Royal Armouries

The Genesis of the Line of Kings, 1685-1692

Images

monochrome newspaper illustration of an armoured figure on horseback

James II from Charles Knight, London, 1842.

  • monochrome newspaper illustration of an armoured figure on horseback

    James II from Charles Knight, London, 1842.

  • 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 King Henry VI in the Horse Armoury, The Penny Magazine, 1840

  • monochrome line drawing of a line of armoured figures on horseback

    The Horse Armoury, by an unknown artist, early 19th century © Royal Armouries 2013

  • 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 carved wooden head of William III

    Carved wooden head of William III probably by Nicholas Alcock. English, 1702 (XVII.45)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. English, 1685-90 (XVII.8)

The Genesis of the Line of Kings, 1685-1692

Description

It was not until after the accession of the new king, James II, in 1685 that fundamental changes to the organisation of the equestrian display in the New Armoury were set in motion. The Line moved away from its mixed composition to one of purely acceptable monarchs. The first commission for a new horse and figure with carved face for the recently deceased Charles II was placed in June and supplied in December. Not surprisingly the Board of Ordnance chose to employ the services of established craftsmen and their workshops for such a prestigious project. The first new horse and face were in fact provided by the Master Carver, Grinling Gibbons. Ordnance documents record that a statue of wood with the king’s face carved upon it and a carved wooden horse were subsequently received into stores. Gibbons was paid £40 for this commission. The Master Painter, Valentine Bayley, was once more directed to paint the old king’s face and the horse; the latter being given a bright bay colour. Horse furniture for this statue was then supplied by the London saddler, Edmund White.

The following year Gibbons and Bayley were again employed to redisplay the armour of Charles I. Gibbons supplied a statue of wood with the king’s face carved upon it along with a carved, wooden horse. Bayley painted both statues. As before, Charles I’s horse was given a dun colour. The previous horse that Charles I had sat upon was clearly replaced at this point. At the same time Bayley repainted the face of Henry VI. It is curious that the Henry VI was singled out for attention. Not only was it thought acceptable to reintegrate the late king, but one could also ask whether Charles I was now being associated with another martyr king?

The turbulent events of 1688 mark the beginning of next stage in the development of the Line when additional horses were received into the Armoury. The remaining equestrian statues remained in place until that year when they were then dismantled by Thomas Cass, Master Carpenter, and moved into the Scotch Storehouse. Today this is known as First Floor East of the White Tower.

Between September 1688 and March 1690 government records state that twenty-one new horses and wooden statues with faces were received into stores. These horses were received from a clutch of well-known master craftsmen of the day, John Nost I, William Morgan, Thomas Quillans, and William Emmett. Morgan supplied seven horses and statues with faces, Nost supplied ten horses and five statues with faces, Quillans supplied one horse and one statue with a face, Emmett supplied one horse and one statue with a face. Each craftsman was paid £20 per horse and statue or face. In 1689 the less well known carver, Marmaduke Townson, whose career appeared to have been conducted largely outside of London supplied two carved wooden horses and wooden statutes with carved faces.

Naturally, during this period the Deputy-Storekeeper of the Armoury, George Franklyn, was unable to show the display to fee-paying visitors. He was therefore compensated with the sum of £70 per annum by the Board of Ordnance. Payments were made to cover the period from March 1688 to March 1693. It would therefore seem that the new display of equestrian figures was opened between January and March 1693. Amongst the early visitors to see the new displays was the Swedish nobleman and army officer, Carl Adolf Gyldenstolpe. He came to London a few years later, in 1698, where he visited various places including the Tower. Whilst there he saw the Spanish Armoury before moving on to New Armouries building where, he remarked, the line of equestrian figures of kings, ending with Charles II, were displayed in the armour they had worn during their lives. The Stuart phase was apparently brought to a close by the supply of a horse and horse furniture in order to mount the armour of William III in 1702. The armour was set up by the Storekeeper, William Nicholas. A new horse was attributed by the antiquarian scholar, Frederick Grose, to the carver Nicholas Alcock. Alcock, however, only supplied a carved face. Whether another horse was supplied remains something of a mystery still.

Related Objects

James II in the Line of Kings Click on the title link above to find out more.

Charles II in the Line of Kings Click on the title link above to find out more.

Grinling Gibbons and the Horse Armoury Click on the title link above to find out more.

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

John Nost I and the Horse Armoury Click on the title link above to find out more.

William Morgan and the Horse Armoury Click on the title link above to find out more.

Thomas Quellin(us) and the Horse Armoury Click on the title link above to find out more.

William Emmett and the Horse Armoury Click on the title link above to find out more.

Marmaduke Townson and the Horse Armoury Click on the title link above to find out more.

Nicholas Alcock and the Horse Armoury Click on the title link above to find out more.

William III in the Line of Kings Click on the title link above to find out more.

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Line of Kings