Royal Armouries

Edward I in the Line of Kings

Images

monochrome line drawing of a line of armoured figures on horseback

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

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

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

  • monochrome newspaper illustration of an armoured figure on horseback

    Figure of King Edward 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

  • colour portrait of a man sitting at a desk holding a book

    Portrait of William Hutton by an unknown artist, about 1780 © Birmingham Museums Trust

  • watercolour detail showing the figure of a king in armour on a horse

    Figure of William the Conqueror, detail from a watercolour of the Line of Kings. Early 19th century (I.69 )

  • colour photo of a full length armour with gold banded decoration

    Armour of William Somerset, used for the figure of Huntingdon from 1827. (II.83)

Edward I in the Line of Kings

Description

Although Edward I did not directly succeed William the Conqueror a figure representing him was chosen to stand alongside King William I in the Line of Kings from the mid-eighteenth century. In fact, seven monarchs had reigned between these two, as was duly noted by William Hutton in his account of A Journey from Birmingham to London in 1785, and so it is interesting to consider why Edward I was selected.

In the Tower of London guidebook published in 1753 the figure of Edward I is described as ‘in a very curious suit of gilt armour, with this peculiarity, that the shoes thereof are of mail.’ It does not appear that the armour was believed to have belonged to Edward I and in fact the main item of note appears to be the mail used as foot defences.

Samuel Meyrick, who is credited with creating a more accurate re-display of the Line of Kings in the nineteenth century, decided to keep a figure of Edward I and make a greater feature of the use of mail. The 1827 guidebook noted that Edward I’s armour consisted ‘of the hawkberk and its sleeves of mail, the hood and chausses of the same material; and on the body is the surcoat, emblazoned with the royal arms before and behind.’ However, it was understood that the armour was not Edward’s own, though of the correct period.

Like most medieval kings, Edward I was expected to be able to wage war, promoting and defending his kingdom, and to lead his men in battle. This was something Edward thrived upon and by the time Edward was crowned in 1274 he was 35 years old and a veteran warrior. He had defended his father’s crown, helped put down a rebellion and then gone to the Holy Land to fight in the crusades.

It was whilst he was on crusade that his father, Henry III died and Edward’s military prowess and devotion to peace within England ensured the support of the English barons. Edward was the last English king to go on crusade and the only crusader king to be represented in the Line. His role in the Crusades was marked in the Tower’s representation by the presence of a battle-axe. After Meyrick’s 1826-7 re-display this battle-axe had been replaced with a sword. Perhaps this seemed a more historically accurate weapon. At least, this was said to be the reason by the writer the 1753 guidebook ‘He is represented with a battle-axe in his hand, perhaps to distinguish him from the rest, he being the only King in the Line that had employed his arms against the Turks and Infidels, by an Expedition to the Holy Land.’

A figure of Edward I does not appear to have survived into the twentieth century and Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower did not lament its removal. He recalled ‘rows of so-called English Kings’ including ‘If I mistake not, one of these was dubbed Edward I, and yet another mythical gentleman on his wooden steed played the role of a “Royal Crusader”. These things were as genuine as Mrs Jarley’s waxworks’.

Edward I is not represented in the present Line of Kings display in the White Tower.

Related Objects

Worcester field armour Field armour of William Somerset, 3rd Earl of Worcester. English, Greenwich, about 1570

Dates from 1570 | Object number: II.83, VI.50

William the Conqueror 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.

William Hutton’s account of the Horse Armoury Click on the title link above to find out more.

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Line of Kings