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Chain Mail

Medieval life and Times

Medieval Chain Mail

Chain Mail was the earliest form of metal armor worn by the average soldier during the Medieval times and era.  Medieval Chain Mail was a flexible armor which was made from interlinked metal rings. The word 'Chain mail' was an English combination of two words.

'Chain' meaning a series of metal rings or links fitted into one another to make a flexible ligament and 'mail' from the French word "maille" which is derived from the Latin "macula" meaning "mesh of a net". Chain Mail is also referred to by derivatives of the word such as:

  • Ringmail
  • Chain armor
  • Ring armor
  • Mail

In the early Medieval feudal period a knight wore a cloth or leather tunic covered with iron rings or scales, and an iron cap with a nose guard. At the beginning of the 12th century he adopted chain mail, with a hood, or coif, of the same material for the head.

Chain Mail History
It is believed that Chain Mail was invented by the Celts. Chain Mail history dates back to antiquity and was adopted by the Romans after they realised its potential after fighting the Celts. A variety of materials were used to make Chain Mail including brass and iron. However, the most popular material was steel. In the 14th century, plate armor began to replace the Medieval Chain Mail worn by knights.  However the Medieval Chain Mail was not completely discarded by the Knights who continued to wear a shirt of Chain Mail beneath plate armor to protect the joints and the groin. Plate armor was extremely expensive and the average soldier during the times still used Chain Mail as their most effective form of protection. The history of Chain Mail declined with the invention of the musket in 1520 and the subsequent use of gunpowder in variuos weapons.

The Advantages of Chain Mail
The advantages of using Medieval Chain Mail a protection during the Middle Ages were as follows:

  • It was flexible
  • Easy to Make
  • Easy and fast to repair
  • Cheap and easy to fit many men, of all sizes
  • Allowed ease of movement

Chain Mail Armor
Chain Mail armor provided protection against being cut by the opponents blade. It was effective against the sharp points and blades of the spear,  axe and sword. It helped to prevent the skin being pierced stopping the fatal infections which often followed such injuries. Medieval Chain Mail armor was ineffective against heavy blows from a blunt weapon. A padded, or quilted, garment known by various names such as Aketon, Arming coat, Doublet, Gambeson, Hacketon was worn in conjunction with Chain Mail as a form of additional defence. These garments consisted of a quilted coat which was either sewn or stuffed with linen or even grass. This served as padding for additional armour worn over the top. Shirts made of Chain Mail weighed up to 25 kilograms, depending on the size and the number of Chain Mail garments worn.

Chain Mail Clothing 

Making Medieval Chain Mail
Making Medieval Chain Mail during the Medieval times of the Middle Ages was undertaken by the Blacksmith. Making Medieval Chain Mail armor  involved the linking of iron or steel rings, the ends of which were either pressed together, welded or riveted. The rings were formed when they were stamped out of a sheet of iron and then used in alternate rows with riveted links.

Chain Mail Patterns
The demand for Medieval Chain Mail was substantial. Each piece of mail was fashioned specifically for whichever part of the body it was intended to protect. Chain Mail patterns were used for creating this type of armor, resembling a modern knitting pattern. There was a basic Chain Mail pattern used for each part of the body it was intended to protect. Sizing was easily accommodated by the addition of extra rings. The most common form of Chain Mail patterns was the "four-in-one" pattern in which each link had four others linked through it.

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