The Fine Art of Looking Like a Crusader


Robert’ de Tyre

SO, you’ve opted for a crusader persona. You’ve been hooked to all of the Errol Flynn movies, loved Excalibur and Dragonslayer, saw every version of Ivanhoe ever conceived. You own Robin and Marion, the Fox Network’s Robin Hood and that abominable Prince of Thieves movie. You dream of being Charlton Heston in The Warlord, and are ready to take the plunge in making your clothing, armor and gear look like all of those guys.

 Well, it’s a start...but just a start!

 Your choice of persona can be determined by several things: a love of the time period, the armor worn, the history, your own family heritage, the list can go on and on. My own particular favorite is the Crusades. My inspiration was a pair of books by the author Harold Lamb, coupled with a book on the Knights Templar by Stephen Howarth. These items, even more than the movies I saw, gave me more of the flavor and romance of the period and area.

Your next guide should be: What did these people look and dress like? Hollywood ideas, as a general guide, tend to be inaccurate. Your next best source should be in books related to the period. If these books have photos of illuminated manuscripts, tomb effigies, biblical illustrations, tapestries and statues, so much the better. If they also have pictures of actual clothing saved from the period and displayed in a museum, that’s a bonus.

 In my research, the clothing I wear is based on a map of Jerusalem, circa 1170, tomb effigies in the Temple Church, London, frescos of Templars in the Templar church of Cressac in France and San Bevignate in Perugia, Italy. I also base my research on the Templar Rule, and on clothing styles, textiles and accessories known to have been used in the period.

Now, you will want to get patterns to make (or pay someone to make) the costumes and accessories that would be worn in your period of research. Some items, like pouches, shoes and boots, weapons, belts and others can be purchased inexpensively at an SCA event, ordered in catalogues or even on the Internet. If you are an armored rattan fighter, this goes for armor and kit as well.

 Finally (and most importantly), you need to read what is written by and about the people you’re researching. Learn how they would think. What was important to them. How do people back then spend an average day? What were their hopes and fears, and what did they aspire to? Things like these will put flesh on the bare bones of your persona.

 Armed thusly, you can now make your persona. While your persona can be as simple as a name and a vague date, you can make it as complicated as this:

Robert’ de Cressac-Ferrand, called Robert’ de Tyre, was born 27 September 1169, the son of Robert’-Amalric and Marie de Florence. His father was a son of a French Crusader and his family resided in Outremer since the First Crusade. They were poulains, of mixed French and Sudanese descent. Robert’ became a Templar when his family suffered the loss of his father at Hattin, and his mother soon after the fall of the city of Jerusalem. He fought in the siege of the city St. Jean de Acre, and was with Richard I of England at the Battle of Arsuf.

Robert’ was released from his vows when word came that the last heir to his family’ Southern French holdings died, leaving the fief to Robert’. Robert’ then married Rebekah Maroni de Bait-Jebail, and went west with his entire household.

All I did was, for a start, use my real birth date and moved it back eight-hundred years or so into the past. I then modified the names of my real parents into the story. Add an interesting storyline and adapt the storyline as your mundane life changes (my marriage and my SCA household) and there’s your persona. 

We all do Living History and Re-enactment ultimately for the fun of it all. The parties, the tourneys and feasts are all a delight. But I found that by learning about people eight-hundred years dead, I learned more about where we came from. Learning about our ancestors tells us more about ourselves.