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"How to paint historically, figurines of Welsh warriors ?" Topic

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Paskal Supporting Member of TMP19 Dec 2017 6:50 a.m. PST

Hello everyone,

I have just realized that even in the book WRG, there is little information on the color of clothes, shields and all that could be worn by Welsh warriors of the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries…

If you can help, thank you, but please give your sources.


Nick B19 Dec 2017 7:00 a.m. PST

Mud, leather & rust – basically what all dark age troops in the field should look likw!

skipper John Supporting Member of TMP19 Dec 2017 7:11 a.m. PST

This might be helpful;
Or this;

Beaumap19 Dec 2017 7:29 a.m. PST

There is a reason for the WRG vagueness – lack of knowledge of that period in that place. Personally, I know of no visual representations from the period that interests you, and the archaeology is minimal.

Medieval Welsh liked the colour red. Liber A has a 13th century representation of a Welsh bowman – with a short bow! Most 'Wargaming Welsh' are actually a fantasy army.

Most English observers just said the Welsh were poorly dressed and left it at that. If Welsh warriors only managed one shoe in the 13th century, they probably managed none before then.The current theory is that they dressed like really really poor Saxons, (obviously not a theory that came from Wales!) I can't find any record of Welsh shields at all. If you try Googling 'welsh shields' every image is of shields found in England.

Here is the web link to the only current expert I am aware of link I am afraid it will confirm how little information there is. Your own guess will be as good as anybody else's. Just don't believe that SAGA or Footloose are giving you something historically accurate. Well-sculpted and fun – sure.

Beaumap19 Dec 2017 7:34 a.m. PST

I like the web site links Skipper John – thanks. But we all have to decide whether English late medieval practices were shared by Dark Age Welsh. And of course, every colour in the Viking guide is actually modern, just colours the Vikings could have perhaps, maybe, used.

It's like saying that, because 1960s Hippies had tie-dye T-shirts, which is a simple process, then the people who lived 500 years beforehand must have had the same!

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP19 Dec 2017 7:44 a.m. PST

Thank you Nick B,skipper John and Beaumap

But were there colors by social classes as in some peoples or colors unloved or even prohibited for X' reasons?


Mick the Metalsmith19 Dec 2017 8:29 a.m. PST

Tie dye did precede the sixties and was a high art in medieval/renaissance in Japan.

gbowen19 Dec 2017 9:59 a.m. PST

LLuniau go iawn yma:

Warspite119 Dec 2017 10:08 a.m. PST

I have the same challenge with my 15th century Welsh. I have gone for browns, greens (local dyes?) and paler colours like oatmeal, off-white and pale green. Some red cloaks as noted above.

As the Welsh were part of the 'Celtic' group of European tribes some simple check patterns analogous to pre-Tartan Scots would be acceptable. Similar check material has turned up in Iron Age peat bogs.


Doug MSC Supporting Member of TMP19 Dec 2017 10:32 a.m. PST

I read that they wore a lot of Whites, greens and reds, as well as earth tones. Had a variety of shields and some would have one shoe because it was easier for them to get a grip on the ground from which they fought. Capes were also worn by some and they would be mostly white, red or green. Anyway, thats the way I painted my Welsh units. Can't remember where I got this info from but it was from putting together information from different places. Many were bare headed with mustaches, but they also had a variety of helmets and various caps.

Northern Monkey19 Dec 2017 10:47 a.m. PST

Lots of wool. Often prominently on display just below the waist. Sometimes still saying "baa".

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP19 Dec 2017 11:08 a.m. PST

@ Warspite1

The 15th century Welsh males are indistinguishable from the English, especially with the appearance of mass liveries … Even the amement is typically English at this time … Nothing to do with Welsh XI, XII and XIII centuries that still kept all their peculiarities.

@ Doug MSC

Good and and what types of spears were wearing the Uchelwyr?

(Please see my topic about Uchelwyr)

Beaumap19 Dec 2017 11:08 a.m. PST

So-called 'Sumptuary laws' forbidding certain colours or materials had not come in at this early date. The main issue was money – or what could be stolen from the English. Personally, I think check is very unlikely. There have certainly been zero finds in Wales. The early Welsh did not emphasise their 'Celtic-ness'. They emphasised their 'Roman-ness'.

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP19 Dec 2017 11:58 a.m. PST

And what colors are the clothes of their warriors?

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP19 Dec 2017 1:48 p.m. PST

Thank you Beaumap, Northern Monkey, Doug MSC, Warspite1, gbowen and skipper John, for the moment for prudence I only allow myself the white, red and green …No other ideas ?


Benvartok19 Dec 2017 5:24 p.m. PST

Google "Viking Age Pallette" and you should find a few articles on probable dyes/colours available around that time.

One comment that sticks with me is that new clothes would have been quite bright but that they would have faded quickly without the modern colour fixing.

Grelber19 Dec 2017 11:34 p.m. PST

While sheep, the source of wool cloth, are usually white or off-whites, they also come in other colors, like browns and black. People were clever enough to turn the wool from a brown sheep into brown thread and cloth, or weave it into off-white as stripes, or perhaps even checks. I'd go with this sort of thing for the poorer warriors (with maybe a little dirt color added, around the hems, elbows and knees).

One approach might be to make a list of the plants used for dyeing, and see which, if any, grew in Wales. It's a poor country: if they can't grow it, they would have to import it, automatically limiting its use to the wealthy on the basis of cost.


Paskal Supporting Member of TMP20 Dec 2017 3:22 a.m. PST

For now I'll be content with red, white and green – because they are colors that are described at the time for Welsh warriors – in solid color of tunic or shield , alternating it will make a lot of combinations, and for the Uchelwyr, they can have tunics of two colors to causes of their ornamental bands.

Alas It will be colorful and I hope that with such colors, it will not be more flashy than reality.


bobm195920 Dec 2017 5:22 a.m. PST

Think more of earthy greens and reds rather than bright. A good guide for natural dyes etc is to think of modern camouflage colours rather than sports team kits.

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP20 Dec 2017 6:52 a.m. PST

Of course matt colors…

Warspite120 Dec 2017 11:45 a.m. PST

@ Paskal

I would disagree but neither you or I can ever be proved right on this one. My reading is that the southern Welsh were more English-fied and would have worn livery and carried pole weapons during the WOTR (15th century). For example the southern Welsh are recorded using glaives.

However (and this is a personal belief based on geography and some reading) the Northern and Mid Welsh were probably (yes I stress probably) still more tribal in their attitudes and appearance. So expect long spears, javelins and some longbow up until the end of the 15th century.

Mid and Northern Wales are mountainous and spears are especially favoured (see Scots and Swiss) in this type of terrain terrain. Also I can find few English landowners listed for this area in the Lance and Longbow Society's three-volume gazetteer of England and Wales during the WOTR. This speaks against a 'livery' approach for the North Welsh at least. In my own army I do allow the southern Welsh to be liveried and even have Tudor's contingent as well as a non-liveried 'native' unit.

As to earlier periods, the further you go back, the more tribal it is. Remember that Owen Glendower was only put down in the early 1400s and I can see his (mostly guerrilla) army as tribal in the style of Irish Kerns or Scots Highlanders and Islemen.


People serving in the Wars of The Roses would have had fathers or at least grandfathers who served the last king of 'native' Wales. I would suggest this was a tribal style army, possibly with an English-influenced unit of royal retainers at its core.


Weddier20 Dec 2017 8:40 p.m. PST

I have found link and
link to
be helpful.

goragrad20 Dec 2017 10:07 p.m. PST

Heath in Armies of the Dark Ages actually noted that the preference was for brighter colors than are considered appropriate today.

I have also seen it noted that there was less concern about wearing combinations of what are considered clashing colors.

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP20 Dec 2017 11:57 p.m. PST

@ Warspite1
Disagree, the war of the two roses is too late, the long spears of the North Welsh have disappeared … When the lords and cities have money, the militia wear liveries and badges and when there is has no money, only badges, (which are anyway obligatory!) including for the Welsh. By the way, the retainers must be delivered and badges, including for the Welsh.

For equipment and clothing, it's money that decides everything.

@ Weddier
Thank you for the link.

@ goragrad
"The preference was for brighter than are considered appropriate today".Well I hope that for my figures it will not be more flashy than reality.

"I also saw it noted that there was less concern about wearing combinations of what are considered colorsof what are considered clashing colors". Can tunics and shields be the same color?

goragrad21 Dec 2017 12:05 p.m. PST

Paskal – Heath uses the term 'bright' in a number of cases in his 'Armies of the Dark Ages.'

I have seen some illustrations from manuscripts and stained glass windows that were pretty bright by any standard. The question is how those reflect the reality of how bright the actually clothing was.

Painted shields I would expect to be initially as bright as most paints today – how dulled they would be in use is another matter.

Looking at some of those links there is the possibility that the clothing colors could have started as being fairly intense – particularly silks. I would expect wool to be deeper in color and perhaps not as 'bright.'

As to my figures, after I use a stain on them they tend to dull down a bit.

As to the same colors, I would expect paint and dye to produce somewhat different shades – for shields I tend not to stain and just use a clear varnish which does vary their appearance from that of the clothing. With liveried retainers I presume there was an attempt to get the cloth and the shield reasonably close.

Warspite121 Dec 2017 3:06 p.m. PST


Given that we have very few sources for 15th century Welsh warfare neither you or I can be dogmatic. It is a period very open to interpretation. Nothing can be proved I am afraid.

I see the South Welsh and 'town' Welsh being mostly liveried as they had the earliest English (Anglo-Norse) influences but the North Welsh were still tribal and traditional, the last bastion, etc, into the 15th century, in my view.

Incidentally the South and North Welsh were traditionally different tribes right back to Roman times – different tribes, different culture and different weapons. A recent DNA study of those modern Welsh who have four Welsh-born grandparents found that the old tribal DNA groups can still be identified and still have definable hotspots in the North and the South.


Paskal Supporting Member of TMP22 Dec 2017 12:41 a.m. PST

@ goragrad

If that exists,we should see serious illustrations in color of these times of Welsh warriors …

Otherwise what are currently the best books on the subject?

@ Warspite1

Absolutely not in agreement with you, the fifteenth century is too late, at the time of the WOTR, the Welsh have long abandoned their old appearances and their long spears and shields for those of the north …

Druzhina23 Dec 2017 2:58 a.m. PST
Paskal Supporting Member of TMP24 Dec 2017 6:57 a.m. PST

Thank you

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP19 Feb 2018 12:48 a.m. PST

By the way, the round shields of the foot and mounted Welsh warriors of the 12th and 13th centuries were flat or convex ?

Ferreo Cuore19 Feb 2018 7:54 a.m. PST

Hello Paskal,
there is much opinion and little hard information. Here is my method to paint large batches at once:
- clean and prime two bags of Old Glory, 60 figs
- mount on 15 craft sticks, towards ends, leaving middle to hold. There is now 4 files of 15 figures.

I decide what the unit represents on table. If they are for skirmish game and are 1:1 figs, then they would be the retinue of fighters who fight often, and will be dressed in best clothing that they can buy and steal.

If they are for big scale game and represent thousands of freemen called for invasion or defense, then 3/4 will be dressed in most common colors and cheap clothes, the last 1/4 will be the full-time fighters, again dressed up.

if somewhere in-between, change proportions.

As medieval colors were not color-fast like modern, regardless of the color, they will all fade and become muted, especially since people are in sun and rain all the time. A few people can have very bright colors to represent "new clothing".

Everything else I decide on the lines of appearances when basing units, so what looks best decides.

Return to above example, I might do 15 figs in two shades of most common color, 8 of next common, 7 of next common, and I am halfway there. maybe next 5 each of other common colors, the last quarter I will do in variety of less common shades, these being successful thieves who advertise their success by dressing up, with any who are leaders being the best-dressed.

As to how the colors should be divided, the resources provided are good, some of them I have used myself.

Hope this is helpful!

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP19 Feb 2018 10:32 a.m. PST

Yes thanks Ferreo Cuore and for the shields?

GurKhan23 Feb 2018 3:15 a.m. PST

There's a three-part series on the appearance of the Mediaeval Welsh by Paul Walsh in Slingshot issues 146-8, drawing on Welsh laws, poetry etc. The back issues are no longer available so unless you know someone who's been a member of the Society of Ancients for many years, your only access would be to buy the "Golden Years of Slingshot, 1965-2015" DVD – link

As for shields, in Part 3 he gives evidence for shields from Welsh epics; gold-chased, blue enamelled, yellow, white, but no designs are mentioned except that one is "gold-chased with a bar of azure enamel", which could be a design but may mean the handle.

Druzhina23 Feb 2018 9:22 p.m. PST

The new link seems to be Slingshot Back Issues – Society of Ancients, but the link from this to older issues seems to be dead.

Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers

GurKhan26 Feb 2018 5:32 a.m. PST

Try link or link

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP27 Feb 2018 12:10 a.m. PST

Thank you all for all these links…

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP16 May 2018 9:21 a.m. PST

For your information:

For me, there is a problem, because the Welsh warriors figures from the Saxons Vikings Normans 25 mm range of Old Glory are equipped with the same shields that the Saracens infantry figures from the Crusaders & Saracens 25mm range of Old Glory ???

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP22 Dec 2018 7:10 a.m. PST

Can we paint the "first Welsh" as in the old TV series "Arthur of the Bretons"?

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP28 Dec 2018 6:44 a.m. PST

In fact the Welsh warriors described for the 13th century are those who collaborated with the English … So those on the other side had to be different?

And those of the sixth century even more different?

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