7 Ways Medieval Knight Armor Was More Dangerous Than Just Wearing Nothing

Chain mail and suits of armor were some of the most recognizable parts of medieval warfare. Created in response to swordplay, the dominant form of combat at the time, they've become somewhat legendary for their striking appearance on the battlefield. A good suit of plate armor was considered invincible in many ways, but there were several tactics combatants could use to kill their opponent. After all, these suits of armor were huge sets of steel strapped to a person's body. They may have protected you, but they also slowed you down and left you open for very specific attacks. So, there are plenty of ways you can die wearing a suit of armor.

Heat exhaustion, piercing from arrows, stabbing wounds, and cavalry charges were just some of the gruesome fates that medieval knights faced on the field. While many brave souls found ways to avoid these ends, they were still very common in engagements and skirmishes for hundreds of years. Just how bad could these deaths be? Check out the list below to find out. 


  • You Could Roast Alive From Heat

    You Could Roast Alive From Heat
    Photo: Antonio Missaglia / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The crusades in the Middle East were an incredibly bloody period for everyone involved. That certainly wasn't helped by the fact that many of the combatants were fighting each other in the desert while wearing metal suits. As you might imagine, this led to people being literally baked inside their armor and eventually perishing from heat exhaustion.

    Luckily, many soldiers discovered ways to get around the heat. Some took their armor off entirely when it became too warm. Others discovered that covering up armor with cloth prevented direct sunlight from heating the metal up to the cooking point.

  • You Could Get Stabbed Between Plates

    You Could Get Stabbed Between Plates
    Video: YouTube

    Plated armor was nearly invincible in its heyday. Sword slashes did absolutely nothing to it, which meant fighters had to get clever to get their cuts in. Armor didn't cover everything - there were gaps that one could exploit near the groin, in the neck, and under the armpits.

    Many times, fighters would grapple and try to stab these weak points with daggers. Sometimes, that would involve getting a dagger through the eye slit. Either way, it would be an exceptionally painful end. 

  • You Expend Twice The Amount Of Energy To Move Around

    You Expend Twice The Amount Of Energy To Move Around
    Video: YouTube

    You might expect full armor to be incredibly restrictive. In some ways, that was true, but you might also be surprised by just how much mobility some of these knights had. They could jump and run fairly well, but the plates were still an encumbrance. In fact, thanks to contemporary re-enactors, historians estimate that running in 15th-century chain mail armor required twice the amount of energy of running without it. 

    Nowhere was that more apparent than the Battle of Agincourt, which the French famously lost. One of the biggest reasons for that loss was the weather. It had rained for two straight weeks beforehand, turning the ground into a field of mud. Marching through that in 50 kilograms of armor made the French troops incredibly tired before they even had a chance to fight.

  • A Lance Thrust At Speed Could Pierce Even The Strongest Armor

    A Lance Thrust At Speed Could Pierce Even The Strongest Armor
    Video: YouTube

    A well-placed and well-timed cavalry charge could be the deciding factor in an engagement. Part of this is because horses delivered an incredibly powerful blow to any formation. Another is that those riding the horses carried lances, which were long poles with incredibly sharp metal tips.

    Those weapons were specially designed to pierce armor. With the force of a horse galloping at full speed behind it, it was sure to kill just about anyone. 

  • You Could Get Completely Blindsided

    The helmets that one wore with armor were incredibly adept at protecting one's head. Unfortunately, that came at the price of completely ruining someone's peripheral awareness. In the midst of combat, it could be pretty easy to come up behind someone and take them out.

    Luckily, thanks to the way military formations worked at the time, this typically didn't happen all that much. But when combatants got really mixed in with one another, you better believe you could get killed by someone you never saw or heard. 

  • You Could Still Be Beaten To Death

    You Could Still Be Beaten To Death
    Video: YouTube

    When you're surrounded by metal, it can make it pretty difficult for people to stab you. That doesn't mean, however, you can't get a concussion or succumb to internal bleeding. Things such as the mace or the hammer made good use of the fact that steel could dent and cave into its wearer.

    A good whack to the head would still do plenty of damage with enough force behind it - with enough strength, a hammer to a chest protected by the plate could still break bones, cause internal bleeding, or even stop someone's heart. The trick is having enough strength to make the blow count.