Royal Armouries

The Hanoverian Line of Kings 1714-1820

Images

coloured line drawing of people visiting a line of mounted armours

Drawing of the Horse Armoury. Late 18th century (I.45)

  • coloured line drawing of people visiting a line of mounted armours

    Drawing of the Horse Armoury. Late 18th century (I.45)

  • colour photo of a full-length armour with decorated banding

    Armour used for the figure of George II in the Line of Kings 1768 -1826. English, Greenwich, about 1560 (II.82)

  • colour portrait of a man sitting at a desk holding a book

    Portrait of William Hutton by an unknown artist, about 1780 © Birmingham Museums Trust

  • colour photo of a carved wooden head of Henry VII

    Carved wooden head of Henry VII. English, about 1689-91 (XVII.40)

The Hanoverian Line of Kings 1714-1820

Description

In the wake of the late 17th century alterations to the equestrian line the 18th century by contrast appears very quiet. The Tower of London was certainly an integral aspect of the accepted visitor experience in London throughout the 18th century and it generally featured in written accounts of the time. Yet as with any visitor experience some aspects were more interesting than others. The supposed Portuguese visitor, Don Manoel Gonzales, visiting the Tower sometime during the reign of George I enjoyed his time in the Tower Armouries, commenting that ‘In the horse-armoury the most remarkable things are some of the English kings on horseback in compleat armour’. Yet when the astronomer and natural scientist, Edward Piggott, came to the Tower in 1772 he was clearly impressed by the Grand Storehouse with its artillery displays. He also liked the Crown Jewels. Yet the menagerie got a desultory mention and the remaining artefacts, presumably those in the Horse Armoury, were simply lumped together as ‘other antiquities’.

Having become a ‘line of kings’ the only additions made to the display were deceased monarchs. The figures of George I and George II were placed in the line in 1750 and 1768 respectively. The inclusion of George I, somewhat belatedly, had already been approved in 1730 but the order was not completed. Suitable armour to represent George I was finally identified in 1750 at Windsor Castle. The most curious feature to emerge during this period however is the casting of a metal head by the sculptor, John Cheere. This was apparently the only occasion that metal was considered as a sculptured element in the display. However, although the head was not used he was still paid £8 8s 0d for his efforts in 1751.

The inclusion of George I seemed to prompt some renovation of the Line. Other figures within the Horse Armoury were repainted. Figures within the Line of Kings seemed to have been completely repainted. Twenty-two horses and the faces of the kings were painted by John Reynolds. The legs of Henry VII were also painted three times in oil. However, only two months earlier the Master Carpenter, John Morris, had been paid £7 7s 0d for carving a new figure of King Henry out of solid pine. The addition of George II, the last English monarch to be present on the battlefield, appeared to mark the final development in the Line. A horse suitable for mounting a suit of armour had been selected by 1764. The mounting of the armour and the addition of horse furniture, however, was not completed until 1768.

With the addition of George II and the long and rather unfortunate reign of George III very little changed in the Horse Armoury. The equestrian display continued to attract visitors and draw favourable and unfavourable comments. However, the views of William Hutton, visiting in 1785, could be interpreted as the start of an increasingly negative tone to visitor accounts. He felt that ‘In the horse armory …..The royal regiment of kings, drawn up in battalia, and shewn to strangers, fell short of expectation. They seemed bigger than life, which is an unpardonable error in the statuary. An exact likeness of any one is preferable to a random troop.’ By the 1820s it was felt that action needed to be taken.

Related Objects

George I in the Line of Kings Click on the title link above to find out more.

George II in the Line of Kings Click on the title link above to find out more.

Henry VII in the Line of Kings Click on the title link above to find out more.

William Hutton’s account of the Horse Armoury Click on the title link above to find out more.

Themes Menu

Line of Kings