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What is the meaning of corselet?

A corselet is a piece of armor that covers the torso. It was a common type of armor used by soldiers and warriors throughout history. The word “corselet” comes from the French word corselet, meaning “little body armor”.

What is a corselet made of?

Corselets were traditionally made of various materials including leather, bronze, iron and steel. Leather corselets provided flexible protection, while metal ones offered more rigid defense. During the Middle Ages, knights and men-at-arms wore corselets made of overlapping iron or steel plates called plackarts. These provided protection for the chest and back while maintaining mobility.

Time Period Materials Used
Ancient Times Leather, bronze
Middle Ages Iron, steel
Renaissance Iron, steel, leather

As armor technology advanced, corselets became more sophisticated and protective. By the 16th century, many cavalry corselets were made of steel plates articulated together to provide both strength and flexibility.

What are the key parts of a corselet?

A typical corselet consists of several pieces protecting vital areas:

  • Breastplate – Covers the front of the torso
  • Backplate – Covers the back of the torso
  • Fauld – Metal flaps protecting the waist and hips
  • Shoulder straps or guards – Protect the shoulders and neck
  • Gorget – Steel collar protecting the neck and throat

Additional pieces like tassets, culets and besagews offered further protection for the hips and armpits. High quality corselets were carefully articulated to allow ease of movement while providing robust defense.

What are some types of historical corselets?

Here are some examples of corselets used throughout history:

Muscled Cuirass

Popular in ancient Greece and Rome, muscled cuirasses were cast to mimic anatomical muscles and provide a heroic, powerful appearance.


A leather corselet reinforced with small overlapping steel plates called brigandine was popular in the Middle Ages.

Lobster Tail Pot

This cavalry corselet with an articulated backplate and fauld flaps resembled a lobster tail.

Buff Coat

Simple leather corselets called buff coats were worn by common soldiers in the English Civil War period.

When were corselets used?

Corselets have been used since ancient times. They were popular among Greek hoplites, Roman legionaries, Medieval knights, Renaissance men-at-arms, and 18th century cavalry. Lighter leather corselets called buf coats remained in use even during the English Civil War when plate armor was common.

The corselet began disappearing from battlefields in the 17th century as muskets made armor obsolete. However ceremonial corselets continued to be worn by bodyguards and cuirassiers into the early 19th century.

What are some famous historical corselets?

Here are some iconic examples of historical corselets:

Alexander the Great’s Linothorax

The famous Macedonian king wore a lightweight corselet made of glued layers of linen.

Roman Lorica Segmentata

The iconic banded plate armor worn by Roman legions.

Black Prince’s Armor

This 14th century suit included a steel corselet worn by Edward the Black Prince of England.

Three Musketeers Cuirass

An ornate 17th century French cavalry corselet like those romanticized in the novel by Dumas.

How was the corselet used in war?

Corselets were an important part of armor for soldiers and warriors across many cultures and eras. Here are some ways they were utilized in battle:

  • Standard protection for heavy infantry like Greek hoplites, medieval men-at-arms and European pikemen.
  • Worn by light and heavy cavalry for protection while mounted.
  • Offered defense for archers and crossbowmen who needed mobility.
  • Provided extra armor for vulnerable areas like the neck and armpits.
  • Included as part of full plate armor suits along with helmets, pauldrons, etc.

Corselets were vital for deflecting blows and arrows targeted at the torso. Even as full plate armor developed, corselets continued to be used by common soldiers due to their relative affordability.

How did corselets evolve over time?

Corselets evolved from very simple designs into highly sophisticated armor systems. Here are some key evolutions:

  • Early corselets were made of stiffened linen, leather or bronze plates.
  • The Romans developed segmented plate metal corselets like the Lorica Segmentata.
  • Medieval corselets gained articulated backplates, shoulder guards and gorgets.
  • Renaissance corselets became fully articulated as plate armor advanced.
  • Baroque period heavy cavalry wore ornate, decorative corselets for show.

Corselet design adapted to contemporary weapons. As missile weapons improved, more protective metal corselets supplanted leather versions. The pike and shot battlefield tactics of the 16th century led to lightweight corselets for pikemen and musketeers.


In summary, the corselet was an essential part of military equipment for nearly two thousand years. It evolved from simple construction into articulated plate armor that provided sophisticated protection. Although obsolete on the modern battlefield, the corselet remains one of the iconic symbols of the armored warrior throughout history.