16th Century Shields

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Re: 16th Century Shields

Postby Stephen Curtin on Wed Jul 13, 2011 11:24 pm

Well I'm not sure how reliable this is but I stumbled across this entry for hobilars at Wikipedia.

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobelar

It goes into a bit of detail about the equipment of hobilars in English service. The English adopted hobilars from the Irish, so native Irish equipment was probably the same, but nowhere is there a shield mentioned as used by hobilars. This along with the lack of reliable pictural evidence has led me to believe that they didn't use shields, and that Derricke got this detail wrong, which really isn't a surprise.
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Re: 16th Century Shields

Postby Daithi on Fri Oct 05, 2012 10:02 am

I've done a little bit of work on late 16th Century English forces and there is not one single reference to shields for Light Horse ever. Musters of Border Horse in England do list shields BUT I've yet to come across a reference in the Privy Council papaers from about 1570 to 1610 to Border Horse being levied for service in Ireland. There are an average of 6 Targeters in English Footbands being raised for service in Ireland and Europe and musters do sometimes number as many as 12. In this case the targe was either wood covered in leather or steel. The Targeteer was armed with a full corslet and burgonet with a basket hilted, close hilted or Irish hilted sword with a "goodie turkie blade" and a dagger.
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Re: 16th Century Shields

Postby Stephen Curtin on Sat Oct 06, 2012 1:38 am

Hi Daithi, and thanks for the info, if you don't mind could I bother you for a little more. The average of 6 targeteers per footband raised for service in Ireland and the continent you mentioned, how many men in total would these bands usually have? Are some the shields used by these targeteers actually described in these records as being made of wood + leather, because I would love
to see a reference to non metal targes/targets in use in Britain at this time.

So as far as you know, English light horse of this period were not equipped with shields, while border horse, who were not sent to Ireland had, this seems to be more evidence that Derricke may have gotten a few things wrong. Could you tell me anything more about the the shields mentioned as used by these border horsemen, and by which word are they referred to as e.g. shield, targe, target, buckler etc.

Thanks in advance for any more help.
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Re: 16th Century Shields

Postby Daithi on Sat Oct 06, 2012 11:38 am

In general, the Foot band consisted of between 200 to 100 men, less dead pays, under the command of a Captain. Under him were normally a Lieutenant, Ensign, 2 sergeants, 2 drummers, and 3 Corporals. Added to that was a preacher, a surgeon and a cannoneer. Allowing for Dead pays, where permitted, that gave you between 180 to 90 men per foot band. Levies ordered Foot bands of 40 shot, 20 corselet, 20 Bows and 20 halberds in 1587, or 47 pike, 23 musket and 24 caliver, leaving 6 men to issued targes of wood and leather during 1596, or 20 pike, 10 halberds, 40 calivers, 12 full muskets, 12 bastard musket and 6 targeteers in 1600.

The levies during September 1596 and January 1600 were very specific on the targes, being bought at Chester and clearly described as of wood covered in leather and that's the only two references I've come across.

The musters of Border horse are, if I remember correctly, pretty sparse and tend to just mention spear, shield and sword for example.

Derricke is nice, but close to fantasy, when depicting the English........
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Re: 16th Century Shields

Postby Stephen Curtin on Sat Oct 06, 2012 7:45 pm

Thanks a million Daithi, this has been very helpful.
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Re: 16th Century Shields

Postby Stephen Curtin on Sat Oct 06, 2012 11:14 pm

Daithi, I forgot to ask, what do you think was meant by "goodie turkie blade". My guess would be good Turkish blade. Also are the hilts described as being "basket hilted, close hilted, or irish hilted", or is this you describing to us the types of hilt which were in use at this time. Again thanks in advance.
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Re: 16th Century Shields

Postby Stephen Curtin on Tue Oct 09, 2012 12:35 pm

So yesterday I was reading a bit about the fíanna and it got me thinking about something John Looney said on page 1 of this thread. We were talking about the whether it's better to have a large or small shield when facing incoming javelins. Now my original thoughts were that a large shield would be better as it covered more of the body, but John mentioned that a small shield could be just as good because one could either try to dodge the javelins or if need be, the shield could used to bat them away. Now the dodging part I could believe, javelins travel through the air relatively slowly and with practice can even be caught in flight, but I wasn't sure about trying to bat them away with a shield. This is where the fíanna come in. The story goes that men wishing to become members of the fíanna had to pass a number of tests. One of these tests involved the wannabe member standing buried up to the waist, armed with a shield and a hazel rod. He then had defend himself against javelins being thrown by nine other men, being hit of course meaning failure. This to me suggests that it wasn't a large shield being used as all you would have to do is hide behind the shield and it wouldn't be much of a challenge, a small shield however would have to be manouvered around constantly to avoid getting hit, the fact that you were buried from the waist down of course stopping you dodging, so the javelins would have to be batted away.
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Re: 16th Century Shields

Postby brendan on Tue Oct 09, 2012 6:30 pm

I have seen John catching semi-sharp javelins so he does know what he is talking about. The trick is to leave it to the last second to step to the side and catch it. You can then throw it back.
I think a small shield is probably fine against a single opponent. However, if you are facing a half dozen (or 9) opponents throwing at the same time...I think I would want a larger shield.
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Re: 16th Century Shields

Postby finnobreanan on Tue Oct 09, 2012 8:08 pm

Armour and the Shield
From A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland 1906, By P. W. Joyce.

Shield.—From the earliest period of history and tradition, and doubtless from times beyond the reach of both, the Irish used shields in battle. The most ancient shields were made of wicker-work, covered with hides: they were oval-shaped, often large enough to cover the whole body, and convex on the outside. It was to this primitive shield that the Irish first applied the word sciath [skeé-a], which afterwards came to be the most general name for a shield of whatever size or material. These wicker shields—of various sizes—continued in use in Ulster even so late as the sixteenth century, and in the Highlands of Scotland till 200 years ago.

Shields were ornamented with devices or figures, the design on each being a sort of cognisance of the owner to distinguish him from all others. These designs would appear to have generally consisted of concentric circles, often ornamented with circular rows of projecting studs or bosses, and variously spaced and coloured for different shields. As generally confirming the truth of these accounts, the shields in the Museum have a number of beautifully wrought concentric circles formed either of continuous lines or of rows of studs; as seen in the illustration. Sometimes figures of animals were painted on shields.

Shields were often coloured according to the fancy of the wearer. We read of some as brown, some blood-red; while many were made pure white. This fashion of painting shields in various colours continued in use to the time of Elizabeth.

Hide-covered shields were often whitened with lime or chalk, which was allowed to dry and harden, as soldiers now pipeclay their belts. Hence we often find in the Tales such expressions as the following:—"There was an atmosphere of fire from [the clashing of] sword and spear-edge, and a cloud of white dust from the cailc or lime of the shields."

The shields in most general use were circular, small, and light, of wickerwork, yew, or more rarely of bronze, from 18 to 20 inches in diameter, as we see by numerous figures of armed men on the high crosses and in manuscripts, all of whom are represented with shields of this size and shape. I do not remember seeing one with the large oval shield. Specimens of both yew and bronze shields have been found, and are now preserved in museums. Shields were cleaned up and brightened before battle. Those that required it were newly coloured, or whitened with a fresh coating of chalk or lime: and the metallic ones were burnished—all done by gillies or pages.

The shield, when in use, was held in the left hand by a looped handle or crossbar, or by a strong leather strap, in the centre of the inside, as seen in fig. 27, above. But as an additional precaution it was secured by a long strap, called iris or sciathrach [skiheragh], that went loosely round the neck. When not in use, it was slung over the shoulder by the strap from the neck.

In pagan times it was believed that the shield of a king or of any great commander, when its bearer was dangerously pressed in battle, uttered a loud melancholy moan which was heard all over Ireland, and which the shields of other heroes took up and continued. The shield-moan was further prolonged; for as soon as it was heard, the "Three Waves of Erin" uttered their loud melancholy roar in response. (For the Three Waves, see chap. xxvi., sect. 9.)
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Re: 16th Century Shields

Postby Stephen Curtin on Tue Oct 09, 2012 11:28 pm

brendan wrote:I have seen John catching semi-sharp javelins so he does know what he is talking about. The trick is to leave it to the last second to step to the side and catch it. You can then throw it back.
I think a small shield is probably fine against a single opponent. However, if you are facing a half dozen (or 9) opponents throwing at the same time...I think I would want a larger shield.


Well AFAIK it doesn't say that the threw their javelins all at once, so it's possible that they might have taken turns. Let me just clarify something, when I said that using a large shield for this test wouldn't be much of a challenge I meant a shield of about three feet in diameter such as were used in the Viking age. As you would be buried from the waist down a shield of this size would pretty much cover the rest of your body, meaning that all you would have to do to pass the test is hide behind your shield. Also when I said a small shield I should have been more specific, and maybe I should have said a medium sized shield as I meant something in around the twenty inches mark. This would be around the same diameter as the Clonbrin shield from the bronze age and of later targes so I think that shields of this size might have been used all the way through history by the Irish and our Scottish cousins.
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