Advantages of Using Shield and Full Plate Armor

Apr 2017
759
U.S.A.
#1
Knight's use of shields declined with the use of full plate armor as the armor offered sufficient protection on its own and freed up other hand to use larger weapons. My question being, is their any advantage to using a shield with full plate armor? Would it allow you to use a better defensive fighting style? Or was it just dead weight?
 
Jan 2015
2,812
MD, USA
#2
Certainly a shield will keep you better protected than not having one. But it was an era of 2-handed weapons, in part necessary *because of the armor worn by opponents.* There was no point in carrying a shield and having only a one-handed weapon to attack them, because you couldn't do them any harm. Even if you could engage, that is, due to their having longer weapons in the first place.

Matthew
 
Sep 2017
608
United States
#3
I mean, if you are against multiple lightly armored opponents, it may be better as it gives you another tool to push and block with and there's not as much of a risk of them grappling your shaft.

But mostly I'd say it is redundant.
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,465
Dispargum
#4
Not so much in a real battle, but in a joust, with two riders charging each other with lances, I would think there's no way armor can absorb the energy of an incoming lance. So your best chance is to deflect the energy by taking the strike at an angle and veering away from it (or it away from you). The shield can be held at the proper angle while armor can not. Sound theory or am I completely off base?
 
Aug 2015
2,359
uk
#5
If you're hit with a weapon - particularly a blunt weapon - it's going to hurt even when wearing armour. Bones can be broken, as well as massive concussive effects. Far better to take a warhammer on your shield than on your helmet! But all depends on the type of weapon you're using. If you have a single-hand weapon, you have a hand-shield and if you have a two handed-weapon then you can't. Pros and cons either way and depending on who you're opponent is/ Certainly a shield could be used offensively just as much as it was used to protect
 
Likes: macon
Sep 2017
109
Pennsylvania
#6
...There was no point in carrying a shield and having only a one-handed weapon to attack them, because you couldn't do them any harm...
Both maces and warhanmers could be employed effectively with one hand and both were adopted in response to the propagation of plate armor.
Neither would deal so much damage in one hand as wielded with both but they'd still degrade their opponents armor considerably and in doing so cause blunt force trauma and restriction to movement.
In addition to that plate mail wasn't absolute proof against ranged weapons such as the arbalest, whereas a shield would dramatically increase one's chance of surviving a volley.

A smaller shield or a larger pavise would be significantly more useful in certain situations but I think it's extreme to say that "there was no point to carrying a shield."
 
Aug 2015
2,359
uk
#7
I agree. Plate armour meant that you were better protected, not invulnerable. A sword chop or slice, or a blow from a mace or hammer , which would more than likely kill you, would mean that you wold very likely survive. The more and better your armour, the less likely you would be outright killed, the lesser the injury you would suffer.

A longsword would be better at keeping enemies at a distance, but not so useful if they got up close. A one-handed sword and shield was much handier at close quarters, but harder to fight an opponent with a longer weapon and lesser damage caused. But as the ultimate aim was to leave the field of battle alive, I'd take my chances with sword and shield.
 
Jan 2015
2,812
MD, USA
#9
Both maces and warhanmers could be employed effectively with one hand and both were adopted in response to the propagation of plate armor.
Neither would deal so much damage in one hand as wielded with both but they'd still degrade their opponents armor considerably and in doing so cause blunt force trauma and restriction to movement.
In addition to that plate mail wasn't absolute proof against ranged weapons such as the arbalest, whereas a shield would dramatically increase one's chance of surviving a volley.

A smaller shield or a larger pavise would be significantly more useful in certain situations but I think it's extreme to say that "there was no point to carrying a shield."
A little extreme, perhaps. As someone else mentioned, shields were still used in some kinds of jousts. They work, no doubt about it!

But for protection against one-handed maces and hammers, take a look at modern "armored combat league" fighting, basically real armor and (blunt) weapons, with the participants literally beating each other into submission. The guys I know who actually do this have never mentioned broken bones. There will certainly be damage to the armor over time, but fights just don't last long enough to immobilize an opponent by beating at his joints. More often the combatants will close in and wrestle! In other words, it seems to me that the utility and effectiveness of 2-handed weapons MORE than makes up for the added protection of a shield. That certainly seems to have been the opinion of armored men in medieval combat. I don't think they considered themselves invincible, or sneered at shields as "useless", but when they lined up for battle they usually carried pole arms, not shields.

Matthew
 
Jan 2015
2,812
MD, USA
#10
Pavise shields can afford to be both much bigger and much thicker than handheld shields. It wouldn't hurt to hide behind one of those, even if you are wearing full plate armor:

Many of those were stationary, with points at the bottom to anchor them to the ground, and a prop at the rear. They were made for missile troops, to shield them while reloading and shooting. You can't fight as an infantryman from behind one. Others were slung on the back, but designed for the same general purpose, to protect a crossbowman or handgunner while reloading. There is an account from the Battle of Flodden (1513) in which the front-rankers of the Scottish pike columns carried pavises or mantlets--not sure how they did that! They were excellent protection against English arrows. But it also says that the Scots' armor protected them very well even when several bills hit them at once.

And frankly, if *I* were an armored knight, I wouldn't be hiding behind a pavise when the enemy is approaching! That would be a serious blow to my ego and self-respect, at least. Plus I'd want mobility to fight, and you don't get that with a pavise.

Matthew
 

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