Fashion in the Age of Datini

French Treatise on Military Costume

Author: Unknown
Original Language: Middle French
Place of Composition: France
Date of Composition: 1446-1448 (according to section 16)
Source of Text: René de Belleval (ed.), De Costume Militaire des Français en 1446 (Paris: Aug. Aubry, 1866) https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8426951w/ as transcribed at http://pfef.free.fr/Medieval/Unif_Org/CostMilFr.htm whose title is "Documents sur l'histoire militaire de l'Ancien Régime"
Source of Translation: n/a
Conditions of Use: Please acknowledge both de Belleval and http://pfef.free.fr/ for printing and transcribing this text. Please credit S. Manning for the translation and ask permission before quoting in print.

Around 1446-1448, someone in France began a treatise on how people at French courts dressed for war, jousts, and peace. The two known manuscripts only cover war and jousting with one paragraph and a missing illumination on civil costume. Because it has never been translated and says things which can also be learned by studying artwork and artefacts, it is much less known to English-speakers than French treatises on jousts and tournaments.

It was first printed by René de Belleval in 1866. He knew of two manuscripts: one which he owned, and another in the Bibliotheque nationale du France, MS. Français 1997 folios 63-80 https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b9059047w/f36.item.zoom

The only detailed study of this treatise which I know seems to start from the de Belleval text.

REVERSEAU Jean-Pierre, «L'habit de guerre des Français en 1446. Le manuscrit anonyme fr. 1997 de la Bibliothèque Nationale», Gazette des Beaux-Arts (Paris), vol. 93, n° 1324-1325, 1979, p. 179-198

In 1906 Antoine Thomas speculated that this anonymous treatise could be by the herald and writer Merlin de Cordeboeuf (thanks Théo Parla and https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merlin_de_Cordebeuf). I don't think he had good evidence, and Courdeboeuf was aligned with the Burgundians so might not have stressed the "kingdom of France" so much.

The manuscripts are divided into un-numbered sections. I have added numbers:

I read at least one word differently than de Belleval did, but the text here is based on de Belleval as transcribed by http://pfef.free.fr/ I have normalized the spacing and punctuation and removed the pointers to de Belleval's foonotes. Anything in round brackets was added by me.

Original Translation
(1) Icy après sensuit la façon comment les gens de guerre du royaulme de France, tant à pié comme à cheval, sont habillez en la manière et usance de le guerroier quilz font contre leurs ennemis. (1) Here follows the fashion how the men of war of the kingdom of France, both on foot and on horseback, are dressed in the manner and usage of warfare which they wage against their enemies.
(2) Item aussi la faczon coment oudit royaulme tant hommes que femmes se habillent en vestemens aujourdhuy; desquelx habillemens passeray légièrement à les desclairer, pour ce que plus souvent que autres generacions rechangent voulentiers faczon de vesture; aussi après metray la manière de leurs dancez qui aujourdhuy court oudit royaulme de France, de leurs festoiemens, et aussi comment et en quelz harnoys ilz joustent. (2) Item: Also, the fashion how both men and women of the said kingdom dress themselves in clothes today; which dress shall pass lightly into obscurity, because they are more accustomed than other nations to change the fashion of their clothing at pleasure; also afterward I will put the manner of their dances which the court of the said kingdom of France (dance) today, of their festivities, and also how and in what harness they joust.
(3) Et premièrement, lesdiz homes darmes sont armez voulentiers, quant ilz vont en la guerre, de tout harnois blanc: c'est assavoir curasse close, avant-braz, grans gardebraz, harnois de jambes, gantelez, salade à visière et une petite bavière qui ne couvre que le menton. (3) And first, the said men-at-arms are armed at their pleasure, when they go to war, in complete white harness: that is to say, closed cuirass, vambrace, pauldron (grans gardebraz), legharness, gauntlets, salet with visor, and a little bevor which does not cover more than the chin.
(4) Item, les aucuns portent différance en harnois de braz, de teste et de jambes; premièrement la différance du harnoys de teste, cest assavoir de biquoques et de chappeaulx de Montaulban. Et premièrement, les biquoques sont de faczon à que sur la teste, en telle forme et manière come ancienement les bacinez à camail souloient estre, et d'autre part vers les aureilles viennent joindre aval, en telle forme et faczon comme souloient faire les berniers. (4) Item: Some of them carry different kinds of harness on their arms, head, and legs: first the different kinds of harness for the head, which is to say biquoques and hats of Montauban. ...
(5) Item, et les chappeaulx de Montaulban sont rons en teste à une crefte ou meilleu qui vait tout du long, de la haulteur de deux doiz, et tout autour y a ung avantal de quatre ou cinq doiz de large en forme et maniêre dun chapeau. (5) Item: and the hats of Montauban are round on the head with a crest or middle which goes all along it, of the height of two fingers, and all around there is an aventail of four or five fingers in width in the form and manner of a chapeau (felt hat with a brim - ed.).
(6) Item, et la tierce armeure et la plus comune et la meilleure à mon semblant est l'armeure de teste qui se appelle sallades, car elles couvrent tout la plus part du coul derrière et toute la temple, loreille et la plus part de la joue, et davant couvre le fronc jusques au sourciz. En laquelle sallade y a une visière petite, laquelle visière quant elle est abessée recouvre les yeulx, le nés et la bouche; ainsi ne reste à couvrir que le menton et la gorge, et vient batre de lames jusques quatre ou cinq doiz sur la pièce de ladicte cuirasse bien gentement et à poinct. (6) Item: and the third armour and the most common and the best, as it seems to me, is the armour for the head which is called salets, because they cover all the greater part of the neck in the rear and the whole temple, the ear, and the greater part of the cheek, and in front they cover the brow up to the eyebrows. On this salet there is a little visor, which visor when it is let down covers the eyes, the nose, and the mouth; and so nothing remains to be covered except the chin and the throat, and it comes to meet (the bevor) of lames up to four or five fingers above the piece (ie. breastplate) of the said cuirass very gently and properly.
x y
(22) Item, les escuz à quoy on jouste en France sont faiz de bois premièrement dun doy espès, et nervez tant dedans que dehors dun doy espès ou moins ; et sur ladicte nerveure par dehors est couvert de petites pièces larges et carrées du grant dun point deschiquier de tablier, qui sont faictes dos le plus dur que len peut trouver, et le plus comunément sont faictes de cornes de serf endroit la couronne, de lendroit proprement de quoy len fait les noiz aux arbalestres. Translated on Shields, Targets, Pavises
x y

This site is free, but its not costless. Help keep it going with a donation on paypal.me, Patreon, ko-fi or Liberapay.