A common question from armor novices is “what is the difference between chain mail and ring mail?” This concern is not a simple one to answer. A the majority of the troubles we have today with mail terminology deserve to be traced earlier to scholars of the 18th-19th centuries.

These job we define “mail” as it was identified in the center Ages. It consists of a “fabric” the interlocked metal rings which type a strong, flexible, mesh armour. Each ring is attached through 4 others, two in the row over it and also two below. Return there were variations, this “4-in-1” pattern to be by much the most prevalent. The word “mail” is obtained through the Old English mayle, French maille, and Italian maglia, native the Latin macula definition the mesh of a net.

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Chain Mail

The above definition of mail was no the one offered by victor scholars, though. They supplied the native “mail” in a much more general sense – to describe any type of sort of metallic human body armour (i.e. “mail” = “armour”). One of the first to usage this inaccurate terminology to be Francis Grose, that wrote in the so late 18th century.(1) it is usual to see the word “mail” in translations of beforehand texts in instances wherein 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 usage of the word “mail” in this instance was not meant to be particularly referring come “true” (4-in-1) mail, however as a general term to explain armour – in this case, bronze range armour.(2) Other instances of the misuse the this word incorporate using key mail and also scale mail rather of plate armour and also scale armour. Thus overly-generic use of the term “mail,” a indigenous was required to identify true letter from other types of human body armour – thus the ax “chain mail.” If words “mail” is provided in its exactly context climate “chain mail” is superfluous and does not should be provided at all.


The other significant problem with mail terminology come from early attempts come interpret contemporary illustrations. Samuel rush Meyrick, writing at an early stage in the 19th century attempted a an extremely “literal” interpretation of the armour portrayed in contemporary effigies and illustrations (such together the Bayeux Tapestry) and also invented a range of build to very closely resemble them.(3) this constructions had banded mail, tegulated mail, mascled mail, and trelliced mail. It has because been prove that many of Meyrick’s proposals were either impractical or might not it is in physically reconstructed to resemble contemporary representations. (see number One)

Figure One

Doubts about Meyrick’s work began to it is in expressed later in the century by scholar such as Hewitt, Laking, and Ffoulkes, however some writers such as Ashdown (4) and Viollet-le-duc (5) perpetuated Meyrick’s inaccuracies into the 20th century, come be picked up and used through some modern writers, consisting of the authors of numerous fantasy roleplaying games. The final word ~ above this subject seems to have been had actually by Claude Blaire in the middle of the 20th century (6) and also since the time no armor scholar has actually seriously taken into consideration Meyrick’s theories to be valid. The general consensus today is the the difficulties involved in realistically depicting medieval mail resulted in a selection of stylistic conventions, and that all of the modern illustrations and effigies are depicting nothing much more elaborate than usual 4-in-1 mail.

Ring Mail

One of the species of armour taken from modern illustrations was given the ax “ring mail.” Meyrick’s an interpretation of ring mail had a foundation garment top top which non-interlocking steel rings to be attached. This day this would be much more accurately termed “ring armour” not “ring mail,” because it does not type an interlinked mesh. As has currently been said, illustrations and effigies showing medieval armour space all most likely to be various methods of calculation the same building (i.e. 4-in-1 mail). Over there is no proof to imply that “ring armour” exist in Europe in ~ the time.

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

Figure Two

In Renaissance Europe there to be a form of armour referred to as an “eyelet doublet” which might also be classified as a type of ring armour. But the eyelet doublet days to the 16th – 17th century – much later on than the medieval illustrations in question. One modern reference to eyelet doublets to be made by Sir man Smythe in 1591,

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

Charles Foulkes presented illustrated details of 2 extant “eyelet coats” native the Musee d’Artillerie and also the Musee de Cluny, both in Paris.(9) regardless of the ubiquity of this kind of armour, the construction should be classified as “ring armour,” not “ring mail.” (see number Three)

Figure Three

Banded Mail

The only Victorian classification of letter still believed by some to have actually actually existed is banded mail.

Figure Four

There have actually been miscellaneous theories proposed because that its construction however the most popular is the use of animal leather thongs woven with every alternate row. This theory has been provided weight by the visibility of asian (non-European) letter in which neck collars have been reinforced in this fashion.(10) However, that ignores the reality that mail collars were forced to be more rigid than the rest of the hauberk so the they could stand up roughly the neck.(11) Claude Blair wrote,

“… there appears to it is in no reason why such features in the remainder of the hauberk should have actually been believed desirable. The thongs would certainly not have made the hauberk any kind of stronger, and also their propensity to stretch or contract by varying quantities would hardly have actually been conducive come a satisfactory and also comfortable fit.”(12)

Banding is noticeable in every mail constructions to a specific degree (see figs. 7 and also 8). The degree of visibility is dependence on the direction that the lighting and where the human viewing the mail is standing. There are various other things that can influence the lot of banding being viewed as well. Among these is if the piece is consisted of of links having a flattened section, or if the rows are consisted of of web links having different sizes. The bigger the distinction in link sizes the much more pronounced is the banding effect. The stylistic depiction of this banding is illustrated in figs. 5 and 6. The photos in in figs. 7 and 8 clearly demonstrate the similarity between the banding shown in the illustrations and that i m sorry is apparent in physical examples of mail.

Figure five & Six
Figure 6 & Seven


Today numerous writers usage the terms mail, chain mail, ring mail, and ring armour interchangeably and also it is often impossible come determine specifically what they typical to it is in discussing. This man in terminology has been caused by the inaccurate definitions of armour used by 19th century scholar such together Meyrick and also Viollet-le-duc. Many of the species of mail at first proposed by Meyrick room unlikely come have ever existed. It has likewise been demonstrated that the terms chain mail and ring mail need to not be offered at all, and also that mail and ring armour need to be provided instead. Mail consists of a mesh of metal rings interlinked to type a versatile armour. Ring armour is composed of a structure garment of cloth or leather upon which separation, personal, instance rings space attached. That is most likely that ring armor did not exist in Europe during the center Ages, yet was worn later on in the type of eyelet doublets.

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