Harness WS A2 in Vienna once belonging to Friedrich I, Elector of Palatine. Images taken from thesis of Matthias Goll.
I recently commissioned a new harness. I wanted to be as historically accurate as possible without having to pawn all of the wife’s heirlooms. I also hoped to find a complete harness rather than a composite one that had been assembled from multiple decades. That greatly reduced the number of options available. In the end I chose the harness once owned by Friedrich I, Kurfürst von der Pfalz, often referred to as Frederick the Victorious. Born in 1425 at Heidelberg, he was the son of Louis III, Elector Palatine.
Friedrich (1 August 1425, Heidelberg– 12 December 1476, Heidelberg) earned the surname “the Victorious” (der Siegreiche) shortly after he came to rule as regent for his nephew, Philip, after the death of his older brother in 1451, claiming to be the legitimate elector. The Emperor Frederick III refused to confirm his status as his actions violated imperial law. Friedrich, an able strategist, quickly allied himself with the Duke of Bavaria, and the emperor was unable to remove him. Through a series of subsequent encounters, Friedrich won against members of the emperor’s party such as the Elector of Brandenburg and archbishop of Mainz, which served to increase his territory. At the Battle of Seckenheim, Friedrich captured the bishop of Baden, Margrave of Baden-Baden and count of Wurttemberg.
Friedrich’s surviving armour was made for him by Tomasso Missaglia around the year 1450. It is currently on display in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria, and is in an almost perfect state of preservation—it is only missing its guardbrace (reinforcing plate over the left elbow) and gauntlets. The armour features the smooth and rounded surfaces characteristic of the Italian style; a complex but very flexible backplate; light pauldrons at the shoulders that lack reinforcing plates, and a deep fauld ending in shallow-pointed tassets.
I decided to forego the great bascinet that Friedrich wore and instead opted for an armet with reinforcing plate for jousting and perforated visor for the mêlée. I chose to reproduce the example in Zurich (LM 16807) also made by the Missaglia workshop during the same 1450-1455 timeframe. Finally, rather than attempt to re-imagine what the missing guardbrace might have looked like, I decided to have symmetrical couters (elbows) akin to the composite (BHM SBZ102) currently in the Historisches Museum, Bern, Switzerland. It, too, was made in the Missaglia workshop around 1455.