Project 'x' Statistics from the Beachamp Pageant



In the past I have looked at Medieval data, and made conclusions from singular items, such as museum finds, and in many of these cases, singular items. The issues is that people tend to gravitate towards 'nice' things, and the 'not so nice' things tend to get disposed of, this missleads us into what we beleive common medieval items are. For instance how many munition sallets, breastplates, arm harness are there in museums? now the same question about higher status sallets, breastplates, and other such armour. From exposure to these 'nicer' items it will naturally distort our understanding of what normal is. So a plan for a study, a very simple idea, counting. 

In November 2013 I finally purchased a copy or facimilie of the Beachamp Pageant (BP), with one thing in mind. To go over the basics of 15th military dress. Having been away from Reenactment for some time, and coming back fresh to it, I noticed that many things that were taken for grantted where not neccersarily true, Coifs being the perfect example. The Beachamp Pageant is a pretty unique peice of history, the illustrations are believable and drawn with great detail, with a continuous story giving the context of each image. This provided the information to which a study could be performed in order to extract some basic trends from this singular document. 

So this work is not without its pitfalls, for one this is a single document, and it would be nice, and is the intention, to perform a simular study on a different document that contains a simular criteria, to see if the statistics match. If they do this would indeed be interesting and would remove much of the risk of misrepresenting the data. Of course there are issues in some parts with what has been done to get the data, for instance the BP is tending to centre each scene around an important person or event, and therefore the image will be biased around this. However there is only so much you can do and in my opinion this is useful information. Another issue is that serveral people may have differing interpritations on classes and contexts of the illustrations, this of course will potentially change the results, however the message here is, here is a trend, here are some numbers that sum up what I have observed from the BP document, whilst the interpritation may vary, the evidence is based on a logical collection of data. What is amazing from having done this, there are some extremely absolute trends contained within the document, and of course feel free to interprite what you want from that.

Torso Garments

So the first anaylsis was performed to look at top garments worn over the Torso, now I have been very careful here, as to not refer to coats as livery coats, that this will become edvident in a later study, however the stasticis gathered here are captured across all contexts (military/sport/political and religous). 

Study of items worn on the torso

So following the counts, the pertentages were then calculated from a tally and the results placed into a pie chart for ease of reading. The first thing to notice is that what I have referred to as Soliders Coat (i.e. a coat worn by a solider without badges being depicted upon it)  is maginaly the most frequently illustrated item worn. Now this is where the interpritation has to be done carefully, only talking about what exactly we see. We see a coat being worn, the BP is of line drawing, and therefore we cannot conclude that these are what people refer to as 'Livery Coats' we can only say that the coats are uniform if they are displaying a badge on the coats that can be identified as being what people refer to as a livery badge. So whilst I recognise that they could be livery coats, there is not actually any evidence within the BP to say that they are. The second largest catagory is Brigandines, and then almost equally plain armour. A smaller number of men are depicted wearing heraldic coats over their armour, not to be confused again with what we beleive are livery coats. Finally only a small number of torso covering could be referred to having livery badges over them. So if we pause for a second on this, we are talking about the document commisioned by the Beauchamp family to celebrate their heritage, and we generally do not see livery coats with their badge as being the most promanant garment displayed, this is against everything we portray surely. 
So at this point I concluded that this was interesting. The next stage was to home in on those coats with their badges and study the context in which they were being used. 

Typical Brigandine illustrated in the BP
Similar type of Brigandine appears in various other sources, this one is in Froissart
A very plausible Interpretation of this type of Brigandine by ASH
A Dutch 1500 illustration showing in great detail a similar constructed Brigandine and helmet provided by ASH

Livery Coats by context 

So the previous study got me thinking, about those livery coats we see worn some much at events, why are they not everywhere. So the following study was to look at the context where the livery coats where being worn. It seemed sensible to create some simple catagories that would shed some light on this. One point before I go further, again reminding the reader that the document is not in colour, so the results only can report what they see. 

The study has been called Livery Badges displayed on military figure. Now this is not quite true as it also captures figures that are serving, so please excuse that error for the purposes of this document.

So the most shocking data was that 93% of the population are wearing coats without any indication that they are a livery of some sort, what is even more shocking is that there is not a single image in a battle scene that could be found with a livery badge displayed on the coat. So pause for a moment on this, we know there is some evidence out there that liveries were worn, such as the 1st battle of saint Albans, Warwick in Calais. But Saint Albans was a street fight where recognision is key, and Calais is not a battle. Interesting read into that what you will. So when we look at the coats that are definately livery coats. They are all men performing either domestic duties such as serving at the lords table, or assisting directly the Lord, such as the man shown holding his Lords horse, or men in part armour on a political mission, such as sending messages or religious based activities. So considureing in the past the BP has been quoteed to myself as being a key source for livery coats for being used in battles, this evidence has to be questioned, as well as the way in which we use our livery coats during our living history events.  

The last point to be made, is look at other pictorial sources that are relevent to England, and their context, do these agree or contrdict the BP results? a question for the future.



next part will be very soon, and will cover hat types and head covering by troop type and situation or context. 


Alex Kay