"A knight had only to swop his armorial surcoat and shield for those of another to be safely taken for that person." (Hanley, Catherine., War and Combat (1150-1270): The Evidence from Old French Literature, p33)

  • This is not a proofreading or writing service, but we can help you parse the sentence and describe how to interpret its parts— if you edit your question to explain what about the sentence you find difficult to understand.
    – choster
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 15:17
  • Of course, I am newbie and strange to the laws yet. If you think it is not a proper question I can vote it to delete?
    – user64617
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 15:25

1 Answer 1


A knight only had to put on someone else's cloths to be identified as that person.

I wonder where the exact problems are in your sentence. Maybe you can elaborate a bit more on the specific problems you face - or why you want it "simplified"?

Safely simply indicates that the knight does not risk to be found out.

We are talking about a time when people did not carry (photo) identification, and the only way - short from personally knowing the person - to identify someone was to ask their name.

For a knight, or for nobility, once heraldry became common, you could identify them by their (coat of) arms. This could be displayed on a seal, on a banner, or on their coat - the armorial surcoat. This coat or cape displayed the coat of arms or much simpler, the personal heraldic colours or shield of the wearer - or that of their lord.

So if a knight would put on a different knight's coat, he would become that other knight for all intents and purposes.

As an example, the Knights Templar wore a long white coat with a red cross on it. This was not just because it looked nice, it identified them as a Knight Templar. All someone had to do to be identified as one of them was simply take that coat and put it on. Of course, the actual owner of the said coat would very likely object to that.

  • I have problem with usage of "safely" in the sentence in fact. I do not understand why it is not noun in place of adverb.
    – user64617
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 13:40
  • "Safely" here means that the knight would run no risk of being detected as an imposter. I can;t think of a noun that would fit in it's place. Alternatives could be "surely" or "certainly".
    – oerkelens
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 14:05
  • I think the symbols of Knights Templar were not arms. because: 1. All symbols were identical. 2. Symbols assumed by all members of order and so they were not exclusive for individuals. 3. They were not hereditary. But Hanley, as you mentioned, in the case discussed on a heraldic matter.
    – user64617
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 15:17
  • They were not individual arms. Heraldic arms could be used to display allegiance (and were often used as such). If I remember correctly the Knights were giving up their individual possessions, so their only identification would then have been as a Knight Templar, making the red cross personal after all. But it all does depends on the width of the used definition of arms - which has wildly changed over time, place and situation :)
    – oerkelens
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 15:36
  • Are you really sure [heraldic] arms could be used to display allegiance?? could you please show some historical instances? (except the heraldic systems like quartering or impalement - like for archbishops) I mean, for example, is there any coat of arms what shows the allegiance of a vassal with a senior? If yes, please inform me, that is a important matter to me...
    – user64617
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 16:00

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