Royal Armouries

Armour for a Boy, probably Prince Henry Stuart

Images

colour photo of Prince Henry Stuart's full-length armour with decorated banding

Armour of Henry, Prince of Wales. Dutch, about 1607 (II.88)

  • colour photo of Prince Henry Stuart's full-length armour with decorated banding

    Armour of Henry, Prince of Wales. Dutch, about 1607 (II.88)

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

    Boy's armour. (II.126)

  • colour photo of engraved decoration on Prince Henry Stuart's armour

    Detail of decoration on armour of Henry, Prince of Wales. Dutch, about 1607 (II.88)

  • colour photo of engraved decoration on Prince Henry Stuart's armour helmet

    Detail of decoration on armour of Henry, Prince of Wales, Dutch, about 1607 (II.88)

  • colour photo of engraved decoration on Prince Henry Stuart's armour

    Detail of decoration on armour of Henry, Prince of Wales, Dutch. Dutch, about 1607 (II.88)

  • monochrome newspaper illustration of an armoured figure on horseback

    Figure of King James I 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

Date: 1608 | Object number: II.88

Statistics

Object Provenance: Dutch, about 1608
Object Number: II.88
Height as mounted: 1488 mm ( in)
Weight: 18.87 kg ( lb)

Armour for a Boy, probably Prince Henry Stuart

Description

This is one of a series of armours of Henry Prince of Wales (1594–1612), eldest son of James I (of England) and VI (of Scotland), and one of the earliest finely decorated Dutch armours known.

It is the first of the Stuart royal armours surviving from the royal collection, and the most old fashioned. It is a complete armour for the field for a boy, and though made for the young prince (aged 13, and approximately 1445 mm in height), it is a miniature version of an adult armour. It has been identified as the armour presented by Sir Francis Vere (1560–1609), who started his military service in the Low Countries under the earl of Leicester in 1584, and served the United Provinces for the next thirty years in command of English troops. He was present in command of the vanguard at the great victory over the Spanish at the battle of Nieuport in 1600, and was rewarded by the States General with a handsome pension. He returned to England in 1606, was appointed Governor of Portsmouth and spent his unwonted leisure writing his Commentaries, which were published after his death.

The armour is decorated with bands of chased and gilt strapwork containing scenes from the life of Alexander the Great. The reference to the greatest conqueror of antiquity can hardly be accidental. Vasari in 1568 mentions the gift sent by Lorenzo dei Medici to Matthias I Corvinus, king of Hungary, of two metal reliefs with the head of Alexander and Darius which Verrocchio had made. Matthias had made a distinctive name for himself in his repeated victories over the Turks in Serbia and Bosnia in 1479–83, leading Angelo Poliziano, in a letter to the king of 1489, to compare him with Alexander the Great. Henry, as the great hope of English chivalry, was similarly likened to Alexander.

Henry was the eldest son of James I and VI and Anne of Denmark, who was created Prince of Wales on 4 June 1610, aged 16, at Westminster. Henry died on 6 November 1612 aged 18 from typhoid before he could succeed his father. His younger brother Charles I inherited the English and Scottish thrones. Henry was by all accounts a remarkable prince, intelligent, learned, excelling in feats of arms and an informed, enthusiastic patron of the arts. The brief, but enormously influential, period in which Henry governed his own household and cultivated his own cultural and political circles was seen by the court as a rebirth of the Elizabethan golden age.
Presented by Sir Francis Vere to Prince Henry in 1608. Appears in the Greenwich inventory of 1629 ‘in a chest lyned within and without with red cloth’. Probably transferred to the Tower by Edward Annesley in 1649.

Used for the figure of Henry Price of Wales in the New Horse Armoury after Meyrick’s reorganisation, 1826-27

References

J. Britton, Memoirs of the Tower, London, 1830, 276, no. 15
J. Hewitt, Official Catalogue of the Tower Armouries, London, 1859, 8–9, II.18
Viscount Dillon, Illustrated Guide to the Armouries, Tower of London, 1910, 182, II.17

Statistics

Object Provenance: Dutch, about 1608
Object Number: II.88
Height as mounted: 1488 mm ( in)
Weight: 18.87 kg ( lb)

Related Objects

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

Vere: forgotten outside the Tower? 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.

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