Monday, April 2, 2012

Elizabethan Fact of the Day: Armories in Elizabethan England

By the middle of the 16th century, at-home armour production was now thriving in England. In previous centuries, the majority of armor had been produced in Milan, Italy, Paris, France and Germany, and purchased by much of Western Europe.

King Henry VIII's armor, now residing in the Tower of London Armory exhibit. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

King Henry VIII can be almost solely credited with encouraging and investing in armor and weapons manufacturing in England. His Royal Armories at Greenwich produced some of his finest tournament suits.


The tournament armor of King Henry VIII, with an "H" and "K" detailing along the edge of the tassets. The "H" refers to the king himself, and the "K" refers to Henry VIII's first wife, Katherine of Aragon. Image acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

A 16th century illustration of King Henry VIII jousting  for his wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon. He is either wearing blackened or blued armor for the tilt. At the museum where I work, we have a stunning composite suit from around 1575 that is decoratively blued. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

But because of the increase in personal ownership of arms and armor, the possibility of rebellion and civil war was of course heightened. An edict from 1558, the year that Elizabeth Tudor came to the throne, required that all members of the peerage keep an armory to stockpile weapons and armor for the safety of the queen and the realm. Henry Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke maintained one of the more impressive armories of the Elizabethan Age.


A 16th century portrait of Henry Herbert, the 2nd Earl of Pembroke. Image public domain. Please see the 3 quarter length suit that possibly belonged to the Earl of Pembroke in my photo's on the side bar and bottom of the page. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.


2 comments:

  1. Pembroke was one of the richest of the aristocrats, and could afford to maintain a more impressive armory. Great post!

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  2. Indeed he was! Henry Herbert is a fascinating member of the Elizabethan Peerage...All off the Herbert's and Sidney's, both male and female were, in my opinion.
    In the future I hope to share more detailed photos of his 3-quarter length suit-it is etched with mythical figures on the cuirass and helmet, musical instruments on the tassets/legs and miniature pictures of pieces of armor, probably after the Roman style, on the breastplate and vambraces.

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