I hope you’re all keeping well. Apologies for the absence of posts lately. After holding out for 3 years, we finally all caught Covid here, so have been working that through our systems. Not much fun… Happily, we’re all recovered now, and I’m hopeful that’ll be the last time we have to deal with it!
I’ve a painting post this week, as I don’t have much in the way of work updates having been sick for the last little while! I’ve had a hankering to get back to some historical subjects for a while now, and it’s only natural for me to start that with a Norman knight, or miles as they were also called. This was a particular area of interest for me when I was at University, and in theory I have a bit of Norman heritage mixed in with the various other flavours, so they remain a topic I like to dig into again every few years.
Around the time this model represents—broadly the 11th Century—the Normans were becoming a power to be reckoned with. Having started off as Viking raiders pillaging France, the king of the time, Charles the Simple, reckoned they made for better friends than enemies (the Vikings had besieged and sacked Paris in 845) and around 911 he offered them land in return for defending his northern coastline. This they did, and the Northmen, or Normans, gave their name to the region they settled—Normandy.
These settled Vikings gradually adopted local customs, a blend of Romano Gallic traditions and German Frankish customs, becoming something new unto themselves, while maintaining that same outward-looking energy of their Scandanavian forebears.
Although still ostensibly contained within the Duchy of Normandy during this period, Norman warriors and mercenaries had ventured as far south and east as Moorish Spain and the Byzantine Empire, laying the groundwork for future conquests. The warriors following William the Conqueror across the channel in 1066 would have been equipped similarly to this guy, as would many of those setting off for the First Crusade thirty years later.
This chap is from the Perry Miniatures range, and he’s been sitting in my drawer for a number of years now. One thing I like about this range is the high level of historical accuracy. That’s a little more commonplace now, but when I bought them over a decade ago, they were way ahead of the pack in terms of making period accurate figures.
The four panel spangenhelm with nasal guard is a good representation of what was in use at the time, as are the elbow-length sleeves on the mail hauberk, which comes down to about knee length. Armour at this time was a lot simpler and less comprehensive than what comes to mind when we think of a knight, but this model’s gear represents an important stage in the evolution to the ‘knight in shining armour’ concept that reached its zenith around the 15th Century.
The kite shield was adopted around 1000, replacing the circular shield favoured by the Vikings. Although the shape seems perfect for a horseman protecting his undefended left leg by holding it vertically, it is often seen being held more horizontally in the Bayeux Tapestry, providing protection along the horse’s flank. Perhaps it was just easier to hold that way at the gallop, or perhaps that’s how they actually used it. I suspect we’ll never know for certain! As for the design on the shield, it’s largely meaningless. Heraldry as we understand it didn’t really become a thing until around the 12th Century, with shield decoration being, for the most part, little more than that during the time of this miles. Historically notable individuals were known to have used different shield decorations at different times during this period.
This Norman miles is armed with a sword still in its scabbard and what passed for a lance back then. The lance was still only a spear at this point, rather than the heavy jousting implement it later became. At this point in time, lances were still used overhand as in this model, and as illustrated in the Bayeaux Tapestry, they were being thrown too! They were also, of course, used couched under the arm to put the full weight and momentum of the rider and horse behind the point, the technique that would later become the default style of use.
The sword would have been approximately 30 inches in length with a broad fullered blade with parallel edges running until they converged into the point near the end. They were designed to be used one handed, and the brazil nut shaped pommel was very popular during this time, although you can’t see it on this little guy, more’s the pity!
Last, but not least, the horse he rides was called a ‘destrier’, and being selectively bred and highly trained, they were hugely expensive. The saddle and stirrups were well developed by this period, affording the rider a solid seat in and the freedom to use his hands to crack skulls in battle.
I haven’t had time to do much painting lately, so there was an element of shaking off the rust in getting this guy painted. The horse is a new approach to painting dapple horses, but I reckon there are better ways to do it, so I’ll have to experiment a bit on that. I also wanted to put a bit more effort into the base, something I often ignore out of laziness but want to start doing properly going forward. I need to spend a bit of time getting together a better approach to doing this, so will be trying to make that a bit of a focus over my next few models!
I’ve lots more historical minis in the drawer, and hope to bring more of those out over the next few weeks. I hope to have some worthwhile updates soon, but it will probably be the week after next before that comes together. I’ll be back next week with another hobby post of a subject matter yet to be decided!
Until then, take care!