Royal Armouries

Field Armour, the 'Giant' Armour

Images

colour photo of a giant armour and a boy's armour

Overall view of the 'Giant' and boy's armours. (II.22 & II.126)

  • colour photo of a giant armour and a boy's armour

    Overall view of the 'Giant' and boy's armours. (II.22 & II.126)

  • monochrome engraving of a man in a long wig above an inscription

    Edward Ward by Michael Vandergucht, line engraving, published 1710 © National Portrait Gallery, London 2013

  • 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

  • a page of italic text from a letter

    A page from a letter from Samuel Molyneux, 1712 © Southampton City Council

  • colour portrait of a man sitting at a desk holding a book

    Portrait of William Hutton by an unknown artist, about 1780 © Birmingham Museums Trust

  • monochrome illustration of 5 armour helmets

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

Date: 1540 | Object number: II.22

Statistics

Object Provenance: German, Brunswick, about 1540. Tower Arsenal since at least 1625
Object Number: II.22
Height as mounted: 2070 mm
Weight: 32.6 kg (71 lb 11 oz)

Field Armour, the 'Giant' Armour

Description

The close helmet is of burgonet type, the skull with a low, roped comb, a pivoted peak with an extension underneath pierced with two sights. The lower part of the visor consists of a single falling plate with cross-shaped breaths. The double gorget plates are modern restorations. The gorget comprises a main plate front and rear with three lames above.

The breastplate is globose with a medial ridge, shaped to a central point. The neck and gusset edges have strongly roped inward turns. It is pierced for a lance rest. The fauld is of three lames, and single plate tassets are attached by straps and buckles. The backplate has a culet of four lames.

The arm defences comprise full pauldrons, both fitted with upright haut pieces, the right pauldron’s mainplate has a cut-out at the front for the lance. The small articulating lames below the main plates are restorations. The upper cannons have turners, and are attached to large bracelet couters and lower cannons. The gauntlets are of mitten type.

The cuisses are articulated twice at the top. The greaves reach the bottom of the foot and are pierced at the rear for spurs. The lower part of the right is restored, as are both the broad toed sabatons.

All elements are embossed with a border of overlapping roundels etched alternatively with rosettes and flamboyant rays, and are also etched with bands of scrollwork and foliage. The band in the centre of the backplate incorporates a heart-shaped cartouche bearing the monogram AB for the etcher. The tassets are embossed with central crosses lozengy. Etched AB for the etcher.

This once fine armour has been in the Armouries since at least the 17th century. In Fordaine and Schonbul’s Travels of 1625-8 it is described as the armour of John of Gaunt, an attribution it retained until the reorganisation of the Tower displays by Meyrick in 1826-27.

In the 1660 Inventory it is described as ‘a large white armour cap-a-pe, said to be John of Gaunt’s’. The carved wooden head of John of Gaunt which was displayed with the armour is illustrated in Borg 1976: 326, pl. LXXVIIb.

There is a tradition that the armour was issued and worn in the Lord Mayor’s Show in the 18th and early 19th centuries. This could account for its severely over-cleaned condition, and some of the more modern repair work and restoration. Mann (1932: 27-31 first suggested the Brunswick attribution for the armour.

Dr A von Rohr of the Landesmuseum, Hanover, suggested the initials AB might belong to Bonaventura Abt, a painter working in Brunswick 1525-52. He worked for the town and for Prince Heinrich the Younger, who had his residence at Wolfenbuttel (once known for a tournament), and in 1535 is recorded as ‘painting’ an armour.

There are two other giant armours from Schloss Blankenburg, no 4 dated 1549 (R Bohlmann, ‘Die Braunsweigischen Waffen aus Schloss Blankenburg am Harz’, ZHWK 6 heft 10, 1912-14: 335-64) and another almost identical but fragmentary harness (Mann 1932 abb. 3-4). Mann identified a series of armours with overlapping embossed circles etched with the rosette and flame design, including a late ‘Maximilian’ armour from the Tower, II.11, another formerly in the Berlin Zeughaus (abb. 7-8) and the couters of another in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, formerly in the Riggs and Spitzer collections.

Publications

References

J. Hewitt, Official Catalogue of the Tower Armouries, London, 1859: 12, II.39
Viscount Dillon, Illustrated Guide to the Armouries, Tower of London, London, 1910: 116, II.30

Statistics

Object Provenance: German, Brunswick, about 1540. Tower Arsenal since at least 1625
Object Number: II.22
Height as mounted: 2070 mm
Weight: 32.6 kg (71 lb 11 oz)

Related Objects

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

William Hutton’s account of the Horse Armoury 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.

John Macky on the Horse Armoury Click on the title link above to find out more.

Samuel Molyneux’s Letter about his visit to the Tower Click on the title link above to find out more.

Ned Ward’s Humorous Account of the Tower as a Visitor Attraction Click on the title link above to find out more.

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