The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Wrapper
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Germany
  • c. 1580
  • Steel and copper alloy
  • Weight: 0.725 kg
  • A199
  • European Armoury I
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Wrapper or reinforcing bevor, designed to be worn on a close-helmet in the free tourney. The left side of the piece is prolonged and bossed to fit over the pivot of the visor; both sides are embossed in two places so that the straps for attachment around the back of the head will sit flush with the inner face. A single gorget-plate has been riveted to the lower edge of the face-plate, with a turned-under and sunk border and roped edge; decorated with eleven brass-capped rivets. The falling bevor A198 is of similar workmanship.

    The free tourney (Germ. Freiturnier) was a special version of the traditional ‘mêlée’ tournament. It was characteristic of chivalric festivals in the German Lands, although it was not exclusive to them; free tourneys are also documented in the Low Countries and England. The free tourney represented an attempt to reconstruct the archetypal medieval battle as described in the chivalric romances- affairs fought exclusively by knights on horseback, rich in opportunities for knightly derring-do which at the same time were stripped of inconvenient modern truths such as pike-wielding, gun-toting infantry. In the free tourney two teams of around ten or more mounted men-at-arms first charged each other in an encounter with lances, before drawing swords and setting to for as long as the judges and ladies deemed appropriate. Special reinforcing pieces were worn in the free tourney however they were usually designed to be subtle and unobtrusive, so as not to depart too far from the appearance of men in war armour. Above all the free tourney was a profound test of a knight’s riding ability, close-combat with the sword requiring very intense and sometimes violent manoeuvres at the canter and gallop. Leg armour for the free tourney in the second half of the sixteenth century therefore was cut away around the inner surfaces of the legs, allowing a closer contact with the horse’s sides and thus guaranteeing the best possible communication between horse and rider. Since the fighting conditions were prescribed and limited to mounted combat, protection for the legs could be reduced in favour of comfort in a way that was not permissible for heavy cavalry operations on the battlefield.