At Days of Knights 2017. © Joe Metz 2017
Brigandine is a type of body armour consisting of numerous, small, rectangular, overlapping, steel plates riveted to a textile shell resembling a sleeveless doublet. As with many other forms of armour, surviving examples vary by date and region, but many had a pair of larger 'L-shaped' plates centered over the upper chest, which were known as lung plates. The rivets, or nails, were commonly arranged in triangular groups of three. Brigandine spaulders are regularly depicted in period artwork; however, no examples are known to have survived.
Contrary to popular opinion, the name does not come from a perceived popularity with outlaws. A "brigand" originally referred simply to a foot soldier [brigand (Fr.) a foot soldier. From brigante (It.): brawler, fighter]. In fact, more expensive versions had richly-dyed velvet cloth exteriors and sometimes even decorative gilt nails. Such examples were popular with individuals of higher social classes.
Although not quite as protective as a solid plate cuirass, the brigandine's overlapping steel plates allowed the wearer considerably more movement and flexibility. This feature made it a favorite of many men-at-arms, who often wore it with plate arms and legs. The brigandine was also used by mounted knights; a number of surviving examples were equipped with lance rests.
My brigandine was made by by Ashley Barber of Armour Services Historical in Essex, England and is a reproduction based on examples in the Royal Armouries collection in Leeds. The exterior is made of a heavy wool fabric dyed a deep green color. The interior consists of well over a hundred hand-tinned, spring steel plates attached to the fabric shell by approximately 1,000 decorative punched rivets of tinned steel. It is closed in the front with hand-forged steel buckles. The spaulders are attached to the brigandine by points through sets of tinned bronze eyelets.
Brigandine (1470), Italy. Object number III.1665 in the Leeds War Gallery. Purported to have come from a chateau in Southern France.