Would a 13thC Anglo-Norman soldier be seen dead in a brat?

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Would a 13thC Anglo-Norman soldier be seen dead in a brat?

Postby Grey Wind on Thu May 03, 2012 10:08 pm

Hi guys,

My name's Dave Neville and I'm a member of Bran Dubh- we're a relatively new outfit based in Cork, Limerick (with Messrs. Trevor McCarthy and S. Shields) and in Kilkenny.

We portray Anglo-Norman infantry in Ireland c. 1250-1290 or thereabouts.

Currently getting my gear in order and on the subject of a cloak on campaign, it occurred to me that the Anglo-Normans have been in the country for several decades at this stage and that from the very beginning the leading nobility took Irish wives (Strongbow marrying Aoife for Leinster being a famous example) Furthermore you see the penetration of the Anglo-Normans deep into Gaelic territory in the early part of the 13th century, all the way to Kerry, deep into Connaught, though of course the conquest is incomplete and the frontiers are fluid.

So, basically my question is what would be acceptable elements of native Gaelic Irish dress to adopt while on campaign?
Would the Irish mothers of the leading barons and knights clothe their children in gaelic dress alongside the accepted 'English' styles?

My reasoning for this is the intermarriage aspect, the fact that by 1500 the Gaelic and Anglo-Irish lords have become nearly indistinguishable from each other (with the exception of when making appearances in Dublin or in the case of in English strongholds), that English soldiers are recorded as adopting Irish shoes and the brat/ mantle of the natives in the 16th century. I'm aware that Irish mantles were admired and considered warm even by the hostile Richard Stanihurst (quoted in Osprey's book on the Gallowglass)

In any case, please feel free to rip that hypothesis to ribbons! :D

I haven't touched the garment yet and still in the research phase but please feel free to sling your 2 cents in- plenty of knowledgeable folks on this forum, which is why I pose the question.

Cheers!
'Will no one avenge me of the injuries I have suffered from one turbulent priest?'
- Henry II, Duke of Normandy, Count of Anjou, 'Invincible' King of the English

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Re: Would a 13thC Anglo-Norman soldier be seen dead in a brat?

Postby finnobreanan on Tue May 08, 2012 12:43 pm

That is a really good question and I am interested to see some comments from those more knowledgable on this subject than I am.
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Re: Would a 13thC Anglo-Norman soldier be seen dead in a brat?

Postby brendan on Wed May 09, 2012 11:10 pm

Dunleavy talks a bit about Irish Mantles. For some reason I have managed to go all these years without owning a copy so you will have to check the details...
Stepping back, what do you mean when you say a "Brat"? Are you talking about 7 or 9 yards of fabric wrapped around you many times? That is what it used to mean in reenactment.
Also, the eternal question of what is the status you are depicting? A well off senior retainer of a lord or a stranger who has turned to being mercenary because he can't get any work? ...you mention the lords and their sons but even if they showed cultural exchange/contamination there is no guarantee that would work its way down to a possibly poor dependent.

So no answers from me, just questions :)
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Re: Would a 13thC Anglo-Norman soldier be seen dead in a brat?

Postby Grey Wind on Mon May 14, 2012 4:49 pm

Excellent questions none the less, and well worth exploring!

Well, when I said brat, I meant the traditional Irish style cloak that would be a historically accurate item of clothing, as opposed to something that would be impractical...


I've been thwarted numerous times this past week trying to get my hands on that book from the UCC library, but I shall renew my search anew... It's definitely in there somewhere....

Excellent point about the status, it's something that we're trying to hammer out constantly amongst ourselves - never a bad thing to remind ourselves of what status we are depicting after all! We originally intended to portray the type of men who usually engage in mercenary work, but depicting a typical Anglo-Norman knight's followers is rather an attractive prospect to me. It's far less nebulous for one thing... For the time being, the lower end of the scale is more accessible, I think.
Sorry, rambling off topic a bit there :D

Thanks for the input! The right questions point us to more questions, but that's no bad thing :D
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Re: Would a 13thC Anglo-Norman soldier be seen dead in a brat?

Postby brendan on Mon May 14, 2012 4:56 pm

If you are going for low end of the scale then you are probably NOT going for the full Irish Mantle. That was a major export item and highly valued.
Simplest cloak you can make is a rectangle, ideally of two pieces of narrow loom wool (though you can cheat this by sewing a fake seam half way across the wool. Wash at a high temperature first and it will felt up and become water resistant
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Re: Would a 13thC Anglo-Norman soldier be seen dead in a brat?

Postby Grey Wind on Mon May 14, 2012 5:57 pm

For time being, I think I'll probably leave it and wear something more generic.... Though I'd certainly love to have one at some point in the future when time and budget permit!

A water resistant cloak would be rather useful! When I get my material delivered (hopefully soon) I can kick into it properly. Any idea how much shrinkage would occur at a high temp?
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Re: Would a 13thC Anglo-Norman soldier be seen dead in a brat?

Postby brendan on Mon May 14, 2012 6:03 pm

If I remember right 10-15% is about as bad as it gets...though I never go above 60 degrees for prewash and 30 degrees after

Have you figured out your suppliers for padded armour etc?
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Re: Would a 13thC Anglo-Norman soldier be seen dead in a brat?

Postby Grey Wind on Tue May 15, 2012 6:58 pm

That's not too bad.... Will experiment very carefully soon!
Cheers for the advice, Brendan :)

At the moment I'm rather broke so I haven't been looking at getting own personal gambeson yet, though the group as a whole has access to about 15 gambesons courtesy of Trevor McCarthy (they're the property of Kilmallock town council, but since that council was more or less dissolved, they're in some guy's custody and Trevor has arranged a loan of them whenever they're needed)

I looked at Steel-Mastery a good while ago and they seemed reasonable, must check out Matuls again. I know you said they were pretty heavy duty, which sounds good!
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Re: Would a 13thC Anglo-Norman soldier be seen dead in a brat?

Postby brendan on Wed May 16, 2012 12:14 am

Have a look at weight when you get to buying, matuls heavy ones are about 3kg...not so much but the helm etc stacks on that
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Re: Would a 13thC Anglo-Norman soldier be seen dead in a brat?

Postby Grey Wind on Wed May 16, 2012 12:28 am

Ah, indeed, hadn't given the weight that much thought.... It's been a while since I wore a gambeson (Flags, I think) but the weight always takes some getting used to whenever I do wear one...

Completely off topic and out of period, but was that a coat-of-plates or brigandine you had at Flags this year? Looked the business, if I may say so.
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