A gambeson is essentially a padded vest. It is made out of linen and quilted with cotton, wool,
horsehair,... This adds up in a fairly thick coat, usefull in a number of ways.
It fulfils several important functions.
- In the first place, it serves as a support for the weight of the hauberk. The gambeson spreads the weight much better
on the shoulders.
- Secondly, the gambeson assures that the rings of the hauberk stay at a safe distance from the skin. This avoids
nasty wounds in combat.
- And finally, the gambeson acts as a cushion to absorp blows.
One should differentiate between gambesons worn with or without a hauberk. It is known that
primarily footsoldiers who had no hauberk, wore thicker gambesons. They could not rely on the better protection provided
by the iron rings of a hauberk. So they made their gambesons thicker to gain in protectivity.
On the other side, it was not adviseable for those who owned a hauberk to have a realy thick
gambeson underneath. It would hinder their movements too much and also heat up too quickly. A gambeson of maille clad
knights around the year 1302 will not have been too thick for sure.
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