Podcast 58: The Style of Chivalry In the Armourer’s Art

To learn about medieval armor, there’s nothing quite like holding a piece of it in your hands – although the Royal Armouries' recent collaborative project is just about as close as your going to get.

Dr. Thom Richardson, keeper of armor at England’s Royal Armouries, joins Scott to talk about the artistry of medieval armor. Dr. Richardson is author of the foreword in the new two-volume photography book The Royal Armouries by acclaimed Italian photographer Carlo Paggiarino, published by Hans Prunner. He has also written a variety of articles on the history and study of medieval and Renaissance arms and armor for several academic journals. Plus: The Chivalry Today podcast needs your help – please take a moment to make a donation and take part in our Choose Your Rewards support drive.

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The Style of Chivalry In the Armourer’s Art

Thom Richardson is the keeper of the armor collection at the Royal Armouries at Leeds, and author of the foreword to the illustrated book The Royal Armouries.

The Royal Armouries at Leeds has become known as one of (if not the) finest collection of arms, armor, and militaria in the world – but one of the Royal Armouries’ missions is to bring arms and armor to life in their “native environment,” which is not gathering dust behind a glass display case, but in use as wearable, practical, functional pieces of equipment.

The Royal Armouries is constantly exploring new and dynamic ways to bring its pieces to life in the public eye, from lectures and special exhibits, to live interpretations of jousting and sword combat, and educational outreach programs. Still, to learn about medieval armor, there’s nothing quite like holding a piece of it in your hands – although the Royal Armouries’ recent collaborative project is just about as close as your going to get.

Working with acclaimed international photographer Carlo Paggiarino, the Royal Armouries has helped produce a new two-volume set of books titled simply The Royal Armouries, published by Hans Prunner Books. Paggiarino has done photography work for other arms and armor collections before, including the Wallace Collection and the Churburg Armory – and for anyone who has seen these books, you know this is not just a run-of-the-mill picture book. Captured in the 624 pages of Paggiarino’s books are some of the most clear, vivid, and true-to-life photographs of armor you’re ever likely to see; when you turn the pages, you’ll swear you can almost hear the metal plates clanking and the mail armor jingling. With a limited publication run of only 1,000 copies, these books are true collector’s editions.

Click the thumbnail images on this page to get a larger display of a sample of the photographs from The Royal Armouries. Photographs courtesy of Hans Prunner.

So, if this photographic chronicle of some of the Royal Armouries’ finest pieces of armor gives us a true “knight’s eye” view of medieval armor, how does it change our perception of the skills and status of the knights who wore it in the Middle Ages? Does the craft and beauty of the armorer’s art lend an iron-clad framework to the image of the chivalric champion? Or does each dent and rust spot reveal the fallacy of chivalry by reminding us of the violent, brutal culture of the men who fought and killed while wearing this armor?

Dr. Thom Richardson, keeper of the Royal Armouries’ Armor collection and author of the foreword to Paggiarino’s books joins Scott to talk about the work of photographing these historic pieces of armor, and what the images reveal about medieval knights and the code of chivalry.
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  • After listening to Episode 58 be sure to visit the Hans Prunner publishing website to enjoy a magnificent slide-show display of some of the images from The Royal Armouries.
  • Find out more about the current exhibitions and activities at the Royal Armouries at Leeds in the museum’s “What’s On?” directory.

About Scott Farrell

Scott Farrell is the founder and director of the Chivalry Today Educational Program. He gives dozens of live presentations on the history and values of chivalry every year at schools, libraries, and civic and professional organizations throughout Southern California. His thoughts and conversations on chivalry can be heard worldwide every month on his Chivalry Today Podcast. His essays on the code of chivalry have appeared in numerous magazines and books, including Living A Life Of Value (Jason Merchey, editor) and the forthcoming Martial Arts And Philosophy (Damon Young, editor).

About Scott Farrell

Scott Farrell is the founder and director of the Chivalry Today Educational Program. He gives dozens of live presentations on the history and values of chivalry every year at schools, libraries, and civic and professional organizations throughout Southern California. His thoughts and conversations on chivalry can be heard worldwide every month on his Chivalry Today Podcast. His essays on the code of chivalry have appeared in numerous magazines and books, including Living A Life Of Value (Jason Merchey, editor) and the forthcoming Martial Arts And Philosophy (Damon Young, editor).