Old tower horse armoury c.1913.
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This fascinating photograph from at least 100 years ago, shows exhibition changes at the Tower of London, and features a wooden horse.

These life-sized carved wooden horses have been used to display spectacular armours at the White Tower as far back as 1652 and from about 1692 they were arranged to create The Line of Kings – the longest-running visitor attraction in the world.

Today, Royal Armouries in partnership with Historic Royal Palaces (HRP), is preparing a new Line of Kings’ exhibition, opening on July 10, and once again the horses are taking centre stage.

In a major milestone, the surviving wooden exhibits – mainly dating from 1688-90 – were moved into their new positions by a specialist team, including Royal Armouries conservator Chris Smith, and expert technicians from Beck and Pollitzer.

Royal Armouries Head of Creative Programmes Karen Whitting said, “The idea that we are following in a centuries-long tradition of re-display at the Tower of London is enough to send shivers down our spines. Every step we take on this extraordinary journey to opening day has been taken before, right here at the Tower. This really is history where it happened.

“From July 10, visitors to the 21st century Line of Kings’ exhibition will be following in the footsteps of their predecessors, viewing artefacts that were on display as far back as 1652. Looking ahead, perhaps their reactions will survive to inform the exhibition teams of the future.”
Royal Armouries and HRP have already created four new galleries in the White Tower – Fit for A King; Treasures of the Royal Armouries; Power House; and the latest Storehouse displays in the basement. Attention has now turned to the Line of Kings – arguably the most exciting challenge in the Tower.

Dating back 350 years, the Line of Kings was displayed specifically to make a powerful statement about monarchy.

Formerly, the display showed the figures of the Kings of England mounted on magnificent, full-sized carved wooden horses and wearing armours that were claimed to have been their personal property. Each figure included a carved wooden head in the likeness of the sovereign – offering a unique history lesson.

The display has a long and fascinating history, possibly stretching back to Tudor origins at Greenwich Palace. Currently stripped of their figures, the carved horses provide only a hint of the display’s former impact, both as a ‘must see’ visitor attraction and a statement about monarchy.

Today, our latest project focuses on conserving and interpreting the surviving wooden carvings and the unique collection of arms and armour that was displayed with the Line of Kings.

For the first time, visitors will discover why only some kings were included and how 19th century scholars attempted to make the display more accurate and educational. Using new research to interpret these remarkable historic objects, and the documents associated with them, visitors will be able to discover their unique stories in this new exhibition, and also online.

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Please direct all media enquiries to the Royal Armouries’ Head of PR and Corporate Engagement, Andrea Long, at or call 020 3166 6671 or Joss Loader at or call 07838 379599.

Notes to editors

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