Royal Armouries

Henry VII in the Line of Kings

Images

colour photo of a carved wooden head of Henry VII

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

  • colour photo of a carved wooden head of Henry VII

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

  • monochrome newspaper illustration of an armoured figure on horseback

    Figure of King Henry VII in the Horse Armoury, The Penny Magazine, 1840.

  • monochrome newspaper illustration of an armoured figure on horseback

    Figure of King Henry VI 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 photo of King Henry VIII's armour and horse armour on horseback

    The Silvered and Engraved Armour of King Henry VIII decorated by Paul van Vrelant. Probably English, Greenwich, about 1515 (II.5)

  • 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 Henry VIII

    Carved wooden head of Henry VIII. English, about 1689-91 (XVII.1)

  • colour photo of full-length armour with fluted decoration

    Composite armour used for the figure of Henry VII in the Line of Kings from 1827. (II.2)

Henry VII in the Line of Kings

Description

A figure representing Henry VII was one of the earliest figures on displayed at the Tower, from the mid seventeenth century. The Dutch diplomat, Lodewijck Huygens mentions seeing two armours attributed to Henry VII when visiting the Tower in 1652. However, in Huygen’s visitor account he dismissed the armours on display as not looking ‘very costly’.

There appears to have been little effort to translate the life of Henry VII through the display, which had been done with other monarchs. Henry VII was the first monarch in the Tudor dynasty that was to rule for over 100 years. However, when Henry fought Richard III at the battle of Bosworth in 1485, his position was far from secure. England had been gripped in the Wars of the Roses since 1455 and the reign of Henry VI, but after his victory at Bosworth Henry VII moved decisively to strengthen his position and establish peace. Interestingly Henry VII was one of the last English kings to lead troops in battle and although in the 1810 Tower of London guidebook he is described as holding a sword this does not make him stand out from other kings in the Line.

In the images published in 1840 by Charles Knight, Henry is shown with a lance not a sword. We now know that the armour shown on Henry VII’s figure actually dates from 1520 so would have been too late to have belonged to the first Tudor monarch, but this does not mean it would necessarily have been very different from armour he may have worn. After the re-display by the armour expert Dr Samuel Meyrick in 1826-27, Henry VII was mentioned in the Tower of London guidebooks up to and including 1839. However, Henry VII was not mentioned in the 1842 Tower guidebook, and instead a knight from that period was represented instead, reflecting the wish only to assign well-documented armours to royal figures.

Another curious aspect of the display relating to Henry VII is the so-called ‘Will Somers armour’. In 1710 the traveller Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach described a suit of armour that was thought to have been used by Henry VII ‘as a disguise at a masquerade’. It seems there was a lot of confusion regarding this curious armour for many years, with suggestions that it was made for Henry VIII’s jester amongst the most popular.

King Henry VII is represented in the current Line of Kings display by the carved wooden head that was probably from his figure.

Related Objects

Henry VII (reigned 1485-1509) Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1688 | Object number: XVII.40

Henry 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.

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

César de Saussure’s visit to the Horse Armoury at the Tower in 1725 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Lodewijk Huygens’ Visit to the Tower of London, 1652 Click on the title link above to find out more.

William Schellinks at the Tower in 1661 Click on the title link above to find out more.

The Hanoverian Line of Kings 1714-1820 Click on the title link above to find out more.

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