Royal Armouries

1660 - 1661

The Tower Armoury at the Restoration

On 29 May 1660, Charles II returned to London from exile and after the 11-year Interregnum the monarchy was restored. Efforts quickly started to retrieve royal property which had been dispersed, including the arms and armour from the armouries. At the beginning of August, the King issued a commission at Whitehall for the audit of all arms, armour, and tools that were at the Tower, Greenwich and other royal sites.

On 4 August 1660, Charles II visited the Tower of London where he dined with Sir John Robinson, whom he had recently appointed Constable of the Tower. A fortnight later, William Legge, whom the King had re-appointed Master of the Armouries, was issued with £100 towards making an inventory of all the goods belonging to the Office of Armoury.

Legge appointed a team who recorded every item of arms and armour, producing A View & Survey of all the Armour …remayneing at the Tower of London, Taken in the month of October 1660 and including:

In the Lieutenant’s Hall: 10 wooden horses with statues of men on them, dressed in armour and named Prince Henry; Henry VIII; Henry VII; Edward III; Charles I; Edward IV; Henry VI; Leicester; Brandon; William the Conqueror ‘some of them standing formerly at Greenwiche in the greene Gallery there’. This is the earliest evidence of all the figures comprising a Horse Armoury at the Tower but the inventory poses a problem. The location at which the items were seen is not thought to have had a high enough ceiling at this date to have accommodated figures on horseback. Could there have been an error in the inventory or is it possible that at this time the display was in pieces, not complete?

A Line of Kings?

One thing that the list of figures makes very clear is that the content was at this point made up of a mixture of monarchs and noblemen – it was not yet a ‘Line of Kings’. Indeed, there is no evidence that the display actually had a name yet. However, by good fortune one visitor who saw it while visiting the Tower less than twelve months later has left us a good description in his journal. On 15 August 1661 Willem Schellinks, a Dutch artist who had only arrived in London the previous day, took a guided tour of the Tower.

He describes seeing in the Long Storehouse: ‘…behind a rail the body armour of several Kings and their horses’ armour are lined up in a row, of very ancient and uncommon fashion, but all well looked after and kept polished. According to their keeper, there is the armour of Prince Henry, King Henry VIII, King Henry VII, Edward III, Charles I, Edward IV, Henry VI, the Duke of Gloucester, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and that of William the Conqueror’. It appears that Schellinks mistakenly wrote Duke of Gloucester when he was shown the figure of the Earl of Leicester – in which case his list exactly matches the 1660 inventory.

The Horse Armoury through time

Since its creation the Horse Armoury has occupied several locations within the Tower of London complex, explore the map to discover more.

Explore the Horse Armoury through time in a larger map