Object Title

Mail crinet

Mail crinet



Object Number

VI.655 B


Purchased from Czerny's International Auction House, Piazza V. Veneto 17, 19083 Sarzana, Italy, 6 February 2007. Previously on deposit B.0495. From a private collection in North Italy, purchased just after 1945 by the previous owner as a mail shirt with associated mail sleeves and fabric components. Prior to this the object belonged to the Marzoli collection in Brescia from pre 1903 until it was sold into the collection of Enrico Minervino of Milan.

Physical Description

The early mail forms a tube widening from one end to the other and open at both ends. When folded flat about the shortest row of mail, it forms an irregular trapezoid, 740 mm at that side (the upper), with an opening 170 mm long at the narrower open end (the front), which is about 365 mm long, 820 mm on the long (lower) side, and 860 mm on the longer open end (the rear). Near the upper end of the longest (rear) open side are two rivets with washers retaining the bases of one or two buff leather straps. These are positioned in a place where they would naturally connect to the pommel of the saddle to secure the crinet in position. The mail is marked directly opposite the upper row with a watershed, where the rows of mail join at an angle. At the front end of this join is an area of damaged mail (shown below), where some links have been stretched to an oval shape, some have lost their rivets and some are probably missing. This area has been repaired with some pieces of iron wire, and it is difficult to assess the damage without removing these. Otherwise the mail is remarkably undamaged throughout, with only a few individual links lost. The mail is somewhat corroded at that point also, whereas throughout the rest of the garment it is evenly patinated and covered in a layer of greasy dirt. The mail is universally formed of sections in which rows of riveted and solid links alternate. The riveted links have high, rounded rivets on the outside (which is currently the inside of the 'mail shirt' as currently presented), and the narrow, flush rectangles characteristic of the wedge-shaped rivets of European medieval mail on the inside. Examination of the links reveals a regular construction with no obvious repairs, though there are areas (example shown below) where the rows do not alternate regularly. No signed links are evident on first inspection. The solid links also have the characteristic flattened circular form found on the few known European medieval mail garments of this construction. On acquisition formed as a mail shirt of sorts, with a long, flaring skirt, an area of coarse fabric at the shoulders and two sleeves of mail. On examination it is clear that the mail of the sleeves and that of the 'body' is of quite different character, as that of the sleeves is butted and modern while that of the 'body' is of riveted and solid construction. The fabric is obviously modern, and is printed in ink with a product code (illegible) presumably for the product it originally contained. Planned to removed these later additions from the crinet.

Featured in

Hundred Years War



Dimensions: Upper length: 740 mm; lower length: 820 mm; front opening: 365 mm; rear opening: 860 mm

Inscriptions and Marks

No marks.


Places Italy


That the 'body' was not the body of a mail shirt was quickly spotted by Chris Dobson and Michael Czerny when it was brought in for sale at Mr Czrerny's auction rooms in Sarzana, Italy, and they identified the piece as a rare medieval mail crinet or neck defence for a horse. Physical examination of the mail in Sarzana shows that it has all the characteristics of European rather than India mail: the solid links are circular and even, rather than faceted, and the rivets that fasten closed the riveted links are of wedge-shaped rather than the round rivets found on Indian mail. Some mail from north Africa is known to use wedge-shaped rivets, but none is known to me where riveted and solid rows alternate. It therefore seems most probably that the Czerny-Dobson identification of the piece as a medieval European crinet is correct, and the form of the mail is consistent with a date before about 1400. As such it is the only example of a mail crinet of the period known, and would naturally fit on display in the museum in Leeds with the Warwick shaffron. One of the few representations of a shaffron of this type, on a knight from a chess set in the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, normally dated to about 1370, is shown with a complete mail bard partly covered in fabric, while another representation from a manuscript of Christine de Pisan, shows a similar plate shaffron and mail crinet. Mail horse armours can certainly be traced back to the 13th century in artistic representations, and the medieval at the Tower in the later 14th century contained several sets of mail bards. European mail of this period and construction is relatively rare, and the Royal Armouries collection includes only two examples, III.28, a mail coif, III.1279 the mail hauberk traditionally of Rudolph IV of Hapsburg, Duke of Austria, Carinthia and Ferrette (1339-65).