Wednesday, 5 August 2015

14th century Maille Braies. Brayettes

It has often been said that the one spot a knight was vulnerable was between his legs. Early armour consisted of maille which covered the body,during the 11th to 13th century a  long hauberk  covered the body area and reaching down to the knees making it difficult to strike the groin area between the legs. The legs were protected by maille chausses which tied up at the waist.

During the 14th century the long maille coat became shorter and plate armour began to protect the legs. Chausses were still worn but the private parts became more vulnerable.

Throughout the medieval period underwear had been worn. Braies were a form of undergarment that looked very similar to modern boxer shorts but were cut very differently. They were usually worn with cloth chausses or hose, all being tied to the clothing at the waist. 

Many types of braies, chausses and hose were not intended to be covered up by other clothing, so they were not considered as underwear and many period illustrations show the cloth garments being worn whilst working outside in fields.

As with other types of armour the fashions of the period dictated the shape and form of the knights protection.  When needed Maille braies or brayettes were donned when wearing armour. They were used to protect the groin area from blows and blade cuts and often took the form of a kind of diaper folding around the waist and between the legs and tying up to a belt. The cloth hose or chausses were 

Extant maille braies are rare, 15th century examples can be found in the Royal armouries, illustrations from this period show this type of garment combined with armour but prior to the 15th century we need to look at period images and sculptures to get an idea how they looked.

In 1420 the Louvre inventory of Charles VI lists mail cuisses, and Edward II had 7 pair of mail chausses and 5 pair of mail cuisses. This type of cuisse can often be seen on effigies combined with braies

To see an Image of 15th century braies click below, then the back button to come back to this page.

Early braies are usualy found on effigies and a 14th century example can be seen on the effigy of Gruffydd ap Dafydd Goch in St Michael’s Old Church Betws-y-Coed.  Maille can clearly be seen on his effigy between his legs.

Gruffydd himself fought under the Black Prince, son of Edward III at the battle of Poitiers in 1356, lived nearby at Fedw Deg, and died circa 1370-80. Gruffydd was also the foreman of a jury set up in Trefriw to report to Edward, the Black Prince (son of King Edward III) about matters such as rent and land. 

The maille that is depicted on his effigy is well made with deep carving that shows the form of the maille rings. It has been suggested that the area between the legs show chausses but a strap can be seen running around the back of the upper inner thigh and no maille appears on the leg.

Other examples from the 14th century include an effigy in Much Marcle church which clearly shows mail between the legs. The effigy was originally believed to be of Hugh, Lord Audley and his wife Isolde Audley,1325. Also the effigy of Gerard van Berg Altenburg, Germany 1360. and Adolf III von der Mark Pfarrkirche St.Mariä Himmelfahrt, Kleve, Germany 1400 .