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Old 4th July 2010, 12:39 PM   #1
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Default How tall were medieval knights?

There is a discussion on another forum, and I have no answer.
From my visits to the museums, most suits of armor seem to be made for pretty short people.
I am sure there is very good information about that. Can somebody provide info re. how tall suits of armor are in reality and an approx. distribution of heights?
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Old 4th July 2010, 01:19 PM   #2
Gavin Nugent
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Originally Posted by ariel
There is a discussion on another forum, and I have no answer.
From my visits to the museums, most suits of armor seem to be made for pretty short people.
I am sure there is very good information about that. Can somebody provide info re. how tall suits of armor are in reality and an approx. distribution of heights?

Reminds me of the Brave heart line when they are talking of making spears twice as long as men for use against the heavy cavalry 'Some men are longer than others'

With out digging too deep, it can be seen across many countries that people where shorter in the day, heck look at the Italians or if it just the inlaws at my place that give me this impression...

Have a look here, page 5 shows a good graph;

Your visual notations in the museums should be guide enough to share in some detail. The kind of info in the graph supports what it is you already see first hand.

Perhaps the very weight of armour over the years kept them short


Last edited by freebooter : 4th July 2010 at 01:39 PM.
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Old 4th July 2010, 01:45 PM   #3
Martin Lubojacky
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Armour im museums realy seems to be made for short people. On the other side, excavated scelletons of so called Great Moravia soldiers were allegedly nearly 2 meters tall
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Old 4th July 2010, 07:38 PM   #4
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henry the eighth was over 6 ft. i hear that king edward of braveheart fame was also. H8's armour is HUGE.

roman legions had a 5 ft. 8 in. minimum (originally 5' 10", but dropped their standards later on)

read somewhere that the middle ages human would still be on our modern gaussian bell curve tho a bit towards the lower end rather than the mean.

a couple of the other sword forums have similar tho inconclusive discussions:

an excerpt from the metropolitan museum of art Arms and Armor—Common Misconceptions and Frequently Asked Questions

13. The size of armor indicates that people in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance were smaller.—In general, true.
Medical and anthropological research demonstrates that the average height of men and women has gradually increased over the centuries, a process that, for reasons of progressively better diet and public health, has accelerated during the past 150 years or so. The majority of surviving armors from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries appear to confirm these findings.

However, when trying to affirm such generalizations from armor, a number of factors need to be carefully considered. First, is the armor complete and homogeneous (i.e., do all parts belong together), thereby giving an accurate impression of the height of the original wearer? Second, even a high-quality armor, made to measure for a particular owner, can provide only an estimate of its former wearer's height with a margin of at least an inch or two (2–5 cm), since the overlap of the protections for lower abdomen (skirt and tassets) and thighs (cuisses) can only be approximated.

Indeed, armor comes in all shapes and sizes, such as armor for children or young men (as opposed to that for adults), and there are even armors made for dwarfs and giants (often found at European courts as "curiosities"). Moreover, then as now, other general factors have to be taken into account, such as differences in average body height between northern and southern Europeans for example, or the simple fact that there have always been people who were exceptionally tall or short when compared to their average contemporary.

Among the famous exceptions are royal examples such as Francis I, king of France (r. 1515–47), or Henry VIII, king of England (r. 1509–47). The latter's height of about 6 feet (180 cm) was commented upon by his contemporaries, and can be verified by the more than half-dozen of his armors surviving today (two of them in the Metropolitan Museum).

For an interesting contrast in the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Arms and Armor, compare the (composite) German harness of about 1530 and the field armor attributed to Emperor Ferdinand I (1503–1564), of about 1555 (33.164). Neither armor is complete, and the sizes of the former owners are necessarily broad estimates, yet the differences in size and stature are remarkable: while the owner of the first armor was probably around 6 feet 4 inches (ca. 193 cm) tall, with his chest measuring about 54 inches (137 cm) in circumference, the owner of the latter harness, probably Emperor Ferdinand, does not appear to have measured more than about 5 feet 7 inches (170 cm) in height.

Last edited by kronckew : 4th July 2010 at 08:07 PM.
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Old 4th July 2010, 11:02 PM   #5
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Most precious information contained in the links provided by Gav and Wayne.
Thanks for sharing.
I too beleive our ancestors were in average short guys, exception given to some well fed (?) nobility individuals and the traditional exuberation about our heroes, kings and so.
It is popularily spread that the sword of Dom Afonso Henriques (Portugal founding king) was so heavy that a common man could not bear it, but such sword never showed up and the king wasn't proven to be bigger than an average person.
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Old 5th July 2010, 04:18 AM   #6
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The same appears to apply to Victorian era military uniforms. Most that I have seen will not fit the average person of today, so the comment above that states that stature has increased during the 20th and 21st centuries in my experience is largely correct. I assume that when we are talking of armor here, that we are talking (mainly) about English and western European suits?
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