birthed new weapons of war and new forms of warfare, and these spurred light-speed advanced in armor technology, enabled by revolutions in trade and industry. Our Knight Gauntlets are the apotheosis of a new world: one in which the shining knight, clad all in a magnificent garniture of plate, would enjoy the briefest of supremacies.
Authentic Designs with Modern Convenience
The essence of our Knight Gauntlets is a matched pair of steel gauntlets with each finger and the wrist joint fully and independently articulated. They have been designed from the historical originals that appear around the second quarter of the 1400s CE as part of the first fully-integrated suits of armor that were designed and manufactured as one, functioning in efficient concert, rather than being designed and made as individual pieces of armor. The expert armorers at House of Warfare have selected 16-gauge mild steel as the material for our Knight Gauntlets. This is well within the bounds of historical accuracy for the period – although surviving examples of historical medieval battle tends to be a little lighter at around 18-20 gauge, thicker 16-gauge steel was the norm for tournament armor, with some heavily reinforced tournament pieces being made from 14 or even 12-gauge. This means that our Knight Gauntlets are much more rugged than contemporary analogues: a medieval knight would have had squires and armorers in their retinue at their beck and call to maintain their field armor; think of it as a track-day car with its own team of mechanics. Modern roleplayers and re-enactors generally don’t have squires that they can merely cast their dented armor off to, so slightly sturdier armor ensures that it will weather the knocks and bumps of use with aplomb.
The Knight Gauntlets in Detail
Our Knight Gauntlets are built around a pair of comfortable, resilient suede leather gloves, which are open at the palm and fingers for the maximum possible manual dexterity and grip. They make an excellent companion to any of our Darksword Armory swords, which have secure leather grips specially designed for use with gauntlets. The wrist-plate of our Knight Gauntlets is a cunningly curved piece of plate riveted at the wrist to form an enclosing and well-defended wrist-guard. Due to the articulation of the wrist joint, gauntlets of this period no longer had to have the flared hourglass-shaped wrist pieces seen on earlier unarticulated steel gauntlets, which had to be wide enough to accommodate the full range of movement. Now, they could be close-fitting and aesthetically streamlined – such as ours, which reach an elegant point to defend the forearm, with characteristic Gothic fluting to strengthen the steel. The wrist joint is made from four overlapping steel plates which have been hand-riveted to one-another with sliding rivets. This gives the wrist joint a complex multi-point geometry meaning that you’ll barely realise that you’re wearing armor at all. The back of the knuckles feature raised hardened studs known as gadlings – these were a knight’s secret weapon, functioning like a knuckle-duster and capable of delivering stunning blows with a surprise punch. Below the knuckle is another new development seen on plate gauntlets of this period, the ‘knuckle-rider’ plate. Although it appears very simple, this extra plate covering the join between the back hand and the knuckles permitted a much more complex articulation during which the joint remained wholly covered and protected throughout. The fingers of each Knight Gauntlet are articulated by individually riveting a row of metal scales to a thick leather mount, which is then sewn to the back of each glove finger. The result is highly-protective finger armor that has no contact between your hands and the metal, meaning you can wear them all day without nicks or rubs from hard metal. The tough suede glove it also kept firmly in place by a secure riveted leather strap across the palm. As well, the bottom edge of the wrist-guard plate steel has been rolled – not only does this make it even tougher and more resistant to scrapes, it also means that it won’t snag on clothing or other armor.
If you are looking for the perfect knight gauntlets for sale, then you need look no further. Our Knight Gauntlets are the perfect balance of historical accuracy and modern wearability. Aside from anything, they’re a fully-functional pair of hand protection gauntlets that will keep your hands safe amidst light combat, roleplay and re-enactment. They are designed to match our other Gothic-themed armor, such as our Gothic Leg Armor, but they’d go equally well with any of the steel or leather armors from our range. They are fully historically accurate, and so they would pass muster for even the most exacting depiction of a 15th-century German knight in traditional Gothic armor, but they can be used for so much more. You could use them in any armored fantasy roleplay outfit, such as a valiant paladin or dragon knight. No matter your outfit, we are confident that you will not find a finer pair of Knight Gauntlets for sale.
(History): The Knights That Never Were: Constructed Chivalry in Medieval Europe
It is one of history’s great ironies that our image of the ‘knight in shining armor’, of a warrior astride a steed clad head-to-foot in gleaming polished plate armor and questing for the favour this queen or that noble, is almost entirely anachronistic. By the time plate armor emerged in the mid-15th century CE, feudal relationships were already beginning to alter fundamentally, not least due to the impact on social ties between lord and peasant wrought by the unimaginable devastation of the Black Death. Unified harnesses of plate only began to be produced from the 1420s CE onward; by then, the relations that had governed medieval life for hundreds of years were loosening and disintegrating, forming new forms of social relationship that began to usher in the modern world. The knight-in-shining-armor was simultaneously its highest military product, and its most self-consciously ridiculous absurdity. If we delve into the contradictions of medieval knighthood, we can far better inhabit the medieval world.
The Origins of Knighthood
Knighthood has its origins in the early-medieval period, emerging out of the obscuring mists of the Dark Ages. The class of knights were associated from the very beginning with horses and horsemanship: a tradition of heavy cavalry in Western Europe has its origins in the Roman noble class the equites. Although this tradition was interrupted and punctuated across much of Europe, the Frankish armies began to maintain heavily armed elite cavalry, possibly in response to the invasions by the Islamic Ummayads of Al-Andalus. Although it seems odd to us, these were likely the first organised cavalry force in Western Europe to use stirrups, which had only been introduced to the region by various steppe peoples such as the Avars well after the collapse of the Roman Empire. The stirrup enormously increased the efficacy of cavalry, as it allowed the rider to ‘stand’ in the saddle and deliver the fully weight of himself and his mount behind a blow. Etymologically, whilst we get ‘cavalry’ clearly from the Old French ‘cheval’, or horse, ‘knight’ is somewhat less clear – it is believed to have originated in the Old German ‘knecht’, meaning a servant or bondsman; at the same time, the Old English word ‘cniht’ meant a boy. Thus, we can broadly guess that the concept of knighthood was from the beginning closely associated with servitude of one’s pledged lord. It should be intuitively obvious that these proto-knights were all wealthy and powerful men of their own right; the horses, chainmail armor and knight gauntlets required meant that poor peasants were very much out of luck.
Chivalry: A Partial Solution to Rampaging Knights
By around the 11th century, this class of wealthy French mounted nobles had begun talking on some of the more familiar aspects of medieval knighthood. In these knights, a heady mix of Christian theology, wealth and extreme violence met and mixed. If you think that sounds like a recipe for constant civil war, you’d be correct, and the Papal authorities sought to encourage a code of conduct which would regulate the constant violence amongst this class. This resulted in what is now known as ‘chivalry’, a code which attempted to instil what might be termed ‘regulatory’ behaviours – the ‘peace of God’, whereby knights would agree not to harm one another as fellow Christians, the elevation of women to positions of reverence, and strict religious practise.
These prescriptions, whilst sounding laudable in intention, played out in somewhat double-edge fashion. The ‘peace of God’ was likely very effective in limiting inter-communal violence between knights jockeying for position at court, as they were now subject to religious sanction for its violation – but it has been seen as one of the prime motivators of the Crusades, whereby those men (and they were indeed all men) whose profession was violence had nowhere to turn their energies but outside of the borders of Christendom. There can also be little doubt that medieval noblewomen did benefit somewhat from the status attached to them as objects of worship in the chivalric codes, enjoying some degree of desirability for their own political power, but as time went on, it reduced them to mere passive decorative objects and as means to an end in a political environment now wholly dominated by violent land-owning men.
The Duality of Knighthood
But this all very much assumes that chivalric rules were effectively adhered to. It is clear that none of these lofty ideals were even remotely applied to the mass of the peasantry, who likely viewed knights as little more than heavily-armed robbers. The chivalric manuals of the 14th and 15th centuries did not contain prohibitions preventing the mistreatment of peasant women, or the sacking of towns, as were both a common feature of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France. Jean de Venette, who witnessed the sacking of Poitiers in 1356 wrote that the English knights “subjected and despoiled the peasants and the men of the villages. In no wise did they defend their country from its enemies. Rather did they trample it underfoot, robbing and pillaging the peasant’s goods.” There is much to suggest that knights in the medieval period continued to behave much as you would expect a class of wealthy, armed men who were accountable only to their king to behave: terribly. It is of great irony that the writers and readers of the heroic epics of Roland, Arthur and Parzival would have been well aware of the enormous gap between the saintly figures depicted and the armed thugs who were supposed to be emulating them.
Thus, we can understand the last-hurrah of knighthood that emerged in the mid-15th century CE with the emergence of plate armor as a sort of fundamental re-casting of what knights were. The enormous gap between chivalric codes and the behaviour of those who wore knight gauntlets – so perhaps it was easy for medieval people to accept the continuation of knightly ideals, even as warfare became ever-less ritualised and medieval, and ever more modern. Whilst the medieval chivalric literature of the 1400s CE recast chivalry as an intellectual pursuit, as warrior-scholars, the ever-more spectacular armor of the period must surely have gone some way to resurrecting the hankered-after glory of an age of pure, innocent chivalry that never really existed. Thus, our Knight Gauntlets hold all of this conflicted and conflictual history within their palms. Wear them well and be aware of this dual history – if you can incorporate the dual-nature of the medieval knight into your re-enactment or roleplay, you’re already well on the way to inhabiting the medieval mind.
- Material: 16-gauge mild steel
- Secondary materials: Suede, leather
- Color: Brown
Overall Length: 16 Inches
Hand Width: 4 Inches
Wrist Width: 4 Inches
Glove Opening Circumference: 14 Inches
Index Finger Length: 3 Inches
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