A typical question from armour novices is “what is the difference between chain mail and ring mail?” This question is no a simple one to answer. A many the problems we have actually today v mail terminology deserve to be traced back to scholars of the 18th-19th centuries.

These days we define “mail” as it was characterized in the center Ages. It is composed of a “fabric” of interlocked steel rings which type a strong, flexible, mesh armour. Every ring is attached through four others, two in the row over it and also two below. Back there to be variations, this “4-in-1” pattern to be by far the many prevalent. Words “mail” is obtained through the Old English mayle, French maille, and also Italian maglia, from the Latin macula definition the mesh that a net.

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Chain Mail

The above meaning of mail was no the one offered by victor scholars, though. They provided the indigenous “mail” in a more general sense – come describe any sort the metallic human body armour (i.e. “mail” = “armour”). One of the an initial to usage this inaccurate terminology was Francis Grose, that wrote in the late 18th century.(1) the is usual to see the word “mail” in translations of beforehand texts in instances whereby it is clear that the subjects cannot have been attract mail.

One well-known instance is the biblical description of Goliath wearing a cloak of mail weighing 5,000 shekels of copper . The use of words “mail” in this instance was not expected to be specifically referring to “true” (4-in-1) mail, yet as a general term to explain armour – in this case, bronze range armour.(2) Other examples of the misuse that this word include using key mail and scale mail rather of bowl armour and also scale armour. Therefore overly-generic use of the hatchet “mail,” a indigenous was necessary to identify true letter from other species of body armour – hence the hatchet “chain mail.” If words “mail” is used in its exactly context then “chain mail” is superfluous and does not must be provided at all.


The other significant problem through mail terminology came from early attempts come interpret contemporary illustrations. Samuel rush Meyrick, writing early in the 19th century attempted a very “literal” translate of the armour portrayed in modern-day effigies and also illustrations (such as the Bayeux Tapestry) and invented a variety of constructions to very closely resemble them.(3) this constructions had banded mail, tegulated mail, mascled mail, and also trelliced mail. It has due to the fact that been demonstrated that most of Meyrick’s proposals to be either impractical or could not be physically rebuilded to resemble modern-day representations. (see figure One)

Figure One

Doubts around Meyrick’s work began to be expressed later on in that century by scholar such together Hewitt, Laking, and also Ffoulkes, yet some writers such together Ashdown (4) and Viollet-le-duc (5) perpetuated Meyrick’s inaccuracies right into the 20th century, to be picked up and also used by some contemporary writers, including the authors of plenty of fantasy roleplaying games. The final word ~ above this subject seems to have actually been had actually by Claude Blaire in the center of the 20th century (6) and since the time no armour scholar has actually seriously considered Meyrick’s theories to be valid. The general agreement today is the the difficulties involved in realistically portraying medieval mail resulted in a variety of stylistic conventions, and also that every one of the modern-day illustrations and also effigies are portraying nothing much more elaborate than common 4-in-1 mail.

Ring Mail

One the the species of armour interpreted from contemporary illustrations was given the term “ring mail.” Meyrick’s an interpretation of ring mail had a foundation garment top top which non-interlocking metal rings were attached. This day this would be much more accurately termed “ring armour” not “ring mail,” due to the fact that it walk not form an interlinked mesh. Together has currently been said, illustrations and effigies depicting medieval armour room all likely to be different methods of rendering the same building (i.e. 4-in-1 mail). There is no proof to indicate that “ring armour” exist in Europe in ~ the time.

However, ring armor does it seems to be ~ to have actually been utilised in other times and also places, albeit rarely. Stone’s Glossary has a photo and a summary of ring armor which apparently came native north-eastern Asia.(7) (see figure Two)

Figure Two

In Renaissance Europe there to be a form of armour referred to as an “eyelet doublet” i beg your pardon might additionally be classified together a form of ring armour. But the eyelet doublet dates to the 16th – 17th century – much later on than the middle ages illustrations in question. One modern reference come eyelet doublets was made by Sir john Smythe in 1591,

“Archers need to wear one of two people eyelet holed doublets that will stand up to the thrust of a knife or dagger and also covered v some trim come the liking that the captain… or rather jacks of mail quilted upon fustian.”(8)

Charles Foulkes presented shown details of two extant “eyelet coats” native the Musee d’Artillerie and also the Musee de Cluny, both in Paris.(9) regardless of the prevalence of this form of armour, the building should it is in classified as “ring armour,” no “ring mail.” (see number Three)

Figure Three

Banded Mail

The just Victorian category of letter still thought by some to have actually actually existed is banded mail.

Figure Four

There have been various theories proposed because that its construction however the most famous is the usage of leather thongs woven v every alternative row. This theory has been offered weight by the existence of oriental (non-European) letter in i m sorry neck collars have been reinforced in this fashion.(10) However, that ignores the truth that letter collars were required to be much more rigid 보다 the rest of the hauberk so the they could stand up about the neck.(11) Claude Blair wrote,

“… there seems to it is in no reason why such qualities in the remainder of the hauberk should have been assumed desirable. The thongs would certainly not have actually made the hauberk any type of stronger, and their propensity to large or contract by varying amounts would hardly have been conducive come a satisfactory and comfortable fit.”(12)

Banding is evident in every mail build to a certain degree (see figs. 7 and also 8). The degree of visibility is dependence on the direction of the lighting and where the human viewing the letter is standing. There are various other things that have the right to influence the lot of banding being seen as well. Among these is if the item is consisted of of links having actually a planarization section, or if the rows are made up of web links having different sizes. The larger the difference in attach sizes the an ext pronounced is the banding effect. The stylistic depiction of this banding is portrayed in figs. 5 and also 6. The picture in in figs. 7 and also 8 clearly demonstrate the similarity between the banding shown in the illustrations and also that i m sorry is noticeable in physical instances of mail.

Figure 5 & Six
Figure six & Seven


Today many writers usage the terms mail, chain mail, ring mail, and also ring armor interchangeably and also it is often impossible come determine specifically what they median to it is in discussing. This confusion in terminology has actually been led to by the inaccurate definitions of armour used by 19th century scholars such together Meyrick and Viollet-le-duc. Most of the species of mail initially proposed through Meyrick are unlikely come have ever existed. That has likewise been demonstrated the the state chain mail and also ring mail need to not be provided at all, and also that mail and also ring armour should be supplied instead. Mail is composed of a mesh of metal rings interlinked to form a functional armour. Ring armour is composed of a foundation garment of towel or leather upon which individual rings room attached. It is likely that ring armor did not exist in Europe throughout the center Ages, yet was worn later in the kind of eyelet doublets.

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Ring armour was likewise worn in Asia however it seems to have actually been rare.