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Buckler

Buckler
Middle Ages Sunday, 2. June 2024

The buckler (cze. pukléř, fr. bouclier, germ. pugler, lat. buculerius) is a relatively little-known item in the general awareness of medieval weaponry for many people. It should be noted that historical films and fantasy-themed movies also largely overlook it in their portrayal of popular medieval armaments. The situation is somewhat better in the realm of so-called historical and fantasy computer games, where bucklers appear and their clashing is given some attention. But what is it exactly?

In its original form, the buckler resembled the classic round shield from the early medieval period – a circular wooden disk with a handle and a central boss, where the hand holding the shield by the handle was protected by a metal boss (umbo). It differed from the classic round shield mainly in size.

However, the buckler did not suddenly appear in Europe; it emerged through the gradual reduction of the large round shield sometime during the 11th-12th centuries. During this period, foot soldiers increasingly preferred almond-shaped shields (i. e. kite shields), then elongated triangular shields, and later, from the end of the 12th century onwards, the first shields of almost oval shape or rectangular shape with rounded corners. These could be considered proto-pavises or the first infantry pavises. The reduced round shield – now a buckler – became a welcome addition to the secondary one-handed weapon of many a foot soldier, regardless of whether their primary weapon was a bow, crossbow, or polearm.

From the second half of the 12th century, reports of sword and buckler fencing schools appear, for example, from England. Along with these came the first bans on such schools or prohibitions on carrying a buckler and sword in public in cities. This indicates that the buckler was not just part of military equipment but was also perceived and used as a means of personal self-defense in civilian life. Throughout the 13th century, various depictions of warriors with bucklers became more common. Finally, the oldest known manuscript on sword and buckler fencing, known as I.33 or "Walpurgis," is dated to the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries.

Wooden bucklers, covered with leather and cloth, were used until the 15th century.

By then, they were gradually replaced by all-metal bucklers, which did not necessarily have to be round but could also take the form of rectangles or other shapes with various indentations. Bucklers were usually combined with a sword or dagger, and in times of need, even with a dagger or axe. In the early 17th century, they also appeared in combination with a rapier. After 1500, bucklers gradually fell out of military use but remained a popular means of fencing instruction until the early 17th century.

 

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