Royal Armouries

Lodewijk Huygens’ Visit to the Tower of London, 1652

Images

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

  • 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

  • Silvered and engraved armour of Henry VIII

  • colour photo of Henry VIII's full-length armour

    Armour of Henry VIII. English, Greenwich, 1540 (II.8)

  • colour portrait of King Charles II in armour

    Charles II when Prince of Wales by William Dobson, 1644. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2013

  • 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 Henry VIII's armour with decorated banding

    Armour of Henry VIII. English, Greenwich, 1540 (II.8)

  • colour photo of a carved wooden head of Henry VIII

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

  • colour photo of a carved wooden head of Henry VII

    Carved wooden head of Henry VII. English, about 1689-91 (XVII.40)

Lodewijk Huygens’ Visit to the Tower of London, 1652

Description

Lodewijk Huygens is the earliest visitor to the Tower whose account describes seeing armoured figures on wooden horses. Although this was not yet called the Horse Armoury, it appears to have been the forerunner of the exhibition which was developed after the Restoration in 1660, and to which James II added figures of Charles I and II by Grinling Gibbons in 1685-6.

Lodewijk was one of the sons of Sir Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687) who was a high-ranking diplomat, civil servant and a poet who had spent time in England. Through his connections, Constantijn senior managed to arrange for 20 year-old Lodewijk to come to England in December 1651 as part of the 20-man entourage of three ambassadors sent on a diplomatic mission to negotiate with Oliver Cromwell’s government about the Navigation Act. While in England, Lodewijk made use of several introductions to meet old friends of his father. In addition, he took the opportunity to see the sights of London, including the Tower:

‘Monday 25 March (1652) …an officer asked us where we wanted to go. We said that we were foreigners and wished to see the Tower; he let us pass then after we first handed over our rapiers to him. He provided us with a guide who took us first to the armouries where armour, mostly new and tested, for 10,000 men was stored. After this we entered a room where horses’ armour used in former times was displayed on wooden horses with armed men on them. There were two suits of armour worn by Henry VII and two worn by Henry VIII themselves; they were not very costly though. Another remarkable suit of armour here belonged to John of Gaunt, a renowned warrior of a few hundred years ago, who had been more than a head taller than any person of our time; a sword that stood next to it was indeed in proportion …’.

Huygens account is important both as the earliest yet known to describe figures on wooden horses at the Tower and because it records the process by which visitors were checked in and assigned their guide. His references to armour worn by Henry VII and VIII themselves indicate that such objects as the Silvered and Engraved Armour featured in the display. The tale about the so-called ‘John of Gaunt’s’ armour and sword suggests that the guides had already developed a set of entertaining stories to impress their visitors – and to encourage a generous tip.
Lodewijk had two older brothers who achieved great fame:

By comparison, Lodewijk’s career was relatively unexceptional. He served many years as sherriff of Gorinchem but faced conflict and accusations of corruption, leading eventually to his resignation.

Related Objects

Field Armour, the 'Giant' Armour Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1540 | Object number: II.22

Henry VIII in the Line of Kings Click on the title link above to find out more.

Samuel Meyrick and the Rearrangement of the Horse Armoury, about 1824-1827 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Henry VII in the Line of Kings Click on the title link above to find out more.

Creating a Display: from the English Civil War to the Restoration of the House of Stuart Click on the title link above to find out more.

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