Pair of symmetrical field spaudlers and vambraces of Henry VIII mid sixteenth century, about 1544
The right arm-defence consists of a spaudler permanently attached by means of a turning-joint to an upper cannon which is linked by two transverse lames to a couter which in turn is linked to the outer plate of a lower cannon by two similar lames. The inner plate of the lower cannon is hinged to the outer plate, and was originally closed by a strap and buckle (now missing). The wing of the couter is shaped like an ace of spades. The inside of the elbow is protected by a series of fifteen transverse lames that overlap inwards to the eighth. The free edges of the various plates are turned over a wire and boldly roped. The rivets are of iron fitted in the case of those visible externally with domed heads of brass.
The left spaudler and vambrace are similar to the right except that the articulation of the spaudler has been restored and the majority of the rivets are later replacements made entirely of brass and of slightly smaller size. The hasp of the buckle on the first lame is U-shaped.
The decoration consists of etching in relief against a deeply but irregularly hatched ground, originally gilt overall. The roping was also originally gilded, as were the narrow plain bands between the etching and the roping.
Tests undertaken by Dr Alan R. Williams on the turner of the upper cannon of the right vambrace and on an inner elbow-lame of the left vambrace show them to have microhardnesses in the ranges 365 – 417 VPH (average 388 VPH), and 581–700 VPH repectively. Both elements appear to be formed of medium carbon steels which have undergone some form of heat-treatment to harden them. In the case of the upper cannon of the right vambrace, the microstructure of its metal would suggest a delayed quench. In the case of the inner elbow-lame of the left vambrace, however, the mictostructure of the metal, exhibiting some intergranular cracking, suggests that the quenching of that the specimen was not delayed (perhaps as a result of a distraction in the workshop) and it was therefore over-heated and too drastically quenched.
The microstructures of these specimens resemble those found in examples of Greenwich armour produced in the 1540s. It does not resemble those found in any contemporary Italian armours.
Measurements: right spaudler and vambrace: length 69.9 cm; left spaudler and vambrace: 70.3 cm. Weights: right spaudler and vambrace: 2.353 kg; left spaudler and vambrace: 2.438 kg.
Text adapted from the forthcoming publication 'Arms and Armour in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen. Volume I: European Armour'
ProvenanceThe painted figures inside these pieces suggest that they came from the Tower Armouries and could therefore have formed part of one of Henry VIII’s armours. The 1611 ‘Remayne of his Maties Armory’ includes, ‘Guilte vambraces late king Henry the eightes one p[ai]re’. Recent research confirms that they are a second set arm harnesses belonging to a field garniture of Henry VIII now in the Metropolitan Museum New York (32.130.7). The garniture was in the collection of the Earl of Pembroke at Wilton House by 1558; it was sold privately to the American collector, Clarence H. Mackay, in 1929; the Museum purchased the garniture in 1932.
They are also recorded in the 1628/9 Remain and thereafter a pair of parcel-gilt vambraces appears regularly in Tower inventories but without the ascription to King Henry VIII. The recent research makes it most probable they are the pair of ‘Vambraces p[ar]cell gilt’ recorded as having been issued with other armour from the Tower to Windsor Castle on 22 July 1688.
It is recorded in the manuscript ‘An Account of the Armour and Arms in the Guard Chamber at Windsor Castle’ prepared by the Board of Ordnance at the Tower of London, dated 29 July 1831, following the rearrangement of the displays of armour on the accession of William IV as ‘2 Pauldrons with Rerebraces and Vambraces United by Splints, Chased, and Richly Engraved’.
- Physical properties