Royal Armouries

Clinton: Unassuming Success

Images

LOK Clinton

Engraving of Edward Clinton, Earl of Lincoln (1584), London, Dec 1st, 1824, from the original of Ketel.

  • LOK Clinton

    Engraving of Edward Clinton, Earl of Lincoln (1584), London, Dec 1st, 1824, from the original of Ketel.

  • colour photo of a full-length armour with decorated banding

    Armour used for the figure of George II in the Line of Kings 1768 -1826. English, Greenwich, about 1560 (II.82)

  • monochrome newspaper illustration of an armoured figure on horseback

    Figure of King Edward VI in the Horse Armoury, The Penny Magazine, 1840

  • monochrome engraving of a long hall displaying arms and armour

  • 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 photo of a carved wooden head of Henry VIII

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

  • monochome photo of armour for the front of a horse's head

    Shaffron. Italian or Flemish, about 1515 (VI.31)

Field Armour

Object Provenance: English, Greenwich, about 1550
Object Number: II.82

Clinton: Unassuming Success

Description

The addition of Edward Clinton, 1st Earl of Lincoln to the Line of Kings in 1827 is partly evidence of the abundance of sixteenth armour held in the Tower of London.

Prior to 1827, suits of armour had been used in the Line of Kings to represent various monarchs throughout history, and little care was taken over the accuracy of dressing to the period in which the monarch lived. In the 1820s a decision was made to re-display the historic collections in the Tower and Dr Samuel Meyrick, an expert in armour, was chosen to direct this.

As a result of the aim to have a more intellectually rigorous display, many kings’ figures were taken out and sixteenth-century nobles added in their place. Clinton was one of these nobles.

The decision to include Clinton in the Line may not be obvious as he is not one of the most famous Tudor noblemen. However, his career spanned almost all of the Tudor monarchs, apart from Henry VII, and as an accomplished military commander he managed to find favour with each monarch in turn. Under Henry VIII he fought in Scotland and France, under Edward VI he was appointed Admiral of the Fleet to fight the Scots and later he joined the Privy Council. Under Queen Mary he was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of London after raising troops to suppress the Wyatt’s rebellion. He was also re-appointed Lord High Admiral and to the Privy Council after supporting Philip in the wars with France. Finally under Elizabeth I, after fighting the French and the rebellious Northern Earls, Clinton was made Earl of Lincoln. Clinton’s final official service at the age of sixty was to help forge the treaty of Blois which was an Anglo-French alliance against the Spanish.

This was a wonderfully successful career that must have been the result of clever political manoeuvring. This is particularly prominent at the time Clinton’s path crossed that of the Tower. After Edward VI’s death on 6 July 1553 Clinton seized the Tower in support of Lady Jane Grey in an attempt to exclude Mary Tudor from the succession. It seems that his subsequent role in the suppression of the Wyatt rebellion enabled him to gain Mary’s trust and regain his position as lord high Admiral.

This success gave Clinton a place in the line of Kings, but the Tower of London guidebooks of the mid nineteenth century did not make a lot of his presence. The 1827 guidebook described his armour as ‘very elegantly gilt’, and recorded that his right hand rested on a mace and he wore a long fluted sword. By 1842, he was discussed alongside Charles Brandon as these suits of armour ‘so closely resemble the proceeding, as to need no particular description’.

This lack of enthusiasm in the guidebook was felt to some extent by others. An article called ‘A Looking Glass for London’ in The London Magazine, published in 1829, mentions the warders’ ‘lamentations over despoiled greatness’ and the author – somewhat tongue-in-cheek – sympathised ‘How there came to be fingers in the Tower which would take the armour off ‘kings’ and put it on to ‘lords and knights’, I cannot conceive’.

Needless to say, despite his illustrious career, Clinton’s figure was not retained in the Horse Armoury in the twentieth century.

Field Armour

Object Provenance: English, Greenwich, about 1550
Object Number: II.82

Related Objects

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

Object number: VI.31, VI.76, VI.83, VI.90–1

Samuel Meyrick and the Rearrangement of the Horse Armoury, about 1824-1827 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Henry VIII in the Line of Kings Click on the title link above to find out more.

Edward VI in the Line of Kings Click on the title link above to find out more.

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