Royal Armouries

Edward VI in the Line of Kings

Images

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 Edward VI in the Horse Armoury, The Penny Magazine, 1840

  • colour photo of a boy's full length armour with a wooden head

    Boy's armour. (II.126)

  • colour photo of Prince Henry Stuart's full-length armour with decorated banding

    Armour of Henry, Prince of Wales. Dutch, about 1607 (II.88)

  • 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 newspaper illustration of an armoured figure on horseback

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

  • monochrome newspaper illustration of a line of mounted armoured figures

    ‘Interior of the Horse Armoury’, anon engraving, The Penny Magazine, 1836 © Royal Armouries 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 an armour decorated with lions' heads

    The Lion armour, displayed on the wooden figure of 'Edward VI' in the Line of Kings

  • colour photo of a full length armour with gold banded decoration

    Armour of William Somerset, used for the figure of Huntingdon from 1827. (II.83)

The Lion Armour

Object Provenance: Probably Italian, about 1550
Object Number: II.89

Edward VI in the Line of Kings

Description

Edward VI had a short reign and has frequently been characterised as a sickly child dominated by his Protectors. However recently scholarship has begun to challenge this historiography and particularly with the publication of Edward’s diaries we can see the emergence of a young adult with a keen mind and interest in sport.

One of the first descriptions of an armoured figure representing Edward VI is in a Tower of London guidebook from 1753, it celebrates Edward as the first Protestant king and describing the ‘most curious suit of steel armour whereon are depicted in different compartments, a vast variety of scripture histories, alluding to battles & other memorable passages’. The armour Edward VI was being represented in was a beautifully decorated suit of armour which we now know dates from the early seventeenth century and was made for Henry Stuart, son of James I. In the description of Edward’s figure the armour’s decoration is described as having religious significance to support the depiction of Edward VI as a devout Protestant leader. However, the decoration is classical rather than religious, and shows stories from the life of Alexander the Great.

Edward VI was displayed in this armour until the re-display in 1826-7 by Dr Samuel Meyrick, who was highly regarded as an expert in armour. In his re-arrangement many kings were removed from the Line due to the lack of armour of appropriate periods, but a figure of Edward VI was retained. The highly decorated Stuart armour was removed and returned to Henry Stuart, and instead Edward was dressed in what we now call the Lion armour. This beautiful armour was notable for the embossed decoration of lion masks, particularly on the helmet.

This armour had previously been used on the figure representing Charles II, but as it probably dates from the 1550s its period was better suited to Edward VI. Though neither of the armours used for his figure had actually belonged to Edward VI, it was clear they were selected to celebrate his reign when England started to acquire its Protestant identity. This was mirrored by the props and pose he was given. The 1827 Tower of London guidebook points Edward out as deserving of attention firstly due to the beautiful armour, but ‘also for the fine attitude in which it is placed’. He was shown standing on the stirrups of the horse, face and body inclined to the right with left hand pointing at a distant object – he was a dynamic ruler inviting the observers’ attention, not just passively sitting on his horse. We can see this in the image published in The Penny Magazine in 1840 by Charles Knight.

Edward VI is not represented in the current Line of Kings exhibition. The carved wooden head of his figure has not been identified, and perhaps no longer survives. However, the armour that his figure was incorrectly assigned until 1826 is displayed as Henry, Prince of Wales.

The Lion Armour

Object Provenance: Probably Italian, about 1550
Object Number: II.89

Related Objects

Clinton: Unassuming Success Click on the title link above to find out more.

Hastings: the survivor of a coup Click on the title link above to find out more.

Henry Stuart, Prince of Wales in the Line of Kings Click on the title link above to find out more.

James I 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.

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

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