Wednesday, 6 January 2016

1405 Armour of sir Peter Courtenay

Whilst researching armour design for my Battle of Shrewsbury painting 
 I came across the Brass of Sir Peter Courtney which is situated in Exeter Cathedral

Born in 1346 he was the fifth son of Hugh de Courtenay, 2nd Earl of Devon and Margaret de Bohun.  He died in 1405.

 Sir Peter was a famous jouster and renown at the tourney. He was a knight of the shire, and  Chamberlain to King Richard II His principal seat being Hardington Mandeville, Somerset.

In 1367, after the Battle of Najera, both he and his brother  Philip were knighted by the Black Prince. The Battle, between the Anglo-Gascon army and Franco-Castilian forces, was fought in the province of La Rioja, Castileon on the 3rd of April.

Peter of Castile called "Peter the Cruel" had been locked in a civil war against his brother Henry of Trastámara (Spanish: Enrique II) for some time and it was Peter who had asked Edward, Black Prince, to give military aid in ridding him of his brother and restoring him to the throne.

With 24,000 men, Edward with John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster allied with peters forces marched south from Aquitaine.
The Anglo-Gascon army and crossed the river Ebro at Logroño and took control of the village of Navarrete, leaving a small garrison to keep control the rest of the force marched to Nájera.

It was soon clear that Edwards Anglo-Gascon army was outnumbered, Henry's Franco-Castilian army, having at least 60,000 men. Despite this, the English archers soon gained dominance over the French crossbows. Sir John Chandos, who commanded the English vanguard, lead his men under the pennon of St George to attack the French men-at-arms commanded by Du Guesclin and Arnoul D'Audrehem .

The Castilian cavalry now charged the English archers who proceeded to shoot into them causing disarray and confusion. Eventually under a hail of arrows, the horsemen fled the field which left the main body of Henry’s men vulnerable to attack from the English rearguard who had remained mounted.  Eventually the Franco-Castilian army retreated, being routed by the English.  Du Guesclin was again captured by the same English leaders, being earlier put in the same position by Charles of Blois at the battle of Auray in 1364, Bertrand was later reported to have been reluctant to face the English in a pitched battle having firsthand experience of the longbow, but he was overruled by Henry.

Henry however fled the field but Peters reign did not last long without the strength of his Anglo-Gascon army and with the withdrawal of English force, Henry soon regained control.

Sir Peter’s military career now took a nautical turn and in 1378 whilst on a naval expedition  under the command of Richard Fitz-Alan, 11th Earl of Arundel and William de Montacute, 2nd Earl of Salisbury, the fleet was attacked by Spaniards off the coast of Brittany.

Sir Peter and his brother were captured but were ransomed by two burgesses of Bristol.
He died on 2 February 1405 and was buried in Exeter Cathedral

Around the brass is inscribed;

"Devoniae natus, comitis (comes) Petrusque vocatus,
Regis cognatus, camerarius intitulatus,
Calisiae (Ecclesiae) gratus, capitaneus ense probatus,
Vitae privatus, fuit hinc super astra relatus,
Et quia (qua) sublatus, de mundo transit amatus,
Caelo (Coelo) firmatus (confirmatus), maneat sine fine beatus".

Which roughly translates as;

"Born of the Earl of Devon, called Peter,
A relation of the king with title "Chamberlain"
Beloved of Calais, a Captain proven by the sword
Deprived of life he was carried away hence above the stars
And where lifted up beloved he crossed from the world
Strengthened by Heaven may he remain blessed without end".

Sir Peters Armour

Sir Peter’s armour displays the transitional stages of the early 15th century. During this period, the textile jupon was removed revealing the cuirass beneath it. 

It is interesting to compare Sir Peters harness with that of Sir John Bettesthorne d1398 (I will feature this armour later in the year). 

The two harnesses differ very little; the helmet is a bascinet with mail aventail and apart from details the overall harness remains the same.

Sir Peter would have been familiar with this style during his lifetime and in his choice of Brass monument he (or his family) show an understanding of armour fashion changes during the beginning of the 15th century.

 Right; Sir John Bettesthorn showing textile Jupon

Sir Peters Bascinet. 
His head rests upon his Helm which has a crest in the form 
of a Ducal coronet with feathered plumes.

The helmet is a pointed bascinet with mail aventail which  is fitted to the bascinet via a series of studs known as vervelles. 

The mail was stitched to a leather strap that had holes punched into it. The position of the holes in the leather strap corresponded to the position of the vervelle studs so that it could be positioned on the bascinet, the vervelles protruded through the leather strap and a cord was passed through a hole in each stud thus holding the mail in place. 

The lower edge of the mail appears to have a dagged edging. beneath the mail is probably a padded cloth lining which holds the mail in its conical shape and more importantly aids protection from pointed weapons that would otherwise pierce the mail.  Examples of padded coverings for the aventail can be seen on various illustrations and a fine example of an external padded covering is seen on the Swiss effigy of Thurgau Walter von Hohenklingen 1386.
My illustration of Thurgau Walter von Hohenklingen 1386 showing padded aventail cover.

As with most brasses from this period no visor is seen but its shape would have more than likely been the pointed hounskull design. 

Left. My bascinet Showing Mail aventail and Visor. 

No clues are given on this brass as to visor fixings but for the period two methods could be used. 

Firstly, a pair of hinges that connected onto a smaller fixing plate could hold the visor that has studs positioned at either side of the helmet, this method enabled the visor to be removed by pulling the hinge pins out, (The studs and small fixing plate being left on the helmet).  

The second method was less common in England but some effigies and brasses suggest its usage was not unknown, the visor was fixed at a central point on the forehead via a hinge. This method was known as a clap visor.

Clapvisor showing central fixing

The main difference is the omission of the jupon, which allows us to see the breastplate and the set of lames (plates) that make up the fauld. 

Sir Peters cuirass consists of a breast and  back-plate, beneath this is a fauld that covers the front and rear of the body and hips. Each fauld consists of seven lames (plates) that may have hung freely on a leather skirt, being riveted on the top edge of each lame. The front and rear fauld could then be riveted to the cuirass and each part buckled at either side.

The omission of the jupon with its heraldic recognition could be seen as the decline of the chivalric codes in battle. Warfare was increasingly relying on the foot soldier and archer. The knight still played an important role as far as funding the army but only the wealthiest were considered suitable for ransoming, the lesser knights and men at arms being just as likely to be killed as the common soldier was.

Left. My Illustration of early 15th c  armour showing the method of riveting the fauld playes to a leather skirt. 

Arm protection consists of spaudlers, vambrace, rerebrace and couter. Gauntlets are of the hourglass design, the legs are protected by cuisses, poleyns, and greaves, the sabatons are pointed.

The leg protection consists of cuisses to protect the thighs. Poleyns to protect the knees and Greaves to protect the lower legs. All have a ridge running down the centre.
The sabatons are pointed and Rowel spurs can be seen. 

Right. My Cuisse and poleyn 

Left. My Greave and Pointed sabatons to protect the feet, Note the mail extending beyond the greave. Sir Peters armour shows the mail in a gap between the sabaton and greave .
Above Sir peters sabatons Note the Rowel spurs.

My sabaton Showing how the heal plate hinges open.

Sir Peter retains the decorative horizontal belt that was popularized during previous century. The belt consists of diamond shaped plates fixed to a leather backing. The sword and dagger are suspended from the belt. 

My belt showing round plates rather than diamond.

The information here will be used for an illustration of Sir Peter as he may have looked when living if he wore his early 15th century armour as depicted on his Brass monument.