Foot combat armour
Dates from about 1520 | English, Southwark | Object number: II.6
There is no chink in its protection which completely covers the body.
Every part locks over another – the helmet locks onto the cuirass that locks into the buttock and thigh defences that themselves lock onto the leg and foot defences.
Yet the whole armour can flex because hundreds of narrow overlapping plates, or ‘lames’, are attached together by rivets and articulate to protect every part of the wearer’s body.
Did you know?
- Even though this armour was designed for a purely practical purpose, it was still highly fashionable. The large codpiece imitated the prominent textile codpieces of clothing at the time. The broad-toed shape of the foot defences (sabatons) is another Tudor fashion influence.
- The armour gave superb protection but had two great problems: firstly, it weighs 42.6 kg (94lb) about twice as much as normal armour for war. Secondly, the wearer would quickly over-heat when competing in this armour. However, it was only intended to be worn for very short periods.
- This armour shows the figure of Henry VIII as he was at the age of twenty-nine. It looks like it has been moulded onto him. His muscular body shape is perfectly revealed – from his height of about 1.88 m (6ft 2in) to his ‘extremely fine calf to his leg’ of which he was inordinately proud.
- When this new armour was still black from the hammer it was suddenly abandoned. It only needed the final plate (the right neck guard) to be attached and the holes were already drilled in readiness. Just three months before the Field of Cloth of Gold tournament was due to begin in June 1520, the type of armour specified for the foot combat had been changed. Henry’s master armourer, Martin van Royne, must have been furious as his masterpiece remained unfinished in the workshop. It was not polished until centuries later.
- NASA, the American space agency, visited the Armouries at the Tower of London in 1962 especially to see the all-enclosing armour of Henry VIII. They were developing the design of space-suits and thought this armour might provide some solutions to astronauts’ problems of mobility.
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