Buff coats and Baldricks

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Buff coats

Buff coats are the thick leather coats worn by English Civil War cavalrymen and officers. The leather of these coats is very thick, it can be as thick as 5mm. Some are made with thinner sleeves to make it easier to move the arms. These sometimes have a thicker, shorter sleeve covering the upper arm. These coats could stop a sword cut or even a musket or pistol ball at long range. Because they gave so much protection and were quite comfortable to wear some cavalrymen wore just a buff coat without armour.

The fronts of buff coats look as if they lace up, but the lacing is just decoration. The coats are fastened with hooks and eyes.

Buff coats for ordinary soldiers cost between £2 and £3, but those for officers could cost as much as £10. Sometimes the sleeves were decorated with cloth and gold lace. In 1640 one gentleman wrote “For your buff coat I have looked after, and the price: they are exceedingly dear, not a good one to be gotten under £10, a very poor one for five or six pounds.”

Baldricks and belts

A baldrick is the sword belt that is worn over the shoulder. These were often made of buff leather. Most were very plain, but some baldricks were highly decorated with gold and silver embroidery.

Carbine belts were also made of buff leather. These were belts worn over the left shoulder that the carbine was hung from. It had a clip that fastened on to a ring on the side of the carbine. This made it easy for a harquebusier to use his carbine while on his horse. The harquebusier could hold it in his right hand to fire it while his left hand controlled his horse. After firing he could just drop it to his side without losing it.

Did you know?

Waterloo telescope

The telescope carried by the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo is in the Royal Armouries collection.