Leeds & West Yorkshire

Researchers in Leeds feel the weight of medieval armour

A man in medieval armour on a treadmill (pic: University of Leeds)
Image caption The effect of running in a suit of armour was scientifically measured

Researchers in Leeds have used scientific methods to uncover the effects of heavy body armour in medieval battles.

Fight interpreters from the city's Royal Armouries wore replica armour for walking and running exercises.

The oxygen usage of the interpreters was then measured.

The study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that walking in full medieval armour uses twice the amount of energy as walking without it.

Dr Graham Askew of the University of Leeds said: "In a suit of armour the limbs are loaded with weight; it takes more effort to swing them.

"We found that carrying this kind of load spread across the body requires a lot more energy than carrying the same weight in a backpack," he explained.

'Feel breathless'

The researchers say this is the first experimental evidence of the effects of armour on fighting performance.

Dr Federico Formenti, from the University of Auckland, said: "Being wrapped in a tight shell of armour may have made soldiers feel safe, but you feel breathless as soon as you begin to move around and this would likely limit a soldier's resistance to fight."

The 15th Century steel plate armour's weight, between 30kg and 50kg, might have been a factor in winning or losing a battle, said the researchers.

They explained that the French forces might have had a better chance of winning the battle of Agincourt in 1415 had they not been weighed down by heavy body armour.

The French soldiers outnumbered the English but the heavily-armoured French knights had to advance across a muddy field.

The exhausting conditions made the French knights less mobile than the lightly-armoured English archers.

The research team included academics from the Universities of Leeds, Milan and Auckland, along with experts and fight interpreters from the Royal Armouries.

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