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We may almost fancy we hear the ring of their battle blades beaten against their bucklers, sending a hearty burst of applause to us from the tomb.
J. FREDERICK HODGETTS, 1886.
They consisted of halberdmen and swordsmen who used bucklers and Italian swords, so that resting the bucklers on the ground, they could discharge arrows.
NICANDER NUCIUS, 1546
To the uninitiated, a fighter seems strangely vulnerable with the miniature shield we know as the buckler, but in actuality the buckler had many advantages. It was certainly of insubstantial defence against missiles, but in up-front and personal close combat it was devastating. It allowed many options not readily applicable to a regular size shield. It could be used to punch, or more usefully, to blind an opponent: if an attacker managed to push his buckler in an opponent’s face (not difficult) a successful follow-up cut or thrust was sure to follow. Also a fighter could grapple an opponent whilst still holding the buckler – virtually impossible with a regular shield. It was for good reason that the buckler was so popular.
It is recorded that some pikemen held one in their left hand and would be able to grasp both it and the pike as well. Personally I think this is not possible unless they put the shaft through the handle, which can be done. Perhaps attacking infantry deliberately targeted the extended left hands of pikemen, and in the absence of steel gauntlets, a buckler would have afforded good hand protection. The buckler was most popular in the 15th and 16th centuries, until the Spanish rapier and left-handed dagger were in use - but this was well into the Elizabethan period. It would be a mistake though to place too much emphasis on time lines, as prior to their peak of popularity, they were always used to some degree. For instance, a Bronze Age buckler, found near Aberystwith, can be seen at the British Museum.
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