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What did Brian Ború look like?

PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2012 10:30 pm
by brendan
Someone asked me what Brian Ború should look like.
I had at least a dozen answers but I am not happy with any of them really.
To narrow it down I am thinking of Brian Ború as he was on the eve of the Battle of Clontarf - a successful warrior turned king with great wealth and reputation.

Figuring out what he might look like is one thing but what did he wear? Would he wear armour - did that convey strength or weakness; what sort of clothing did he wear? - those sort of questions.

Any thoughts? (I have a few but don't want to muddy the water)


Re: What did Brian Ború look like?

PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2012 9:10 am
by Stephen Curtin
Well as Brian Boru never intended to fight at Clontarf (he was killed in his tent behind the lines of battle) I imagine he wouldn't have bothered with armour. He probably wore what everyone else wore at this time in Ireland i.e. a leine and brat, but made of finer materials, and with brighter colours, using more expensive dyes. Perhaps his leine was of imported silk, with golden thread embroidery at the neck, wrist, and hem, his brat made fine wool, lined with fur. He probably would have shown off his wealth a with fine silver broach, belt buckle, and other jewellery. Even though he was not engaged in the battle he would still have worn a sword, probably imported, like the one from Ballinderry crannog. If he had been a younger man and took part in the battle he would have armed himself with spear, and shield, and worn a mail shirt, and a helm. The sources often describe helms as being "crested" but I'm not quite sure what they would look like, but in my mind I imagine them as a contemporary spangenhelm with a crest of horse hair.

At least this is how I picture Brian Boru, but I could be wrong on something, I frequently am.

Re: What did Brian Ború look like?

PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2012 6:54 pm
by manfredsorg

The first one describes a royal tunic (page 143):
whereupon the king himself, Maelmordha, put his hand to the mast of the Ui Faelain, having a silken tunic which Brian had previously given him, which had a border [of gold] round it, and silver buttons ; the tunic was on him, and one of its buttons broke with the exertion.

The second describes the soldiers of Erinn before the battle of Clontarf (page 161f):

And these had for the purposes of battle and combat, above their heads, spears glittering, well riveted, empoisoned, with well-shaped, heroic, beautiful handles of white hazle; terrible sharp darts with variegated silken strings; thick set with bright, dazzling, shining nails, to be violently cast at the heroes of valour and bravery. They had on them also, long, glossy, convenient, handsome, white, neat, well-adjusted, graceful shirts. They had on them also, beautiful, many-coloured, Well-fitting, hand­some, well-shaped, well-adjusted, enfolding tunics, over comfortable long vests. They had with them also, great warlike, bright, beautiful, variegated shields, with bosses of brass, and elegant chains of bronze, at the sides of their noble, accomplished, sweet, courteous, eloquent clansmen. They had on them also, crested golden helmets, set with sparkling transparent brilliant gems and precious stones, on the heads of chiefs and royal knights. They had with them also, shining, powerful, strong, graceful, sharp, glaring, bright, broad, well-set Lochlann axes, in the hands of chiefs and leaders, and heroes, and brave knights, for cutting and maiming the close well-fastened coats of mail. They had with them, steel, strong, piercing, graceful, ornamental, smooth, sharp-pointed, bright-sided, keen, clean, azure, glittering, flashing, brilliant, handsome, straight, well-tempered, quick, sharp swords, in the beautiful white hands of chiefs and royal knights, for hewing and for hacking, for maiming and mutilating skins, and bodies, and skulls!

Re: What did Brian Ború look like?

PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2012 7:01 pm
by manfredsorg
In my opinion Brian would have worn a less flashy clothing.
He was praying when Brodir met him - and he thought Brian was a priest.
So perhaps he simply wore a fine white linen tunic with a belt - and a modest brat for warming himself (how cold is april in Ireland?).
Some warm woollen cloth with only a few golden stripes?

Being a bit old-fashioned he could have worn his golden royal brooch to fasten the brat.
And being an old man he probably wore some trews and Lukas type shoes.
How about a circlet? Perhaps laid aside for prayer.
And his sword? Perhaps imported but probably not viking - perhaps from France?

He surely looked royal - but only at second sight.
(just my two cents)

Re: What did Brian Ború look like?

PostPosted: Thu Nov 29, 2012 1:45 pm
by Celtic Britain
Perhaps he wore his hair in the fashion of CúChulainn and had three hair colours, four dimples in his cheek and seven pupils in his eye.
Why wouldn’t he have used a ‘Viking’ sword? Most of the Viking swords that remain were found in Irealnd and many other Gaelic kings probably used Viking swords next to the Viking axes.