How the brigandine protected
The brigandine was a great torso protector. The inner and outer sides were leather, but sandwiched in between the layers of leather were approximate 2” by 2” steal plates riveted side by side in rows. This made the repairing of this type of armor much cheaper than full plate, as well as much, much more maneuverable to the wearer, all while still offering a tremendous amount of protection. True, the full suit of armor had more protection, but the average man could not afford it, and it was also harder to move in full plate.
History of the brigandine
The brigandine is said to be a refinement of the earlier coat-of-plates armor from the 12th century. The brigandine itself came into use in the early 14th century and was in wide use through the 15th and well into the 16th century.
This type of armor was made as a cheaper alternative to the suit of armor, and an alternative to just chain mail.
How the brigandine was used
Not worn generally by mounted knights or cavalry, it was widely used by footmen and poorer men. Therefore, this would not be what a child’s imagination would conjure up when he/she thinks of a “knight in shining armor”.
The brigandine was used by, in one way or another, almost every major medieval culture. English, Scottish, Irish, Roman; all used the brigandine in the medieval age. Even the Chinese and Mongolians used a form of the brigandine in their history.
A gambeson could be worn underneath the brigandine, or chain mail. It could be worn with pauldrons, or without. Basically, the brigandine could be worn to fit whatever style the culture the wearer was from dictated.
Where you may have seen an example
Many movies have featured a brigandine. The most famous would have to be the movie Braveheart. Wallace himself (Mel Gibson) wore a brigandine in this film, although his was brown leather and was missing large sections of the outer leather shell.
There were also scenes where some of the English soldiers were wearing riveted plate armor. There is one scene in a battle where Wallace cuts the legs off of an English Man-at-Arms. Keep in mind that this is a movie and it would not be so easy to cut completely through an armored leg. But this gives you a view of what is going on inside of the leather of a brigandine.