Royal Armouries

William III in the Line of Kings

Images

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 a carved wooden head of William III

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

  • monochrome photo of a pair of prop pistols and embroidered holsters

    Dummy pistols and pistol holsters for the figure of William III in the Line of Kings. (XVI.1 - 4)

  • 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 a line of mounted armoured figures

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

  • monochrome newspaper illustration of an armoured figure on horseback

    James II from Charles Knight, London, 1842.

William III in the Line of Kings

Description

From as early as 1652, during the Commonwealth, visitors could see the armours of selected former Kings of England on display, mounted on life-sized wooden horses. During William III’s reign an improved and expanded version of the Line of Kings was opened to visitors. The initial work on this re-development started when James II was still on the throne, but only one of these two monarchs was chosen to join the line-up in 1702.

In the eighteenth century it was felt that figures of recently deceased monarchs should be added to the Line. A figure of William III, or William of Orange as he was also known, was exhibited from 1702 until 1827. From an account of the 1760s it seems that rather than displaying armour actually used by William, who had usurped the catholic King James II to rule with James’ daughter Mary, an armour attributed to Edward, the Black Prince was chosen. In particular the guidebook noted the armour had been worn at the Battle of Cressy (or Crécy) in 1346. During the Hundred Years War this was a notable victory for England against France, and it is significant that the armour and consequently the victory and the legend of the Black Prince are associated with William of Orange, called in a later guidebook the ‘warlike king’. William III spent much of his reign at war with France.

Dr Meyrick’s re-display of 1827 brought many changes to the Line of Kings, and one of these was the removal of William III and the supposed Black Prince’s armour. However to balance out the Protestant victory represented by William III, a theatrically posed figure of James II was used. He seemed to have been made an example of as an abdicated King, set aside from the others and apparently ‘stealing cautiously along, close to the wall’, with his horse facing the door. However, Meyrick responded to this suggestion by stating that James II was merely positioned ‘… to give spectators the room to pass behind the rest; …’.

William III is represented in the current Line of Kings display by the carved and painted head from his figure and the surviving pieces of his green velvet horse trappings, including dummy pistols in leather holsters.

Related Objects

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

Accoutrements of the effigy of William III Click on the title link above to find out more.

William III (reigned 1689 -1702) Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1702 | Object number: XVII.45

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

The Genesis of the Line of Kings, 1685-1692 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Themes Menu

Line of Kings