Royal Armouries

Charles I in the Line of Kings

Images

monochrome newspaper illustration of an armoured figure on horseback

Figure of King Charles I in the Horse Armoury, The Penny Magazine, 1840

  • monochrome newspaper illustration of an armoured figure on horseback

    Figure of King Charles I in the Horse Armoury, The Penny Magazine, 1840

  • colour photo of a boy's full length armour with a wooden head

    Boy's armour. (II.126)

  • colour photo of a boy's armoured figure with decorated banded edges

    Armour of King Charles I as a boy. Dutch, about 1616 (II.90)

  • colour photo of Charles I's gilt full-length armour

    Gilt armour of King Charles I, made for Henry, Prince of Wales. Dutch, about 1612 (II.91)

  • colour photo of Charles I's gilt armour helmet

    Detail of helmet of Gilt armour of King Charles I, made for Henry, Prince of Wales. Dutch, about 1612 (II.91)

  • colour photo of the rear of Charles I's gilt armour helmet

    Detail of helmet of Gilt armour of King Charles I, made for Henry, Prince of Wales. Dutch, about 1612 (II.91)

  • monochrome newspaper illustration of an armoured figure on horseback

    Figure of King James II in the Horse Armoury, The Penny Magazine, 1840.

  • colour portrait of King Charles II in armour

    Charles II when Prince of Wales by William Dobson, 1644. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2013

  • pen and ink sketch of a man in a fur hat

    Portrait of Lodewijk Huygens, ink drawing by Constantijn Huygens II, 6 November 1669 © Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • 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 2 overlapping armours, one gilt, one with decorated banding

    Armours of Henry VIII & Charles I.

  • monochrome newspaper illustration of an armoured figure on horseback entitled Charles I

    Charles I from the Line of Lings, engraving from 'London', ed. by Charles Knight, about 1842

  • colour photo of a firearm with wheellock and inlaid decoration

    Wheellock petronel. German, about 1660 (XII.1200)

  • colour photo of a carved wooden head of Charles I

  • colour photo of a carved wooden head of Charles I

  • colour photo of a carved wooden head of Charles I

Charles I in the Line of Kings

Description

The representation of Charles I within the Line of Kings was a poignant one. The Tower of London had famously sworn allegiance to the Parliamentarians early into the Civil War, but after the Restoration in 1660 the Tower became a tool to help reaffirm the power and prestige of the sovereign.

One of the earliest accounts of Charles I’s armour being on display is from 1661 in the Journal of William Schellinks. From visitor accounts and guidebooks we know Charles I’s armour was on display throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth century, not necessarily discussed in detail by visitors, such as Stanislaw Staszic or Don Manoel Gonzales, but generally considered worth noting.

The Tower of London guidebooks tended to dwell on the representation of Charles I, with long accounts of the Civil War and the 1827 Tower of London guidebook even quoted ‘Majesty in Misery’, the poem written by Charles I, whilst held captive at Carisbrook Castle, before his execution, to evoke an emotional reaction.

It was not just the life and tragic death of Charles I that made his display noteworthy. Unlike many other monarchs, the Tower’s collection included armours known to have belonged to Charles I. Furthermore, there was more than one of these armours, and his Gilt armour was particularly eye-catching. The guidebooks suggested this armour had been given to Charles when he was Prince of Wales by the City of London, which is a story repeated in visitor Stanislawa Staszica’s account written in the late eighteenth century. However, we now know that this armour was not a present from the City of London and that it had actually been originally made for Charles I’s older brother, Henry Stuart, who had died in 1612. Other armours associated with Charles I included an armour worn by him as a child, and later given to his son Charles II.

In addition to having his armour, due to research undertaken by Francis Grose and by Dr Samuel Meyrick, the armour expert brought in to re-display the armour collection in the Tower in 1826-27, we have information about the wooden head of Charles I. Meyrick wrote:

‘On the death of Charles II, in 1685, it was thought that the restored constitution was pretty well established; therefore, in 1686, his face and that of Charles I were carved by Grinlin Gibbons, one of the best artists of this time, and their figures set up in armour as now exhibited’.

A similarity can be seen between the image published by Charles Knight in the 1840s and the painted wooden head we believe to have been used to represent Charles I in the Line of Kings.

Charles I is represented in the present Line of Kings display by the Gilt armour and the carved and painted wooden head probably made by Gibbons’ workshop.

Related Objects

Grinling Gibbons and the Horse Armoury Click on the title link above to find out more.

Charles I (reigned 1625 – 1649) Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1686 | Object number: XVII.2

Gilt armour of King Charles I, made for Henry Prince of Wales Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1612 | Object number: II.91, VI.60, VI.119–20

Boy's Armour, known as the ‘Jeffrey Hudson,’ ‘Richard, Duke of York’ or ‘Dwarf’ Armour Click on the title link above to find out more.

Armour of King Charles I as a Boy Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1616 | Object number: II.90, VI.59, VI.117–8

Villiers: commander and assassin’s victim Click on the title link above to find out more.

Wentworth: sacrificed loyal subject Click on the title link above to find out more.

Charles II 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.

Henry Stuart, Prince of Wales in the Line of Kings 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.

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

William Schellinks at the Tower in 1661 Click on the title link above to find out more.

Creating a Display: from the English Civil War to the Restoration of the House of Stuart Click on the title link above to find out more.

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Line of Kings