Royal Armouries

Foot combat armour of Henry VIII

Images

colour photo of Henry VIII's fully encasing armour holding a wooden pole

Armour of King Henry VIII. (II.6)

  • colour photo of Henry VIII's fully encasing armour holding a wooden pole

    Armour of King Henry VIII. (II.6)

  • Detail of Henry VIII's foot combat armour, II.6, showing a close up of the sabatons

    Detail of Henry VIII's foot combat armour, showing a close up of the sabatons, which were shapes according to reflect the fashion of the time. II.6.

  • Henry VIII's Foot combat armour, II.6. showing gauntlets holding a pollaxe shaft.

    Henry VIII's foot combat armour showing the mitten gauntlets holding a pollaxe shaft. II.6

  • Henry VIII's Foot combat armour, II.6, showing details of the buttocks

    Henry VIII's foot combat armour, showing the upper thigh and rump defences. II.6

  • Detail of Henry VIII's foot combat armour, II.6, showing the upper front. Details of the inner vambrace lames can be seen.

    Close up of Henry VIII's foot combat armour, details of the inner vambrace lames can be seen. II.6

  • Detail of Henry VIII's foot combat armour, II.6 showing the gauntlets, vambraces and pauldrons.

    Detail of Henry VIII's foot combat armour, showing the gauntlets, vambraces, pauldrons and codpiece. II.6

  • Detail of Henry VIII's foot combat armour, II.6. Showing the helmet.

    Detail of the helmet and inset of Henry VIII's foot combat armour. II.6

  • Detail of Henry VIII's foot combat armour, II.6. showing a close up of the pauldrons.

    Close up of the pauldrons from Henry VIII's foot combat armour. II.6

  • Detail of Henry VIII's foot combat armour, II.6, showing the upper rear.

    Detail of Henry VIII's foot combat armour, showing the back and neck defences. II.6

  • Front upper view of Henry VIII's foot combat armour, II.6.

    Henry VIII's foot combat armour. II.6

  • Detail of Henry VIII's foot combat armour, II.6, showing the knee joint.

    Detail of the knee defence from Henry VIII's foot combat armour. II.6

  • monochrome image of an armoured figure and wall-mounted shield

    Shield V.52 with Henry VIII armour in the New Horse Armoury. © Private collection 2013

  • colour photo of a carved wooden head of Henry VIII

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

  • monochrome illustration of 5 armour helmets

    The de Courcy armour at the Tower of London, illustrated in Grose, 1786, pl. 14

Statistics

Date 1520
Patron Henry VIII
Maker Martin van Royne
Weight 42.6Kg (94lb)
Height 1.88m (6ft 2in)

Did you know?

NASA, the American space agency, visited the Armouries at the Tower of London in 1962 especially to see the all-enclosing armour of Henry VIII. They were developing the design of space-suits and thought this armour might provide some solutions to astronauts’ problems of mobility.

Foot combat armour of Henry VIII

Description

This extraordinary armour is like no other in Britain. There is no chink in its protection which completely covers the body.

Every part locks over another – the helmet locks onto the cuirass that locks into the buttock and thigh defences that themselves lock onto the leg and foot defences.

Yet the whole armour can flex because hundreds of narrow overlapping plates, or ‘lames’, are attached together by rivets and articulate to protect every part of the wearer’s body.

Even though this armour was designed for a purely practical purpose, it was still highly fashionable. The large codpiece imitated the prominent textile codpieces of clothing at the time. The broad-toed shape of the foot defences (sabatons) is another Tudor fashion influence.

The armour gave superb protection but had two great problems: firstly, it weighs 42.6 kg (94lb) about twice as much as normal armour for war. Secondly, the wearer would quickly over-heat when competing in this armour. However, it was only intended to be worn for very short periods.

This armour shows the figure of Henry VIII as he was at the age of twenty-nine. It looks like it has been moulded onto him. His muscular body shape is perfectly revealed – from his height of about 1.88 m (6ft 2in) to his ‘extremely fine calf to his leg’ of which he was inordinately proud.

When this new armour was still black from the hammer it was suddenly abandoned. It only needed the final plate (the right neck guard) to be attached and the holes were already drilled in readiness. Just three months before the Field of Cloth of Gold tournament was due to begin in June 1520, the type of armour specified for the foot combat had been changed. Henry’s master armourer, Martin van Royne, must have been furious as his masterpiece remained unfinished in the workshop. It was not polished until centuries later.

References

J. Hewitt, Official Catalogue of the Tower Armouries, London, 1859, 9, II.23
Viscount Dillon, Illustrated Guide to the Armouries, Tower of London, 1910, 192, II.22
J.G. Mann, Exhibition of Armour made in the Royal Workshops at Greenwich, London, 1951, cat no. 1
A.V.B. Norman and G.M. Wilson, Treasures from the Tower of London, Norwich, 1982, cat. no. 2
Ian Eaves, ‘The Tournament Armours of King Henry VIII of England’, Livrustkammaren, 1993, 14-15, fig.13.
C. Paggiarino, The Royal Armouries, masterpieces of medieval and renaissance arms and armour, Milan, 2011, volume 1, 256–72
G Rimer, T Richardson and J P D Cooper, Henry VIII: Arms and the Man, Leeds, 2009, 114–8
T. Richardson, ‘The King and the Astronaut’, Arms & Armour 10.1, 2013, 3–13

Statistics

Date 1520
Patron Henry VIII
Maker Martin van Royne
Weight 42.6Kg (94lb)
Height 1.88m (6ft 2in)

Did you know?

NASA, the American space agency, visited the Armouries at the Tower of London in 1962 especially to see the all-enclosing armour of Henry VIII. They were developing the design of space-suits and thought this armour might provide some solutions to astronauts’ problems of mobility.

Related Objects

John Newbery’s Historical Description and the Horse Armoury Click on the title link above to find out more.

Shield Click on the title link above to find out more.

Henry VIII (reigned1509-47) 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.

Related Documents

The royal armour workshops at Greenwich - Thom RichardsonArticle by Thom Richardson. The royal armour workshops at Greenwich. As published in Henry VIII: Arms and the Man.

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