Royal Armouries

Gilt armour of King Charles I, made for Henry Prince of Wales

Images

colour photo of Charles I's gilt full-length armour

Gilt armour of King Charles I, made for Henry, Prince of Wales. Dutch, about 1612 (II.91)

  • colour photo of Charles I's gilt full-length armour

    Gilt armour of King Charles I, made for Henry, Prince of Wales. Dutch, about 1612 (II.91)

  • colour photo of a boy's full length armour with a wooden head

    Boy's armour. (II.126)

  • colour photo of Charles I's gilt armour helmet

    Detail of helmet of Gilt armour of King Charles I, made for Henry, Prince of Wales. Dutch, about 1612 (II.91)

  • colour photo of the rear of Charles I's gilt armour helmet

    Detail of helmet of Gilt armour of King Charles I, made for Henry, Prince of Wales. Dutch, about 1612 (II.91)

  • monochrome newspaper illustration of an armoured figure on horseback

    Figure of King Charles I in the Horse Armoury, The Penny Magazine, 1840

  • monochrome newspaper illustration of a line of mounted armoured figures

    ‘Interior of the Horse Armoury’, anon engraving, The Penny Magazine, 1836 © Royal Armouries 2013

Date: 1612 | Object number: II.91, VI.60, VI.119–20

Statistics

Object Provenance: Dutch, 1612-13
Object Number: II.91, VI.60 shaffron, VI.119–20 saddle steels
Height: 1690 mm (66.6 in)
Weight 33.26 kg ( 73.3 lb)

Gilt armour of King Charles I, made for Henry Prince of Wales

Description

This is well known as the armour of King Charles I, and a very rare example of an armour completely covered in gold.

It is a complete field armour for a young man, with accompanying shaffron and saddle steels, decorated overall with punched and chased decoration, and covered with gold leaf. It was originally ordered from the armourer of Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange (1567–1625), for Henry Prince of Wales, who died in 1612 before the armour was finished. The total cost of the armour was £450, which was a huge sum of money for an armour, and the warrant for payment of the final instalment was issued on 31 March 1613. The armour seems to have passed to Henry’s younger brother, Charles I, and was recorded as the ‘armor of great vallew’ of Charles I in the list of armours brought to the Tower by Edward Annesley in 1644. It has been suggested that it may have been the gilt armour worn by the king at the battle of Naseby in 1644, but its later presence at Greenwich makes that identification unlikely.

The armour was based very closely on one owned by Maurice himself. This does not survive, but is known from two portraits of Maurice, an equestrian portrait by Pauwells van Hilligaert and a ¾ length portrait of 1613 by Michiel van Mierevelt. These show slight detail differences from Henry’s armour, most obvious of which is that the earlier armour was ¾ length, and never had greaves or sabatons for the lower legs and feet, while Henry’s armour does. As a Protestant hero and one of the greatest soldiers of his age Maurice, the Stadthouder and Captain General of the Netherlands, was an excellent figure for the young Prince of Wales to emulate. The armourer who made both armours is not certainly identified, but it may have been Charles Dartené, a Dutch armourer who went on to make gilt armourers for the Swedish royal family.

Tower arsenal, brought in by Edward Annesley in 1644. Used for the figure of Charles I in the Line after Meyrick’s 1826-27 reorganisation

References

J. Britton, Memoirs of the Tower, London, 1830, 276, no. 19
J. Hewitt, Official Catalogue of the Tower Armouries, London, 1859, 9, II.21
Viscount Dillon, Illustrated Guide to the Armouries, Tower of London, 1910, 190, II.19
T. Richardson, ‘H. R. Robinson’s “Dutch armour of the seventeenth century,”’ The Journal of The Arms and Armour Society, XIII, 1991, 256-278
C. Paggiarino, The Royal Armouries, masterpieces of medieval and renaissance arms and armour, Milan, 2011, volume 2, 236–41

Statistics

Object Provenance: Dutch, 1612-13
Object Number: II.91, VI.60 shaffron, VI.119–20 saddle steels
Height: 1690 mm (66.6 in)
Weight 33.26 kg ( 73.3 lb)

Related Objects

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

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

Henry Stuart, Prince of Wales 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.

Thomas Allen on the New Horse Armoury display in 1828 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Benjamin Silliman’s Visit to the Horse Armoury Click on the title link above to find out more.

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Line of Kings