Royal Armouries

Thomas Allen on the New Horse Armoury display in 1828

Images

monochrome line drawing of a row of armoured figures on horseback with annotations

"Parallel Perspective View of the Horse Armoury Tower taken from the Centre of the Room" in 'Britton & Brayley, Memoirs of the Tower, 1830'.

  • monochrome line drawing of a row of armoured figures on horseback with annotations

    "Parallel Perspective View of the Horse Armoury Tower taken from the Centre of the Room" in 'Britton & Brayley, Memoirs of the Tower, 1830'.

  • Henry VIII's silvered and engraved armour showing the skirt with intertwined initials of H and K (Henry and Katherine) in gold. II.5.

    Henry VIII's silvered and engraved armour showing the skirt with intertwined initials of H and K (Henry and Katherine) in gold. II.5.

  • Henry VIII's silvered and engraved armour, II.5, showing in detail the intertwined gold initials of H and K (Henry and Katherine).

    Henry VIII's silvered and engraved armour, II.5, showing in detail the intertwined gold initials of H and K (Henry and Katherine).

  • monochrome photo of four views of a torture collar showing its mechanisms

    The mechanisms of a torture collar. (XV.4)

  • colour photo of Charles I's gilt full-length armour

    Gilt armour of King Charles I, made for Henry, Prince of Wales. Dutch, about 1612 (II.91)

  • colour photo of James II's breastplate, helmet, and gauntlet over a buffcoat

    Armour of King James II. English, London, 1686 (II.123)

  • colour photo of a full-length armour decorated with engraving

    Armour of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. English, Greenwich, (II.81)

  • 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 IV in the Horse Armoury, by Robert William Buss, about 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 Edward I in the Horse Armoury, The Penny Magazine, 1840

  • 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 VIII in the Horse Armoury, The Penny Magazine, 1840.

  • monochrome newspaper illustration of an armoured figure on horseback

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

  • 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 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

    Figure of Sir Horace Vere 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

  • monochrome line drawing of a giant size man's armour and 2 large swords

    Two handed bearing swords from 'A Treatise on antient armour and weapons' by F. Grose, London, 1786, pl.22

  • 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

Thomas Allen on the New Horse Armoury display in 1828

Description

One year after the opening of Dr Meyrick’s re-organization of the Horse Armoury in 1827, Allen’s History gives a detailed description and some personal opinions, including a condemnation of the New Horse Armouries building. Many of the objects mentioned can still be identified in Royal Armouries collections almost two hundred years later.

Two years after Allen’s History was published, Britton and Brayley’s Memoirs of the Tower was published which includes a remarkable image of the entire ‘Line of Kings’. Ten years later the first engravings of individual equestrian figures were published in The Penny Magazine in 1840.

‘The New Horse Armoury
(It cannot be regretted too much that government should have allowed a paltry building like that containing the New Horse Armoury to have been erected against the venerable and noble White Tower; it totally destroys the fine effect of that ancient edifice from the only situation where it could be seen with advantage, viz., the open square in which it is situated. Surely there were other places to have built upon without defacing the most perfect specimen of Norman military architecture in the kingdom T. A.)

This is a spacious room, 149 feet by 33, in which are arranged in regular and chronological order, twenty-two equestrian figures, comprising many of the most celebrated kings of England, accompanied by their favorite lords of the highest rank, all of them, together with their horses, in the armour of the respective periods when they flourished; many, indeed, in the identical suits in which they appeared while living. Along the center of the ceiling, immediately over each figure, is a Gothic arch, on the columns of which, on the right-hand side of the effigies represented, and on the left of the spectator, when he stands before the horses’ heads, is fixed a crimson banner, which, in letters of gold, on both sides, expresses the name, rank, and date of existence of the personage on its left. The horses stand, mounted by their riders, almost without any visible support, on a floor of brick, raised a little from the adjoining boarded flooring, which is appropriated to the spectators, and fenced off, both before and behind, by a light iron railing. This judicious arrangement converts the remaining part of the room into an extensive promenade; between which and the walls, there has, notwithstanding, been found sufficient space to insert many interesting and appropriate curiosities. The walls of the building are also decorated with a profusion of pieces of armour, military instruments, &c. with the dates of the time when they were in use, neatly inscribed on the spot. The date in every instance is correct, but as only ten suits can positively be identified, these are printed in italic.

In the left corner of the building, as you enter, standing a little backward in the line of equestrian figures, is the effigy of

1. Edward I. king of England, A. D. 1272. The armour of this figure consists of the hawberk and its sleeves of mail, the hood and chausses of the same material; and on the body is the sarcoat, emblazoned with the royal arms before and behind. This monarch is represented in the act of sheathing his sword.
2. Henry VI. king of England, A. D. 1450. This plate armour is of the most beautiful form, particularly the back plate, which, like that of the breast, is made of several pieces, to be flexible, The battle-axe of the period, the long pointed toes of the sollerets, and the great spurs, cannot fail to attract notice. The horse is caparisoned with the arms of France and England; and the king wears on his head the salade, on which is the knight’s cap, surmounted by the crest. The saddle of bone-work is particularly curious.
3. Edward IV. king of England, A.D. 1465. This is a complete suit of tournament armour, furnished with additional pieces termed grand-guard, volant piece, and gard-de-bras. The vamplate of the lance is of a very rare form, and the horse is in a housing, powdered with the king’s badges, the white rose and sun.
4. Henry VII. king of England, A. D. 1508. This is a fluted suit of elegant form, probably of German manufacture.
5. Henry VIII. king of England, A. D. 1520. This monarch appears in a suit of plate armour, gilt. He holds in his hand a martel de fer, and wears an ancient fluted sword by his right side. (now Royal collection, Windsor Castle, formerly II.9)
6. Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk, A. D. 1520. He also is represented in plate armour, and in the act of saluting with his sword the before mentioned sovereign.
7. Edward Clinton, earl of Lincoln, A. D. 1535. This nobleman’s armour is very elegantly gilt, and his right hand rests on a mace. He wears a long fluted sword.
8. Edward VI. king of England, A. D. 1552. This figure is particularly deserving of notice, both on account of its armour, which is what was termed russet, and gilt in the most curious manner throughout, and also for the fine attitude in which it is placed. The youthful monarch stands firmly in the left stirrup, with his face and body inclined to the right, and while with his left hand he points to some distant object, his right grasps a curiously engraved and ornamented mace.
9. Francis Hastings, earl of Huntingdon, A. D. 1555. This is a suit of plate armour, richly gilt; its wearer is resting the blade of his drawn sword on his left arm.
10. Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, 1560. The earl of Leicester’s suit is covered with his initials R. D. in some places, with the collar of the garter in others; as also with the figure of St. Michael, and the earl’s badge of the ragged staff: it was originally gilt. He holds a sword in his right hand, with which he is pointing.
11. Sir Henry Lea, master of the armoury, A. D. 1570. He holds in his right hand a battle-axe, the head of which rests upon his shoulder. Sir Henry Lea was of Ditchley in Oxfordshire, where is preserved his portrait, with that of his faithful dog. He was champion to queen Elizabeth, and master of the armouries.
12. Robert Devereux, earl of Essex, A. D. 1585. This is a fine suit of armour, inlaid with gold. The cantle of the saddle is very beautifully engraved and gilt. In his right hand he holds a short sword, of curious workmanship.
13. James I. king of England, A.D. 1605. This monarch who, it will be remembered, was also James VI. of Scotland, wears a plain suit of armour. He holds, in a perpendicular direction, with his right hand, a tilting-lance, fourteen feet long, and two feet three inches in circumference in the thickest part, with which it was customary to run at the ring.
14. Sir Horace Vere, captain-general, A. D. 1606. This nobleman is, as it were, in attendance upon his sovereign, and holds in his right hand a small mace.
15. Thomas Howard, earl of Arundel, A.D. 1608. This figure, like the foregoing, has his eye towards his sovereign. He supports a mace on his right shoulder.
16. Henry, Prince of Wales, son of James I., A. D. 1612. This most beautiful suit of armour is highly deserving the attention of the curious. It is engraved throughout with subjects relating to battles, sieges, the burning of cities, &c.; and is richly gilt. The point of his sword rests on his right stirrup; a mace depends from his saddle-bow.
17. George Villiers, duke of Buckingham, A. D. 1618. This, it will be recollected, was the unfortunate favourite of Charles I. who was assassinated by Felton. Lord Clarendon, in his History of the Rebellion, relates a very remarkable communication which was made to the duke in private, by a stranger, a short time previous to his death; and which in substance predicted the near approach of that fatal event. He is in the act of spanning a wheel-lock pistol.
18. Charles, Prince of Wales, afterwards Charles I. A. D. 1620. This figure represents him when apparently about twelve years of age. He wears a suit of ornamental armour.
19. Thomas Wentworth, earl of Stafford, A.D. 1635. The armour of this nobleman descends no lower than his knees, the use of leg pieces having been discontinued about this period.
20. Charles I. king of England, A. D. 1640. The surface of this suit of armour is entirely gilt. It is very curiously wrought, and was presented to him by the city of London, when he was prince of Wales. This armour was laid on the coffin of the great duke of Marlborough, at his funeral procession, on which occasion a collar of SS’s was placed around it. The king holds in his right hand a truncheon, and the chanfron, or head armour of his horse, is furnished with a pointed spear between the eyes of the animal.
21. James II. king of England, A. D. 1685 . This remarkable figure is the last in the very superior collection which we have been describing. The circumstances of his present position somewhat appropriately correspond with his well known abdication of the throne and flight from the kingdom: he has left the company of his brother sovereigns and the enclosures assigned to them, and appears to be stealing cautiously along, close to the wall, and in a corner of the building, with his horse’s head towards the door. His dress consists of a drab-coloured velvet coat, with large covered buttons, laced with silver, worn over a bright blue velvet waistcoat, ornamented with gold lace; a long and curling black wig encircles his face, and falls down upon his shoulders, above which appears a capacious white neckcloth, tied in a large bow; and a pair of very large jack-boots, with gilt spurs, completes the description of his wearing apparel. His only armour is a cuirass, a gauntlet for the left hand, extending to his elbow as a protection; and a helmet, with ornamented bars of brass, the grating of which represent the form of the king’s arms, and has on it the letters I. R. H. On each side of the horse are the pistol-holsters, made of velvet, and richly embroidered with the crown and the initials I. R. in gold lace, &c.; these letters are also repeated in a double flourish, on a larger scale, at the extremities of the saddle-cloth. He wears a sword by his side, and has a baton in his hand; and the striking contrast which his appearance affords, when compared with the rest of the equestrian figures, is well worthy of observation.

From hence we enter a small room or recess opposite, in which is situated one of the outer doors of the building. The centre of the ceiling here is inscribed with the word Waterloo, in gold letters, irradiated on its sides with a border of bright bayonets, and covered with cuirasses formerly belonging to the French army under Napoleon. On each side is a glass case, containing many very curious articles; amongst these are a couple of cross-bows of the time of Henry VIII. with the iron windlasses used for winding up; a Spanish collar of torture; a Florentine dagger and poniard of the period of Elizabeth, with stains of blood still upon it: a combined weapon of the reign of James I. in form resembling a small battle axe, but which contains six pistol-barrels, a wheel-lock, a matchlock, &c.; and some beautiful specimens of pistols, carbines, muskets, fowling pieces, &c. of the respective times of James I., Charles I. and William III.

In this small room, is a well carved and painted horse, on which is an elegant saddle covered with crimson velvet, richly embroidered with gold, and very curious stirrups; also a Turkish bridle and breast-plate for a horse, with gilt furniture, from Grand Cairo.

Returning and passing the inner door of this recess, and again entering the long room, we proceed, by the front wall, to the other extremity of the building. In our progress we observe various figures, of the size of life, illustrative of the armour, costume, &c. of various classes of the military at the periods to which they have reference. These stand on pedestals, on which is inscribed their description and date. The first on the right is A Pikeman of the reign of Charles I. His armour is of a brown colour, studded with brass headed nails. The defence for his thighs consists of long flaps, called tassets, made of the same material as the body armour, to which they are attached by hinges, so as to lift up or let down. He holds in his right hand a pike about twelve feet long.

An archer of the year 1590. This figure is dressed in green; he wears, however, a brigandine jacket, which is a kind of doublet, containing pieces of iron, and curiously quilted. He is furnished with a bow and quiver.

We are now arrived opposite the centre recess in the front wall; but, before we begin to describe its contents, we must notice the two figures on foot and in armour, which are stationed on each side of it. They represent two suits of armour, actually made for Henry VIII. The armour of the first, dated 1509, is rough from the hammer, and is the most complete in the collection. The date of the second is 1512, and this suit was made for combats on foot.

Just beyond the figures last described, are two pieces of ordnance, mounted, taken by General Wolfe at Quebec.

Our attention is now irresistibly attracted by the equestrian figure (No. 22) of king Henry VIII in the recess. The highly curious suit of armour in which this monarch is habited, was a present from the emperor Maximilian the First, to the king of England, on his marriage in 1509, with Katherine of Arragon, and has on it the congratulatory word, gluck, prosperity. It is covered with engravings, representing the legends of saints, interspersed with the king’s badges, and is washed over with silver. The attitudes both of the horse and his rider are exceedingly spirited; the animal rears up on his hind legs, while the king leans forward, in the act of elevating a drawn sword.

Above the head of the king is the following inscription:

Georgio IV. Opt. Max. Regnante
Arthure Duce Wellington
Ordinationum Magistro
Has Principum Nobiliumque
Loricus
Historicae Instituit
A. D. 1826. S. R. MEYRICK, LL.D.
In the reign of His Most Excellent Majesty, George IV.
Arthur, Duke of Wellington,
Being Master of the Ordnance,
These suits of armour of Princes and Nobles,
Were historically arranged by
A. D. 1826. S. R. MEYRICK, LL.D,

In this recess, on each side, is a small figure in armour, standing in a niche, and on a pedestal. They represent two sons of monarchs; the left figure being prince Henry, son of James I. dated 1604; and that on the right, Charles, prince of Wales, 1636, afterwards Charles II. Above and around the recess are many curious pieces of armour, head and breast-plates, together with the halberts, pikes, &c. of the period in which Henry VIII flourished.

Leaving the recess, the next object on our right is A Foot Soldier, 1540. This is an interesting figure, with a two-handed sword; and his long beard, black dress, and dark armour, forms a striking contrast with the soldiers of the present day.
A Swordsman, 1506. He is encased in half armour, with a puckered velvet skirt, which reaches from his loins to his knees, and gradually widens as it descends. A very curious crimson helmet, richly embroidered, and a quilted belt, also embroidered: they formerly belonged to Tippoo Saib.
A straight Sword, with a broad blade, the hilt of which is iron, inlaid with gold, originally belonging to Tippoo Sultan. These and several other curious articles in this and in the Small Armoury, were purchased at the sale of the collection of H. R. H. the late duke of York.

In the recess which we passed through upon our first entrance is contained a stirrup and cross-bow of the time of Henry V., parts of a jazarine jacket, some curious helmets, breast-plates, a chanfron, a collar of bandalies for charges of powder, &c, &c.

The wall before the equestrian figures forms an extensive recess of about three-fourths of the length of the building, the bottom of which is about four feet higher than the floor of the building.

From the initials C. R. on the banners, and a nearer inspection, we perceive that the whole forms a most extensive collection of specimens of the armour, pikes, accoutrements, ensigns, &c. of the adherents to the royal cause in the time of Charles I. The centre consists of a body of pikemen, with their weapons; on the right and left of these appear the curassiers, and its two wings are formed of cavaliers, in their more complete armour, each supporting a lance. At the back of the recess, in the centre, are arranged trumpets and banners of the period, smaller specimens of armour, two Highland swords, with pistols and targets, &c. The whole forms a most striking memento of the unhappy intestine commotions which distracted this kingdom in the reign of the unfortunate Charles.

A Man at Arms, 1530, guards the left extremity of this recess. He is raised on a pedestal from the floor of the building. His height is upwards of six feet; he wears a large suit of complete armour, and supports himself with a reversed mace, the head of which touches the ground.

A Demi-Launcer, 1555, is also posted at the right-hand end of the recess to correspond.
Underneath the recess, and along the whole length of the wall, in which it is formed, are arranged, in regular order, various specimens of ordnance of different periods.

The first on the left is the most ancient: it is a very long and rudely-formed cannon; it has on it the fleurs-de-lis: the barrel is encompassed with iron hoops, and furnished with rings, instead of a carriage. It is assigned to the time of Henry VI.
Henry VII. A very large piece of brass ordnance of this period, marked with the king’s arms, the portcullis, and the fleur-de-lis. Henry VIII. The largest piece of ordnance in the collection, with the date 1542; it is ornamented with the rose and garter, surmounted by the French crown; and weighs upwards of five tons.

Two other small pieces, the first containing seven barrels, and the other, three, with grooves instead of touch-holes.
Specimens of ordnance in the reigns of Edwards VI., Mary I., and Elizabeth succeed in order. Next to these is a very beautiful specimen, dated 1608. It is covered with rich carved work, and ornamented with the prince of Wales’s plume. This cannon was manufactured for Henry, eldest son of James I., by the celebrated artists, Thomas and Richard Pitt.

Another, by the same makers, for Charles, prince of Wales, 1621, is well worthy of notice: it is embellished with the representation of Hercules’s club, the lion’s skin, an eagle in the clouds, &c. (Destroyed or damaged & scrapped 1841)
A well-finished piece, of the time of Charles II. 1676.
James II. A very curious French piece of ordnance, of a triple description, having two barrels abreast, and one at top.
Two Pavoises, of the time of James I, a kind of shield suspended from the wall, concludes our description.
The two beautiful painted glass windows, exhibiting the arms and badges of Henry VIII. and George IV. were executed by that clever artist, Mr. Willement, of Green-street, Grosvernor-square.
A couple of ancient Broad Swords, each about five feet long, are displayed over the stained glass window, at the east end of the building.

The articles in this armoury marked thus (P) were taken from the Central Depot and the Museum of Artillery in Paris, at the capture of that city, in 1814, and formed a part of the share of the British army’.

Related Objects

Dudley: Queen Elizabeth’s first favourite Click on the title link above to find out more.

Gilt armour of King Charles I, made for Henry Prince of Wales Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1612 | Object number: II.91, VI.60, VI.119–20

Iron Collar Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1547 | Object number: xv.4

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