Royal Armouries

César de Saussure’s visit to the Horse Armoury at the Tower in 1725

Images

colour photo of a carved wooden head of Henry VIII

Carved wooden head of Henry VIII. English, about 1689-91 (XVII.1)

  • colour photo of a carved wooden head of Henry VIII

    Carved wooden head of Henry VIII. English, about 1689-91 (XVII.1)

César de Saussure’s visit to the Horse Armoury at the Tower in 1725

Description

César de Saussure (1705-83) travelled from Lausanne, Switzerland to Britain, arriving at the Tower of London wharf on 20 May 1725. He stayed in this country for almost five years, sending his opinions on Britain back to Switzerland in a series of letters. In his third letter, dated 16 December 1725 and entitled The Sights of London, he describes the Tower and the admission procedure for visitors wanting to see its sights:

‘As soon as we had passed the draw bridge we came upon a party of guards and yeomen; we were told to give up our swords and sticks and with a yeoman deputed to show us the curiosities of the place we went into the interior of the building’.

His account of the Tower’s attractions includes a detailed account of the Horse Armoury, including a reference to a ‘surprise’ featuring a figure of Henry VIII. This surprise was not part of the Line of Kings but a standing figure nearby:

‘We next entered another hall containing statues and figures of a score or so of ancient English kings and of several princes and generals, all on horseback in full armour with helmets on their heads and lances in their hands; the horses richly caparisoned, seemed ready to rush into battle. These figures are made to resemble the original persons and are of painted wood. Near the entrance of the hall is the figure of Henry VIII; he is represented standing in his royal robes, with a sceptre in his hand and this is said to be a good likeness of this celebrated king. If you press a spot on the floor with your feet you will see something surprising with regard to this figure; but I will not say more and leave you to guess what it is.
Leaving the hall we were next shown the Treasure Chamber, which is shut off by an iron railing; visitors remain in the outer half and the guardian locks himself into the inner half…’.

He concludes his remarks by noting that a visit to see the Tower was expensive:

‘If you wanted to see all the curiosities in the Tower, it would take you several days and it would be to your cost for the French proverb “On n’a rien pour rien” holds good in England as elsewhere, and perhaps even more so’.

On 5 October 1729 Saussure left England, from the Tower Stairs, where he had first arrived in London, to take part in a diplomatic mission to Constantinople in Turkey. After this he went back to Switzerland but returned to England by 1740, finally going back to his family in Lausanne soon afterwards. He wrote several other books including histories of France and Switzerland.

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