King Henry VIII’s armour returned to Leeds Castle in Kent today [23 July] after 500 years with the public opening of a display of an exceptional collection of armour and armour making tools loaned by Royal Armouries as part of a celebration of the Middle Ages for the Castle’s 2014 flagship event The Medieval Festival taking place 23 – 31 August.

Two of the most iconic pieces of armour that belonged to the infamous monarch are on exhibition in the Castle from 23 July to 21 September. The magnificent Horned Helmet, commissioned by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I as a gift for the young King, and the Tonlet armour, which was made for Henry VIII for the foot combat at the Field of Cloth of Gold, are loaned to Leeds Castle by Royal Armouries – home to the national collection of arms and armour. Henry and his entourage famously stayed at Leeds Castle on 31st May 1520 on their way to France to meet Francois I for the Field of Cloth of Gold.

Meanwhile, the new Exhibition Centre will host the ‘Henry VIII and the Royal Armour Workshops at Greenwich’ Exhibition from 23 July to 2 November examining the world of Tudor armour and armour making techniques. Shortly after Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509, he established a royal armour workshop in the Palace of Greenwich, bringing armourers from abroad to make armour of the highest quality for the king and his court. These objects including armourers’ tools, part of Sir John Smythe’s armour and two gorget plates from Henry’s own armour, tell the story of the Greenwich Workshop and its immense impact on the development of body protection in England.

The Medieval Festival, 23rd to 31st August

Royal Armouries and Leeds Castle will bring history to life by staging a magnificent nine day Medieval Festival within the beautiful Castle grounds in Kent from Saturday 23rd to Sunday 31st August 2014.

Leeds Castle visitors will experience life as it was in the Middle Ages with a different programme of inspiring activities each day, ranging from the Royal Armouries’ Knight School, Princess School, a 15th century-style Longbow Archery Tournament, Skill-at-Arms demonstrations by jousting knights and Infantry Skirmishes. Twice daily falconry shows, a medieval market and living history re enactment camps will allow visitors to embrace the sights and sounds of this colourful era for Leeds Castle’s flagship event of the year.

Arms and Armour Talks: Wednesday 27th August

On Wednesday 27th August expert presentation and talks from Dr Thom Richardson, Deputy Master and former Keeper of Armour and Karen Watts, Senior Curator of Armour and Art at the Royal Armouries will provide in depth background into the incredible armour displayed at Leeds Castle this summer and the specialist armour used for the joust. Dr Thom Richardson: ‘Arms and Armour in the Tudor Period’ is at 11am and 2pm with Karen Watts: ‘The Tournament’ at 3pm both in the Maiden’s Tower.

Grand Tournament: 30th and 31st August

The return to a glorious past will culminate in a thrilling Grand Tournament comprising authentic jousts and a real life unplanned Mêlée on Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 August in a thrilling special ticketed event. For more information on The Medieval Festival presented by Royal Armouries and Leeds Castle please visit: http://themedievalfestival.leeds-castle.com

Leeds Castle is located near Maidstone in Kent, within easy reach of London, just off Junction 8 of the M20. Royal Armouries is one of Britain’s oldest public museums and home to one of the finest collections of arms and armour in the world. It has sites at HM Tower of London, Leeds and Fort Nelson in Hampshire.


For further press information and images please contact Samantha Williams, Interim Press Officer, Leeds Castle on Telephone 01622 767866 or via email pr@leeds-castle.co.uk

To request media passes to attend The Medieval Festival or Grand Tournament and associated evening events, please email pr@leeds-castle.co.uk with details of your publication or media outlet.

Download the PDF press release.