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What is a Capeline?

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  • Written By: Janis Adams
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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A derivative of the French word for hat, the capeline or capeline helmet is a type of skullcap or helmet known to be worn by medieval archers as a device for protecting their heads. This steel helmet was first known, and still is often referred to, as a secrete. The capeline can trace its origins to the helmets worn in Ottoman Turkish empire, which covered three continents in the early 16th century. While these seem to be the helmet's clearest roots, it was largely adapted and reached the height of its popularity nearly a century later.

The capeline was chosen by post-Renaissance musketeers in the 17th century as a type of moderate helmet. This capeline hat was considered to be in the height of fashion. In addition, it offered the wearer a level of protection for his head.

The best known capeline is that which was worn during the English Civil War by the cavalry. This capeline is commonly referred to as the lobster tail pot. The reason for the name is that this specific helmet had a lobster-like tail protruding from the back of the hat for the purpose of protecting the back of the neck. It sported much longer cheek pieces, as well as a protruding peak. These capelines were known to be very effective in the field as a protective device.

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The capelines — lobster tale pots — were worn by both the Oliver Cromwell's calvary and also by the London Lobsters, the cavalry unit under Sir Arthur Haselrig, a prominent leader of Parliament during the English Civil War. Sir Haselrig's men not only were outfitted with the capeline, but a nearly full set of traditional armor.

In form the capeline is similar to that of a loosely shaped circle with a substantial bump in the middle. It comes down snugly, and fits comfortably over the wearers' ears. Over the centuries, caplines have also been worn under broad rimmed hats offering a measure of protection. These were of a much thinner and more malleable variety than those worn by medieval archers.

In modern times, some women's hats may be referred to as capelines. Like the helmet from which they get their name, the center portion of these hats fits snugly against the wearer's head, like a skullcap. In this version, however, a broad brim often stretches evenly around the center cap, shading the wearer's face and neck.

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