Royal Armouries

Charles II in the Line of Kings

Images

colour portrait of King Charles II in armour

Charles II when Prince of Wales by William Dobson, 1644. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2013

  • colour portrait of King Charles II in armour

    Charles II when Prince of Wales by William Dobson, 1644. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2013

  • colour photo of a boy's armoured figure with decorated banded edges

    Armour of King Charles I as a boy. Dutch, about 1616 (II.90)

  • colour photo of Charles I's armour helmet with banded decoration

    Detail of armour of King Charles I as a boy. Dutch, about 1616 (II.90)

  • 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)

  • monochrome engraving of a man with sash and medals

    Engraving of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington and Master General of the Ordnance from 'The Tower and its Armouries' by J Hewitt. 1841 (I.378)

  • monochrome newspaper illustration of an armoured figure on horseback

    Figure of King Charles I in the Horse Armoury, The Penny Magazine, 1840

  • monochrome newspaper illustration of an armoured figure on horseback

    Figure of King Edward VI in the Horse Armoury, The Penny Magazine, 1840

  • monochrome newspaper illustration of an armoured figure on horseback

    Figure of King James II in the Horse Armoury, The Penny Magazine, 1840.

  • monochrome newspaper illustration of an armoured figure on horseback

    James II from Charles Knight, London, 1842.

  • pen and ink sketch of a man in a fur hat

    Portrait of Lodewijk Huygens, ink drawing by Constantijn Huygens II, 6 November 1669 © Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • colour photo of a carved wooden head of Charles II

    Carved wooden head of Charles II by Grinling Gibbons. English, 1685-6 (XVII.3)

  • Carved wooden head of Charles II, English by Grinling Gibbons, 1685-6. xvii.3

  • Carved wooden head of Charles II, English by Grinling Gibbons, 1685-6. xvii.3

Charles II in the Line of Kings

Description

The early development of the display which has become known as the Line of Kings has been associated with the Restoration and the affirmation of the position and heritage of monarchy in Britain.

Charles II, as the monarch who was restored to power after the Commonwealth in 1660, could be seen as a symbol of the Restoration and a celebration of the return of the monarchy. It would have been surprising to have created a Line of Kings without including a figure of Charles II in it.

Dr Samuel Meyrick, in his book A Critical Inquiry into Antient Armour, details that

‘On the death of Charles II, in 1685, it was thought that the restored constitution was pretty well established; therefore, in 1686, his face and that of Charles I were carved by Grinlin Gibbons, one of the best artists of this time, and their figures set up in armour as now exhibited’.

This is further supported by visitor accounts and London guidebooks that listed Charles II amongst the monarchs, such as Edward Hatton in A New View of London published in 1708, and later the 1730s publication The Voyage of Don Manoel Gonzales.

Furthermore, in London guidebooks slightly later in the eighteenth century the importance of the legacy of Charles II is made clear with his figure being used to make direct links to the contemporary world. In 1761, the guidebook London and its Environs described the figure of Charles II as ‘dressed in armour worn by the champion of England at the coronation of his present Majesty. He sits with a truncheon in his hand, on a fine horse richly caparisoned.’ Though this guidebook was published in 1761, when George III had recently come to the throne, it is probable that this passage had been unaltered from a previous edition and referred to George II, who had been crowned in 1727 and died in 1760.

This is supported by the Tower of London guidebook from 1768 which details the representation of Charles II as with ‘a truncheon in his hand, and is dressed in the armour worn by the champion of England at the coronation of George II’. During George II’s reign the stability of the Hanoverian dynasty was not obviously secure. It was principally due to the political manoeuvrings of Robert Walpole that many influential Tory MPs supported George’s legitimacy over his Stuart rival, and as a result supported George’s cause in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. A connection between the achievements of Charles II and George II might thus have been symbolised by armour with which both were associated.

It appears that this representation remained in place until a minor re-arrangement, which saw Charles II’s figure displayed in the Lion armour from 1768, so that the armour which his figure had previously worn could be switched to the newly added figure of George II. In the 1826-7 re-display, co-ordinated by the armour expert Dr Meyrick, the figures of George II and Charles II were removed from the Line of Kings, no longer needed to make a political statement and to legitimise the reign of George IV.

However, Charles II has recently returned to the Line and is currently represented by an armour garniture that is thought to have belonged to both Charles I and II as children. This armour had previously been displayed in the 18th century as Charles II’s armour when he was seven or eight years old, but during the 19th century it was generally displayed as having belonged to Charles I when he was Prince of Wales. One reason we believe that Charles II wore this armour is a portrait by William Dobson dated between 1642 and 1644 in which Charles II is shown wearing the armour.

It seems that James II initially added a figure of his brother, Charles II, to the Line of Kings as an acknowledgment of his achievement in returning the Stuarts to the throne. Subsequently Charles’ role in the Restoration was important to legitimise the new Hanoverian dynasty in the eighteenth century. His place in the current Line of Kings exhibition is also represented by the carved wooden head, now stripped of its paint, which was probably carved by Grinling Gibbons’ workshop in 1685 .

Related Objects

Grinling Gibbons and the Horse Armoury Click on the title link above to find out more.

Armour of King Charles I as a Boy Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1616 | Object number: II.90, VI.59, VI.117–8

Miniature Cannon and Carriages Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1638-39 | Object number: XIX.25-6 & 29-30

Charles II (reigned 1660 - 1685) Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1685 | Object number: XVII.3

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

James II 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.

Edward VI in the Line of Kings Click on the title link above to find out more.

Samuel Meyrick and the Rearrangement of the Horse Armoury, about 1824-1827 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Creating a Display: from the English Civil War to the Restoration of the House of Stuart Click on the title link above to find out more.

The Genesis of the Line of Kings, 1685-1692 Click on the title link above to find out more.

The Strange Affair of Elizabeth Cooper and the Lion Armour, 1821-22 Click on the title link above to find out more.

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