Royal Armouries

Secret – so-called ‘Spider’

Images

helmet IV.212

'Secret' so called spider helmet. Probably French, about 1700 (IV.212)

  • helmet IV.212

    'Secret' so called spider helmet. Probably French, about 1700 (IV.212)

  • monochrome diagrams of 12 helmets of different designs

    Illustration of helmets from Hewitt's 1845 catalogue

  • helmet IV.212

    'Secret' so called spider helmet. Probably French, about 1700 (IV.212)

Object number: IV.212

Statistics

Object Provenance: Probably French, about 1700
Object Number: IV.212
Weight: 1.82 kg (4 lb)

Secret – so-called ‘Spider’

Description

Formed of hemispherical iron skull to which is riveted an outer framework of eight bars supporting a flat peak. Nine slender, slightly curved steel bars are attached by hinges around the edge and the brim of the outer frame. This example was acquired from the Brocas collection in 1834 and preserves an original lining.

There are a number of ‘spider’ helmets in the Royal Armouries Collections – the majority are English dating from about 1700. Plainer secrets consisting of a solid skull or strips of iron riveted together to form the skull were used to protect the crown of the head in the 17th century. Worn under a hat they were concealed, hence their popular name of secret (secrète).

The spider variant was more visible with its pendant bars offering a measure of protection to the rest of the head and face.

Hewitt’s Guide of 1854, p.76, records ‘A Spider helmet, very curious, of the time of Henry IV of France. No 8 of our plate [opp p.39]’. It formed part of an exhibit of ‘some very curious specimens of helmets and other portions of armour’ on the step in front of the platform on the north side of the Horse Armory [sic].

The Tower has a number of English examples (IV.1593 -8; 1678; 1681; 1684; 1686-9; 1756; 1815 and 1144) but only two French ones – IV. 211 & 212. Of these, IV.212 is in better condition, and an earlier acquisition, IV.211 was not acquired until 1853.

Statistics

Object Provenance: Probably French, about 1700
Object Number: IV.212
Weight: 1.82 kg (4 lb)

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