The Greaves

The late 13th century was a time when armour started to change quite rapidly. Until then the maille hauberk was the primary means of protection. It started to move towards plate. One of the first visually recogniseable plate armour pieces were the greaves.


From KA XX, fol.158 r This miniature shows an early example of such greaves. Only the front of the lower leg is protected (apart from the knee cop). These plates could have been made from "cuir bouilli" or iron. Cuir bouilli is leather immersed in boiling water or hot wax and subsequently pressed in shape. It will harden while it cools down.

I myself chose an iron variant. My reconstruction is deliberately of a primitive nature. This is for two reasons so. First of all because this was a very new armour piece, not having reached its final shape by 1302. And secondly, I portray a knight of lowest nobility, who has almost no means of purchasing the best possible armour. Therefore he only has greaves that have no high grade finish.

From KA XX, fol.52 r It has to be pointed out here that most knights in 1302 did indeed wear maille chauses. During the Battle of Courtrai on July 11th the knights and other soldiers on Flemish side fought on foot. Maille chauses would hinder them. Therefore I think that those who had greaves would not have worn their maille chauses.



View from the back when 
strapped on.

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Copyright on text, images and photos by Joris de Sutter, unless noted otherwise.
The miniatures come from "Spiegel Historiael", Jacob van Maerlant, Den Haag KA XX, fol.158 r and fol. 52 r.
This information is provided by De Liebaart and was last updated on June 12th 2001.