Royal Armouries

Cuirassiers’ Cuirasses

Images

coloured engraving of a long hall displaying arms and armour

The Great Horse Armoury, Tower of London, by Sir John Gilbert, engraved by Henry Melville, 1841-44

  • coloured engraving of a long hall displaying arms and armour

    The Great Horse Armoury, Tower of London, by Sir John Gilbert, engraved by Henry Melville, 1841-44

  • monochrome photograph of a full length man's armour

    Cuirassier armour, English, London and Greenwich, 1610-25 (II.94)

  • colour photo of a three-quarter length decorated armour

    Cuirassier armour of Count Capodalista. Italian, possibly Brescia, about 1620 (II.192)

Cuirassiers’ Cuirasses

Description

France retained a brigade of heavy cavalry equipped with back and breastplates and helmets of steel throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These regiments were called cuirassiers, though their armour was much less than that of cuirassiers of the seventeenth century.

The successive charges of the French heavy cavalry against the English and allied infantry squares at the battle of Waterloo in 1815 and the failure of the cavalry to break the infantry was one of the most notable features of the battle, and the cuirasses of the French cuirassiers were brought back to London after the battle. They were deposited in the Tower, and many of them were refitted and issued to the British Household Cavalry regiments (the Lifeguards and Blues and Royals) for the coronation of king George IV in 1821.

When a new British pattern was introduced the re-issued French cuirasses were returned to the Tower, where they were displayed very much as trophies. The illustration of the Horse Armoury by Sir John Gilbert of about 1845 shows stacks of the French cuirasses on the floor opposite the horses of the Line of Kings.

French, modèles 1803, 1808 and 1810

Tower arsenal

Related Objects

Cuirassier Armour Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1610-25 | Object number: II.94

Cuirassier Armour Click on the title link above to find out more.

Cuirassier Armour Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1620 | Object number: II.192

Themes Menu

Line of Kings