Royal Armouries

The Toiras Armours

Images

monochrome lantern slide of an armoured figure on a horse

Toiras breastplates displayed in the White Tower after 1882

  • monochrome lantern slide of an armoured figure on a horse

    Toiras breastplates displayed in the White Tower after 1882

Statistics

Object Provenance: Probably French, about 1625

The Toiras Armours

Description

During the French wars of religion the fortress city of saint Martin de Ré on the island of Ré off la Rochelle was besieged by protestant Huguenot forces in 1627. England sent a small expedition under the duke of Buckingham to assist the Huguenots by assaulting the fortified city.

The expedition failed in its objectives, but captured a French ship, the St Esprit, loaded with arms. These were brought back to London, and the 281 back and breastplates were placed in the Tower. They are very distinctive, with deep flanges at the waist in the style favoured in Antwerp for infantry cuirasses, designed to be worn without gorgets, and the backplates have exceptionally broad scales on their shoulder straps. Each piece is stamped ‘Toiras’ for the French governor of the island of Ré, Jean Caylar d’Anduze de Saint Bonnet, Marquis de Toiras.

Pikeman’s pots were made for the cuirasses by a consortium of London armourers, but they were never issued and remained in the Tower during the English Civil War. A few were converted into harquebusiers’ cuirasses during the Commonwealth, but as the cuirasses were not bullet proof they could not be used for this purpose without major structural alteration. In consequence they remained in the Tower, and have been used ever since as wall decoration.

Tower arsenal

Statistics

Object Provenance: Probably French, about 1625

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