Medieval Miscellany- 30th July 2008

Time for some medieval word definitions. This little lot come from a post on Alianore’s blog“Edward II’s Possessions, 1326” and form part of a list of items retrieved from Caerphilly castle in 1326 afterIsabella and Mortimer’s invasion. Alianore wasn’t sure what many of them meant either, so I thought I’d have a go! They all seem to be related to military clothing and equipment.

Aketon – no, not a Japanese martial art. This was a padded and quilted garment which was often the only armour possessed by foot soldiers. Knights also wore aketons under their armour, although in this case it was often sleeve-less. Also known as: acton; auqueton; gambeson; hacketon; haqueton; wambais; wambesium or wams.

Frettes – can’t find a direct translation, but if it comes from the Anglo-Norman verb fretter (to fasten)then it possibly means some kind of fastening. On the other hand, a fret could also be a criss-cross ornamentation. In context of Alianore’s post, where a pair of these are described as having 50 pewter eyelets I would hazard a guess towards something, maybe ornamental (or protective) that could be laced up in a criss-cross fashion.

Gisarme – a weapon carried by foot soldiers consisting of a blade on the end of a long staff.

Hauberk – long coat of mail worn over a gambeson. It was split up the middle front and back to make it easier to ride a horse. The sleeves could either be long, sometimes with a mail ‘mitt’ or else short.

Jazerant – a coat of linen upon which were attached small plates of metal – to be used as a form of body armour.

Pisan – probably the same as ‘pizaine’ or ‘puzane’ – a type of gorget or breastplate which could either be of steel or a jazerant. Common in 13th and 14th century warfare

Sutturre – again, difficult to come up with anything directly from this word. I do think, though, that it comes from the Latin to stitch or to bind. In the context of Alianore’s post “4 sutturres, twisted, of red silk”, I can only guess that these were some sort of special thread – maybe used as arming points to fasten plate armour to garments?

Ventail – the lower, moveable front of a helmet or else a mail coif that hung off the bottom of the helmet and protected the throat and neck.

Gasingale and Bidowes – I have absolutely no idea what these could be! I have searched everywhere and there is nothing even remotely close. Maybe someone out there will know?

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About Jules Frusher

With an MA in Creative and Critical Writing, I am passionate about the written word. The other great loves of my life are all things Medieval (especially Hugh le Despenser the Younger) and animal behaviour (especially canids and corvids). Give me a castle in the wilderness (with Broadband!) and I'll be happy!
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