IRISH CHIEFTAIN, ART OGE MACMURROUGH KAVANAGH

An extract from Armies of the Middle Ages, volume 1
by Ian Heath



30.      IRISH CHIEFTAIN, ART OGE MACMURROUGH KAVANAGH

This figure is taken from a contemporary illustration in the account of Jean Creton, a French knight in Richard II's service, which depicts this Irish king (King of Leinster, 1376-1418) riding out to parley with the Earl of Gloucester in 1399. He wears a helmet, a mail hauberk over a scarlet tunic, a yellow cloak and a pink hood, thrown back. The text describes his dart (darde) as 'great and long', stating the he could cast it 'with much skill', and adds that the horse he rode, which is white in the illumination, was swifter than hare or deer and had cost him 400 cows!

Irish chieftains and nobles had begun adopting such armour as that depicted here by the late-13th century. 'The Triumphs of Turloch', a source of 1359, gives a detailed description of such armour as worn by 2 Irish kings at the Battle of Corcumroe in 1317. One wore a 'thick, close-ridged' cotun from throat to knee under a loose, gilt-edged mail corselet, conical helmet and coif, with a broad, star-studded, saffron-coloured belt on which hung a long skene with a decorated wooden grip and a 'tracery-embellished' scabbard for his gilt cross-hilted sword. The other wore a red-embroidered white cotun under a scallop-edged corselet and carried a red shield. Their arms comprised sword, skene, dart and thrusting spear.

The 'cotun' mentioned above is, of course, the aketon under its Irish name. Often worn without the corselet, it appears to have been generally 'pure' or 'glowing' white, often decorated with red or green embroidery, but could be dyed some solid colour (for example, the Irish contingent fighting in France in 1419 included 18 score warriors in red cotuns in addition to 18 score in white ones). Another source of the same year describes a cotun of 24 waxed layers, 'firm as a board'. Another type of pleated corselet called a fuathrog was apparently similar to the cotun but was instead made of leather. The Irish name for the mail corselet was luireach.
[Based on a miniature of MacMorogh, the Irish chieftain, coming to confer with the Earl of Gloucester, by Jean Creton]



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