Equipping a Knight's Hospitaller

  Knights Hospitaller, 1050-1450

 This is a document that hopes to explain how to get by with the minimum amount of equipment that will see you from 1050 to 1450.
 If you have photos of any of the equipment or clothing here, please email them to John Looney, who will coordinate an online library of photos, and embed mini versions into this document.

 For medieval swords, please see Oakeschott's typology. For visuals, see http://livinghistory.ie/~valen/reenactment_pictures/osprey/

 1050 (effectively same as Hastings, pre-hospitaller)
  • soft kit:
    • split hose
      • Should have integral foot but can be omitted depending on footwear.
      • These should extend to about 6"/20cm above the knee.  they are gartered in place just below the knee.  The tops are rolled down over the garters.
    • Pipe braies
      • Baggy, Knee length and ugly.
    • White/cream shirt (Optional)
      • Short and relatively close fitting around the neck.
      • Possibly decorative stitching on the edges
    • Long under Tunic
      • Just above/Below the knee.  Ankle length is acceptable for Nobles/Clerics.
    • Long tunic
      • Same length or slightly LONGER than the under tunic (Long Under tunics are earlier time period to show off tablet weave)
    • TODO: shoes
  • Aketon
    • Same length or slightly longer than Hauberk
  • Short-sleeved hauberk
  • Nasal spangenhelms
  • Viking style sword or lance
  • Teardrop shield

 1160 (Norman invasion of Ireland, early Hospitallers)

  • "Soft" kit Same as 1050. 
    • TODO: Cross usage and colours to be clarified with photos
    • Black monks robes (cappa) over hauberk
  • 'International' style sword, longer than viking, long quillions
  • One piece conical helmets and early flat-top helms
  • Flat-top kite shield
  • Optional mail aventail


  • "Soft" kit changes;
    • Split hose are longer, extending full length of leg with "peaks" up at front or side which may be tied off to a belt. 
    • Underclothes should be a plain white/off white colour.  This is not standard for the time in general but is standard for the Hospitallers.  Includes Undertunics, Hose etc.
    • Simple white linen coif for head covering is essential
    • TODO: cross usage to be clarified with photos
  • Small slightly round-top kite shields and 'heater' shields
  • More mail; (integral) mittens, legs, 
  • Long black sleeveless tabard replaces monks robes around 1240
  • Leather chausses on thighs
  • Sleeveless gambeson over mail
  • Aventails on their own are passé
  • 'Face helms' - domes with a single ventilated plate on the front, 'Casques' like the pepper pots, and 'cerveillere' helmets under a coif.

 1275 (as 1250 with)

  • Soft kit changes;
    • TODO: full clarification of soft kit
    • Cloth coif and head covering is essential
  • Knights now allowed wear a red surcoat/jupon to differentiate them from sergeant-at-arms
    • Need to clarify cross usage with photos
  • Padded chausses protect down to the knees, optionally add simple dished poleyns

 1305 (as 1275, with)
  • Red surcoat/jupell now worn by all
  • Mail mittens start to transition to crafted leather or steel-splint gauntlets
  • hardened leather greaves/vambraces now worn, perhaps scale or splint covered in fabric or leather

  • TODO: verify all soft kit & cross
    • Cloth coif and head covering is essential
    • A full knight of prior status would have had a robe with 4 trims of fur to the value of 40 shillings - this is formal gear and not really battlefield wear
  • Light aketon
  • Coat of plates under mail OR hardened leather breast & back plates over mail (at sea)
  • Padded chausses
  • Leather or leather-covered-splint greaves and sabatons
  • Scale (latten or leather) 'bishops mantle' to protect shoulders (or cheat like me and sew leather to aketon)
  • Proper deep poleyns
  • Crafted leather or steel gauntlets
  • Hauberk
  • Red jupell/surcote with huge white cross
  • Helms often have movable visors
  • Initial foray into pole-arms like the glaive and guisarme
  • http://picasaweb.google.com/john.looney/HistoricalPhotos/photo#5185319756957711554

  • TODO: verify all soft kit & cross
    • NOTE: There was a move away from standardised uniforms at a point in time.  Need to check this.
  • For the weathy:
    • At least half-plate, mail voiders, skirt & standard, arming jack or jupon
    • Rounded 'classical greek' shields
    • warhammers, two handers, polearms
  • For the not-so-wealthy
    • Jack or heavy gambeson & chausses without mail
    • Maybe a dodgy breast plate
    • Jack chains on the arms
  • Decent gauntlets; no more hardened leather
  • Helms like the sallet and armet
  • Short red & white surcote ? (TODO: verify)
  • http://picasaweb.google.com/john.looney/HistoricalPhotos/photo#5185320628836072738

 The Challenge

 How does one buy kit so that one can cover all these events ?

Start simple:

  • Are you depicting the soldier at war or at rest/peace?
    • War means a focus on hardware.  Soft kit is important but is effectively hidden by the hardware.
    • At peace means that you need little more than the military paraphenalia to depict rank.
  • Soft Kit
    • What was appropriate for a person of the rank depicted for the time period?
    • What are the easiest bits to get together:
      • A cappa (Monk's robe) hides a multitude but is specific in usage
      • Undergarments are the best place to start: Hose, Braies, undertunic for the period
  • Hardware
    • Armour in order of acquisition
      1. Hauberk, heavy aketon, nasal helm. This is the basis for kit from 1050 to 1275, and can be used for Gallowglass.
      2. A kettle hat (pot helm) is a good low-status helmet from 1011 to 1945, though you might be into arguments if you use it before 1250. So, you need a helm that'll do you from 1100 to 1250; face helm, great helm or a cervalliere.
      3. Next, you need a sleeveless gambeson, for 1200-1300. Add detachable sleeves with sewn-on jack-chains, and it's perfect for 1375-1500!
      4. Next, get a coat of plates for going over a light gamby or aketon for 1280-1400. If you make sure that the coat of plate is covered in buff leather not red/blue dye, so you can re-use it under a Kern's doublet or even a Viking tunic as light leather armour.
      5. If you have a long-sleeved hauberk, cut the sleeves down, and you could reuse the mail to make up mittens. Though they are supposed to be integrated with the hauberk, it's not practical with heavy butted mail. You need a decent set of plate gauntlets for 1300-1500; there is no way to escape that. Get mitten ones, or heavy fingered ones if you want to do glaive work.
      6. Padded chausses are easy to make, and are usable from 1250-1500.
      7. If you go for a red jupon, you can add short, baggy sleeves, which can hide leather or plate shoulder pieces that are slightly out of period.
      8. From 1280, greaves and bracers are fine. These can be leather with strips of steel behind them, or hardened leather. By 1400, they really should be steel plate, or bare legged. If you have leather greaves/bracers that are out of period, wear them under clothing for protection.
    • Weapons
      • As standard for the period.  BUT if you are depicting a Knight or someone of similar status then you should have the best gear available at a point in time. 


 Appendix A: Clarification of terms

 Jupon: light coat, three or four layers of cotton or linen, top layer a fine cloth. The 'jupell' is a quilted version.
Aketon/Cotun: light to medium padded coat, usually worn under mail, usually down to mid-thigh. 'Tubular' effect from stuffed tubes of heavy linen or cotton.
 (Public domain image copyright has expired ref wikipedia: Aketon)

Cappa: A hooded robe as worn by Knights Hospitaller circa 1230
 (self made image for general public distrubution provide credit to authour Paul "Monkey" Brangan is included)
Gambeson: Medium padded coat, worn over mail, coming just below the waist. Stuffed in squares, and quilted to give better flexibility
(note cross on shield is incorrect and should be a malteese cross as shown in cappa image.)
(self made image for general public distrubution provide credit to authour Paul "Monkey" Brangan is included)

 Jack: heavy padded coat, made from layers of linen so there are no 'weak points' without stuffing, usually to below the waist.
 Helmet: Gives protection to some of ones head

 Helm: Gives almost complete protection for the head & neck

 Kettle hat: wide-brimmed helmet in the shape of a hat, used in European armies from 1011 to 1950
(self made image for general public distrubution provide credit to authour Paul "Monkey" Brangan is included)
Random Images relevant too guide:
1250 Knights hospitaller sergant (note cross on shield is incorrect and should be a malteese cross as shown in cappa image.)
(self made image for general public distrubution provide credit to authour Paul "Monkey" Brangan is included)