The Burgundian bard
Dates from about 1511-14 | Flemish | Object number: VI.6–12
The Burgundian bard, probably by Guillem Margot, presented by Maximilian I to King Henry VIII.
One of a knight’s most valuable possessions was his best horse and because he owned a ‘cheval’, or horse, in French he was called a ‘chevalier’. A horse needed special protection in tournaments and war.
Horse armour, called a bard, was introduced to protect the horse’s head, neck and flanks against blows from lances, swords and, in battle, arrows. Horse armour was first made of textiles or mail. However, from about 1450 steel plate was used.
Did you know?
- This horse armour was a gift from the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I to Henry VIII to mark his marriage to Katherine of Aragon in 1509. It is described in an English inventory of 1519 as ‘given by the Emperor’.
- It is embossed with a trailing design of pomegranates (Katherine’s badge) and the firesteels and ragged (raguly) crosses of the Burgundian Order of the Golden Fleece which Henry had been awarded in 1505.
- The crupper (rear defence) is stamped with an armourer’s mark: a letter ‘M’ surmounted by a crescent. This is probably the mark of Guillem Margot who worked in the Emperor’s Flemish territories (now Belgium). The armour was engraved and gilded by Paul van Vrelant, who is first recorded working in Brussels for the Imperial family. Henry VIII was clearly impressed with the decoration since he soon employed van Vrelant in his own workshop at Greenwich.
- This horse armour consists of defences for the head, neck, front, sides and rear, with saddle steels. Its decoration was originally even more magnificent. The whole of the exterior was silvered and at least partly gilded. Today little silvering and no gilding remains.
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