Front Matter Early Times The Druids The Britons Caesar in Britain Queen Boadicea The Great Walls The Great Irish Saint The Anglo-Saxons Brave King Arthur The Laws of the Saxons The Story of St Augustine Three Great Men The Danish Pirates King Alfred and the Cakes Alfred conquers the Danes A King's Narrow Escape The King and the Outlaw The Monasteries An Unlucky Couple St Dunstan King Canute and the Waves A Saxon Nobleman Lady Godiva's Ride The Battle of Hastings The Conquest Lords and Vassals Death of William The Brothers' Quarrels Arms and Armour The "White Ship" Matilda's Narrow Escapes Story of Fair Rosamond Thomas a Becket Murder of Thomas a Becket Richard's Adventures Richard and the Saracens The Faithful Minstrel Death of Richard The Murder of Arthur The Great Charter The Rule of Henry III A Race Persecution of the Jews The Conquest of Wales A Quarrel with France The Coronation Stone The Insolent Favourite Bruce and the Spider Death of Edward II The Murderers punished The Battle of Crecy The Siege of Calais The Age of Chivalry The Battle of Poitiers The Peasants' Revolt Richard's Presence of Mind A Tiny Queen Henry's Troubles Madcap Harry A Glorious Reign The Maid of Orleans The War of the Roses The Queen and the Brigand The Triumph of the Yorks The Princes in the Tower Richard's Punishment Two Pretenders A Grasping King Field of the Cloth of Gold The New Opinions Death of Wolsey Henry's Wives The King and the Painter A Boy King Lady Jane Grey The Death of Cranmer A Clever Queen Elizabeth's Lovers Mary, Queen of Scots Captivity of Mary Stuart Wreck of the Spanish Armada The Elizabethan Age Death of Elizabeth A Scotch King The Gunpowder Plot Sir Walter Raleigh King and Parliament Cavaliers and Roundheads "Remember" The Royal Oak The Commonwealth The Restoration Plague and Fire The Merry Monarch James driven out of England A Terrible Massacre William's Wars The Duke of Marlborough The Taking of Gibraltar The South Sea Bubble Bonny Prince Charlie Black Hole of Calcutta Loss of the Colonies The Battle of the Nile Nelson's Last Signal The Battle of Waterloo First Gentleman of Europe Childhood of Queen Victoria The Queen's Marriage Wars in Victoria's Reign The Jubilee

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

Arms and Armour

The news of the sudden death of William Rufus no sooner reached his brother Henry, than he rode off in haste to Winchester, to take possession of the royal treasure. The keeper at first refused to let him have it, saying it belonged to Robert; but when Henry drew his sword, the poor man was forced to yield.

Henry I., the third Norman king of England, is surnamed Beauclerc, or the Scholar, because he was more learned than most men of his day. He had spent much of his time in study, and was proud of his knowledge, for he had once heard his father say, "Illiterate kings are little better than crowned asses." But although Henry knew many things, he never thought it worth while to be really good.

To win friends he treated the Saxons very kindly, restored the laws of Edward the Confessor, married Matilda, one of the last descendants of their old royal race, recalled Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, whom William Rufus had banished, and gave offices to many priests. But, while he made friends of the Saxons, many of the Norman barons refused to acknowledge him as their feudal lord, and joined Robert when he came home from Palestine. As Robert declared war, Henry collected his troops; but when the two armies came face to face, a peace was made. It was then settled that Henry should keep England, but should pay Robert a yearly sum of money.

Henry had no intention whatever of keeping his promises, and, hearing that his brother was not on good terms with the Normans, he determined to gain possession of their province also. He therefore crossed the Channel with a large army, and met and defeated his brother at Tinchebrai, in 1166. Robert was not only defeated, but carried off to Cardiff Castle. There his eyes were put out in the most cruel manner, and he was harshly treated until he died, twenty-eight years later.

After the battle of Tinchebrai, Henry took possession of all his brother's estates. But although he was now master of both England and Normandy, he was far from happy, for his conscience troubled him. Hoping to atone for the wrong he had done, he built a beautiful abbey at Reading; but as this did not appease his remorse, he tried to forget his wrongdoing by keeping very busy. It was easy to find plenty to do, for the King of France had taken Robert's young son under his protection, and was trying to recover Normandy.

The war was therefore resumed, but even in one of the worst encounters, the battle of Brenneville, the English lost but three men. All the rest escaped death, owing to their fine armour, which no weapon could pierce. The armour of those days, of which you can see fine specimens in the principal museums, consisted of a helmet, or steel hat, with a visor, or iron grating which could be drawn down over the face. This helmet fitted so closely upon the coat of mail, which covered the body, that there was no crevice through which an arrow, or the point of a sword or dagger, could be inserted.

The coat of mail was composed either of iron plates, of tiny steel links closely woven together, or of small plates like scales screwed together, and was hence called either plate, chain, or scale armour. Steel gauntlets, leggings, and shoes, a sword, a battle-ax, a shield, and a huge lance generally completed the outfit of a warrior.

As the armour was very heavy, the knights had to be very strong; and as the horses were also covered with armour, they were trained to bear great weights. But although it was hard to find a joint in the armour through which to wound a knight, it was possible for an adversary to unhorse him by riding hard against him and tumbling him over backward out of his saddle by a blow of a lance.

Man in Armour.


A knight thus unhorsed, and lying on his back, could not rise without help, owing to the great weight of his armour, and consequently he was at the mercy of his enemy. The latter could either kill him, or take him prisoner and keep him in captivity until he had paid a sum of money, which was called ransom.