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Inside view of a Brigandine, Italian (c1470).
«Saint Michael and the Dragon» with Sword & Buckler, wearing brigandine with plate armour for hand and legs
Modern reproduction of a 15th century brigandine . Similarly, the canvas is generally covered with a richer material, such as velvet, leather or, somewhat more modestly, fustian.

A brigandine, a form of body armour, is a cloth garment, generally canvas or leather, lined with small oblong steel plates riveted to the fabric. The form of the brigandine is essentially the same as the civilian doublet, though it is commonly sleeveless. However, depictions of brigandine armour with sleeves are known. Many brigandines appear to have had larger, somewhat 'L-shaped' plates over the lungs. The rivets, or nails, attaching the plates to the fabric are often decorated, being gilt or of latten and often embossed with a design.



Brigandines were essentially a refinement of the earlier coat of plates, which developed in the late 12th century and typically were of simpler construction and used larger plates. Brigandines first appeared towards the end of the 14th century, but survived beyond this transitional period between mail and plate, and came into wide use in the 15th century, remaining in use well into the 16th. 15th century brigandines are generally front-opening garments with the nails arranged in triangular groups of three, while 16th century brigandines generally have smaller plates with the rivets arranged in rows.


It was commonly worn over a gambeson and mail shirt and it was not long before this form of protection was commonly used by soldiers ranging in rank from archers to knights. It was most commonly used by Men-at-arms. These wore brigandine, along with plate arm and leg protection, as well as a helmet. However, even with the gambeson and the mail shirt, a wearer was not as protected as when wearing plate, which was typically more expensive. The brigandine filled this gap very well. Brigandine was simple enough in design for a soldier to make and repair his own armor without needing the high skill of an armorer. A common myth is that brigandines were so-named because they were a popular choice of protection for bandits and outlaws.[1] This is untrue. Originally the term "brigand" referred to a foot soldier. A brigandine was simply a type of armour worn by a foot soldier. It had nothing to do with its alleged ability to be concealed by bandits. In fact, brigandines were highly fashionable and were ostentatiously displayed by wealthy aristocrats both in European and in Asian courts.

Similar types


Jack of plate

Jack of plate, English, c1580-90
Jack of plate, English or Scottish, c1590

A similar type of armor was the jack or jack of plate. This type of armor was used by common medieval soldiers and the rebel peasants known as Jacquerie.[2] Jacks were often made from recycled pieces of older plate armor, including damaged brigandines and cuirasses cut into small squares[3]

Jacks remained in use as late as the 16th century and was often worn by Scottish Border Reivers. Like the brigandine this comprised small iron plates sewn between layers of felt and canvas. The main difference is in the method of construction: a brigandine is riveted whereas a jack is sewn. Although they were obsolete by the time of the English Civil War many were taken to the New World by the Pilgrim Fathers as they provided excellent protection from Indian arrows; one dating back to 1607 was recently found at Jamestown.[4]

Modern flak jackets and ballistic vests are based on the same principle: a protective cloth vest containing metal plates.

The brigandine has been confused with the haubergeon, a similar form of body armour, as well as the brigantine, a swift small sea vessel.[5]

In India

Indian brigandine enforced by mirrour plates
Turkish hauberk combined with plates from a brigandine. Originally this would have been covered with expensive velvet.

The Indian equivalent of the Brigandine was the Chihal'Ta Hazar Masha, or "Coat of ten thousand nails:" a padded leather jacket covered in velvet and containing steel plates which was used until the early 19th century.[6] The skirt was split to the waist, enabling the soldier to ride a horse. Matching vambraces and boots containing metal plates were also used. It was derived from Islamic armor used by the Saracen armies. These were often elaborately decorated with gold lace, silk and satin and are highly-prized by European collectors. Tippoo Sultan wore armor of this type during his wars against the East India Company. The Turks used similar armor during the Russo-Turkish Wars. Two complete suits of armor are preserved in the Hermitage Museum, Leningrad.[7]

In the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King some of the Haradrim, a race of men based on the ancient Persians, wear similar armor.

See also


  1. ^ Edge and Paddock. Arms and Armour of the Medieval Knight. Saturn Books, London, 1996.
  2. ^ Barbara Tuchman. A Distant Mirror. Alfred A. Knopf, NY (1978). p. 155ff.  
  3. ^ Jack of plates: Evidence of recycling
  4. ^ Archaeologists uncover jack of plate at Jamestown
  5. ^ This article incorporates content from the 1728 Cyclopaedia, a publication in the public domain.
  6. ^ Rajput armor
  7. ^ [1] Robinson, H, Oriental Armor (2002)


Hans Memling triptych wing depicting brigandine, c 1470: [2]


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