Royal Armouries

Cuirassier Armour

Images

monochrome photograph of a full length man's armour

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

  • monochrome photograph of a full length man's armour

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

  • monochrome photo of an armoured figure holding a wooden baton

    Greenwich armour for field and tournament. (II.40)

  • colour photo of a three-quarter length decorated armour

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

  • 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 an armoured figure on horseback

    Figure of Sir Horace Vere in the Horse Armoury, The Penny Magazine, 1840

  • 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

Date: 1610-25 | Object number: II.94

Statistics

Object Provenance: English, London and Greenwich, 1610–25
Object Number: II.94

Cuirassier Armour

Description

Close helmet, skull made in two pieces joined in a low comb, with fragments of the brass plume holder at the rear. The visor has a prow, a split sight, and a deep brow reinforce cusped and decorated with rivets at its edge, and eyebrow of decorative rivets characteristic or London close helmets.

The upper bevor is also prow shaped, and pierced with a breath in the form of a cross crosslet at either side. The lower bevor has a pierced stud low at the right, where it is fastened to the skull with a swivel hook. Both are encircled round the neck with a row of brass lining rivets, with brass washers, retaining traces of leather lining band, between a pair of double incised lines.
There is a single gorget plate front and rear, embossed to simulate two lames, and decorated with a cross and two triangles in brass rivets. The gorget is associated, from a pikeman’s armour, made of one piece front and rear.

The breastplate is of proof, with a low neck, medial ridge, flange at the waist, decorated with a triple spray of incised lines, each comprising a single incised line bordered by two doubles, the main edges with plain inward turns bordered by single incised lines. At either side of the chest is a pierced stud and swivel hook, the latter with a decorated shell terminal. At either side is a hinged hasp with a fleury terminal, the main section with three holes and a terminal loop for the pin cord. At either side of the flange is a hinged flap with a threaded stud and wing nut for attachment of the tasset.

The backplate matches the breastplate but is of lighter construction. It has a low neck, flange at the waist, the main edges with plain inward turns bordered by single incised lines except on the flange where there is a recessed border containing decorative brass rivets. At either shoulder is a hinged steel shoulder strap made in four sections, with a fleury terminal and the end plate pierces with four holes, and pierced studs for the pauldrons, the right one hinged for extra mobility. At either side is a pierced stud for the breastplate hasps.

The pauldrons and vambraces are a pair, and belong to the cuirass. The pauldrons are formed with a main plate with three lames above and below, articulated on modern leathers at the centre and front, and sliding rivets at the rear, on the upper lames, and on three leathers on the lower. The lowest lame is riveted to the upper cannon of the vambraces, which has a turned above and a cut-out with an articulating lame inside the elbow joint. It is joined to the couter by an articulating lame above and below.

The couter is of bracelet form, the wing made separately but permanently riveted. The lower cannon is hinged at the front, fastened by a pierced stud and swivel hook at the rear, and has two articulating lames at the inside of the elbow and one at the wrist. The main edges have plain inward turns with recessed borders and double incised lines, the subsidiary edges with double incised lines.

The right gauntlet with a pointed cuff embossed with a bulge for the styloid process, five metacarpal lames, a knuckle plate with a roped ridge, and inner finger plate shaped to the fingers, four modern leathers with original finger scales, the fourth metacarpal lame extended and fitted with a thumb defence with scales. Inside the wrist are two articulating plates, and a third one is missing.

Each tasset is formed of 11 lames, the top one deep, formed with a transverse angle and ridge, and a pierced, shield-shaped bulge of the hinged flap in the breastplate, the lowest deep and decorated with three crosses in brass rivets. Below this is a pair of articulating lames, a poleyn with a heart-shaped wing, and one lame below pierced for the attachment of the greave, all with cusps at their centres. The main edges have plain inward turns with recessed borders and double incised lines, the subsidiary edges with double incised lines.

Each greave is made in Greenwich style but broad and shapeless, the upper section comprising front and rear mainplates hinged at the outside and fastened at the inside by a stud and swivel hook above and a sprung stud below, an articulated section over the ankles, of three lames at the front and four at the rear, extending to the sole, also hinged at the outside and fastened at the inside by a stud and swivel hook, the front section permanently riveted to a sabaton of 10 lames overlapping towards the centre, and articulated by rivets at either side only, with no medial leather.

All the elements match except the gauntlets, of with the right one, numbered with the armour, is from the slightly earlier group of tournament armours II.73, 78–80 and 86, and the associated Greenwich left gauntlet is from the Pembroke armoury at Wilton House.

The closest analogous armour is the Dymoke armour worn by the king’s champion at the coronation of James II in 1686, given to the Museum of London (MOLA 34.121, Williams and de Reuck 1995, 119) and stamped with a mark of a London armourer, possibly Miles Robinson or Morris Rew. This is also made in close emulation of the Greenwich style, like the decorated group of English pikeman’s armours of the same period, which have been shown to be of London, rather than Greenwich manufacture.

This armour was displayed on a horse as the figure of Sir Francis Vere in the horse armoury after 1827.

References

J. Britton, Memoirs of the Tower, London, 1830, 276
J. Hewitt, Official Catalogue of the Tower Armouries, London, 1859: 8, no. II.16
Viscount Dillon, Illustrated Guide to the Armouries, Tower of London, London, 1910: 169, II.20

Statistics

Object Provenance: English, London and Greenwich, 1610–25
Object Number: II.94

Related Objects

Cuirassiers’ Cuirasses Click on the title link above to find out more.

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

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

Greenwich Armour for Field and Tournament Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1590 | Object number: II.40

Vere: forgotten outside the Tower? Click on the title link above to find out more.

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