As St. George’s day arrives we thought it would be interesting to learn what the knights inspired by our hero were wearing. But first a little interesting history.
St George is rather an enigmatic saint with a legend much longer than his lifespan. We think of him and his associated red cross against a white ground as representing the patriotic side of England since Edward III adopted him as a national saint, yet he has also been adopted as a patron saint by Beirut, Ethiopia and Genoa amongst other places .
In 303AD Emperor Diocletian requested that St George make a pagan sacrifice, however he refused, announcing himself as a Christian. Lands and wealth could not dissuade the Turkish born Roman soldier to change his mind so the vexed emperor simply cut his head off, adding him to this growing pile of disregarded Christians.
However, there is a plus side to martyrdom and that is often being fabled in perpetuity. Once your name embodies a story then the tales continue to grow throughout time. Whether it was St George himself who slayed the Libyan Dragon snacking on children we will never know for sure, but the local king was most grateful to have his sweet daughter saved by our adopted English hero from the scaly beast’s buffet. Another page was added to St. George’s posthumous escapades and inspiration provided for generations of artists illuminating the valour of man against endangered reptiles.
One of my favourite depictions by Paolo Uccello painited around 1470.
St George was no idle spectre, he turned up to assist Godfrey of Bouillon the Frankish knight during his early crusades in the holy land and then again assisted Richard the Lionheart during the siege of Antioch on 28th June 1098, earning his association with Knights Templar during the second crusades 47 years later.
Side stepping the political debates caused by obsessed religious zealots of all leanings it is of more interest to us what knights were wearing.
Plate armour, as in the statue above of St. George which sits on the roundabout by Lords Cricket ground suitably situated between a mosque and a church was worn from the 15th Century onwards but prior to this chain mail provided the main protection for knights. Under the linked iron rings padded garments of wool or linen were worn. Around the legs these were known as chausses and further up a quilted body coat known as a gambeson was worn under the mail hauberk. The sleeves of mail would go down to the wrists with the overall weight up to forty pounds. Over the mail coat a surcoat would be worn printed or embroidered with a coat of arms or the simple cross to remind the Saracens of the holy mission behind the invasions. Interestingly the red cross of St. George comes from the flag of Genoa, a busy trading port which also adopted St. George as a patron saint. in addition German crusaders in the 12th Century chose the red cross as their imperial war flag. A knight’s belt would be worn over the surcoat keeping his sword in place and helping spread some of the weight of the mail from the shoulders to the hips. Lastly an iron cap would be worn with a linen mantle bearing coats of arms and providing some protection from the afternoon sun. Ranks of mounted knights must have looked magnificent as they rode glinting in the sunlight towards battle each bearing a colourful coat of arms and a valiant heart.
We like to think of the gentlemen in Dashing Tweeds as being modern day knight errants saving damsels in distress rather than stressing Jihadists. Replacing his steed with a cycle and his plate steel with wool he still retains a sense of chivalry as he dashes about in high tech tweed.
Our original cycle jacket is directly influenced by 15th century armour from the Wallis collection as you can see below. Our Brigandine has been designed with the historical armour riveted garment in mind and the weave of our wool and rubber bomber jacket is reminiscent of chain mail.
Each piece ideal wear when biking home after a good night.
Our Lumatwill Cycle Jacket inspired by armour.
Our wool and rubber bomber jacket reminiscent of chain mail
Our quilted wool Brigandine named after the protective garment