Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
Armour of Henry, Prince of Wales for the field, tourney, tilt and barriers
Armour of Henry, Prince of Wales for the field, tourney, tilt and barriers consisting of a close helmet with reinforces for the upper and lower bevors, a gorget, a cuirass and tassets, a pair of slightly asymmetrical pauldrons, a pair of vambraces, and a pair of complete legharness, all for the field; a right half-mitten gauntlet and tasset-extensions, probably for the tourney course; and a second close helmet, a grandguard, a pasguard, a manifer and three vamplates, all for the tilt, together with a half-shaffron for all mounted roles.
The decoration of all elements includes broad recessed bands, etched in relief with blued strapwork formed of two pairs of narrow straps interlaced to form a series of cartouches of various complex shapes amid arabesques involving stylized flower-heads, all on a fire-gilt ground. The topmost cartouche in the principal bands frames the monogram HP under the coronet of the Prince of Wales. On each face of the comb of the field helmet the monogram consists of the letters FHP under a coronet. The blued surfaces between the bands are formed with recessed fleurs-de-lis, Tudor roses and thistles slipped, all etched: the thistle heads in a realistic manner and the remainder with arabesques, all on a fire-gilt ground. The inner petals of the roses are blued. Each of the flowers is linked to the next by two narrow ribbons which part to frame a diamond-shaped compartment with a loop projecting from each of the lateral corners. The linking ribbons are lacking on the two reinforcing bevors and on the upper part of the shaffron.
The turned edges, which have long roping, are mostly followed by narrow recessed borders etched with a series of circles of flat strapwork, each framing a quatrefoil, and linked to the next by a short longitudinal bar separating two small opening buds (culots). The edges without turns, for instance those of the tilt reinforces, are followed by a border of moderate width etched like the main bands but with a single wavy line of strapwork; each wave linked to the next by a short straight bar parallel to the edge of the band (jonces coudés).
The remainder of the surface is now entirely blued, and comtemporary portraits indicate that this was originally the case. The inner petals of the roses on the very similarly decorated armour of George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, are shown bright in the ‘Almain Armourer’s Album’, and some of those on the actual armour are still bright.
All the original iron fittings of the armour, such as its hinges and swivel-hooks, have been fire-gilt. The hasps, shoulder-straps and tasset-links are all etched with stylized foliage and fire-gilt all over. The rivets, with the exception of those attaching the articulating-leathers, which are blind, have domed heads. Unless otherwise stated, almost all appear to have been replaced fairly recently. Some are of iron with domed brass caps, while others are entirely of brass. The articulating-leathers have also been renewed.
Van Dyck’s posthumous portrait of the Prince wearing this armour shows that it did not have piccadills, that it lining was of a crimson colour and that its straps were covered with purple velvet edged with gold thread. The painting also confirms that all the petals of the roses were originally blued.
It is suggested that since the decoration of the armour does not include the badge of the Prince of Wales, it must have been made before Prince Henry’s creation on 4 June 1610. Hitherto the history of this armour has been confused as a result of the misinterpretation of a group of documents recording payments for another armour which was ordered by Prince Henry, in 1610, for presentation to his cousin Prince Friedrich Ulrich of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (1591–1634). Because Prince Henry’s armour was formerly thought to have been made about 1610, it was attributed to William Pickering (d.1618), who had become Master Workman of the Almain Armouries at Greenwich on 16 March 1607/8, on the death of his predecessor, Jacob Halder (Master 1576–1608). It now seems probable that work had started on it, even if it had not been completed, during the closing years of Halder’s regime.
It could also be identified as that referred to in the 1629 Remain as: ‘One other guilte and graven Tilte and feild Armor Compleate excepting feild headpeece one Poldron one Vambrace, one Gauntlett and one Vamplett given by Sr Henry Lee to Prince Henry’. Sir Henry Lee (1533–1611) was Champion to Queen Elizabeth I from about 1570 to 1590 and a leading figure at her court. He also held the office of Master of the Armouries from 1580 until the time of his death. In September 1608, James VI and I’s Queen, Anne of Denmark, paid a visit to him at a little lodge he had near his seat at Ditchley in Oxfordshire and subsequently sent ‘a very fair jewell valued above £100’ to his mistress Anne Vavasour. In a letter of 27 September 1608 to Dudley Carleton describing the event, John Chamberlain wrote ‘which favour hath put such new life into the old man, to see his sweet heart so graced, that he says he will have one fling more at the court before he die; though he thought he had taken his leave this Summer when he went to present the Prince wth an armor that stoode him in £200, and wchin a yeare or two will serve his turn, neither for jest nor earnest’. The armour was delivered to the Prince on 21 July 1608, when the Keeper of his privy purse recorded a payment of £10 ‘to Sr Hary leyes man who presented a Sute of riche armes to his highnes’.
The armour might also have been the ‘Tilte armor guilte compleate made for the Prince’ which is listed at Greenwich in ‘the greate Chamber at Mr Pickerings’ in the 1611 Remain. It is also tentatively identified as one of the armours rescued from Greenwich by Edward Annesley about 1644: ‘One Armor Cappapea made for Prince Henry his owne Person’. It is clear that Annesley usually could not distinguish between the armours of the two princes, but in this case the identification was made easy by the presence of Prince Henry’s ciphers on the armour. In the 1650 Remain it was almost certainly the ‘Guilt Armor in ye 4th Trunk’ since this is a tilt armour with two headpieces and three vamplates. In the 1660 Remain it is probably to be identified among the ‘Sundry Compleate Armors and others whereof some of them were standing formerly at Greenwich in the green Gallery there ... Upon a Horse Statue of Wood, One compleat Tilt Armor cap a pe richly gilt, part engraven, part Damasked, made for Prince Henry with two Gauntletts and one gilt grandguard the Horse ffurniture being one Shaffron of the same sort one old Leather Sadle and Bitt’. This entry is repeated almost word for word in the Inventory of 1675–9, but does not occur in the 1682 Survey, possibly because the armour had been sent to another palace. In 1688, when this armour was once more in the Tower, it was valued at £208. It was still there at the end of 1692.
The ‘Tilt headpeece of the late Prince Henryes, gilt and graven’ in a trunk in Annesley’s house, listed in the 1660 Remain, may refer to the second helmet of the armour.
In the 1721–2 Remain of Windsor Castle a description ‘Tilting Armour Richly gilt, partly Engraven, and partly Damaskt ... ‘, seems to echo the description of Prince Henry’s armour occurring in the 1660 Remain of the Tower. Most of the parts making up the armour were included as no. 2 in the 2nd Group of pieces recorded, correctly, in the manuscript ‘An Account of the Armour and Arms in the King's Guard Chamber at Windsor Castle’ prepared by the Board of Ordnance at the Tower of London, dated 29 July 1831, following the re-arrangement of the displays of armour on the accession of William IV. It appears that one gauntlet, a pair of ‘Jambiers’ and a pair of ‘Sollerettes with Spurs’ (i.e. greaves and sabatons), and a ‘Burgonet Helmet, extra’ were all supplied from the Tower for the redisplay.
Laking thought that the leathers and straps of Prince Henry’s armour had been renewed in 1842, and suggested that its original blueing had been removed at the same time. In 1897 its plain surfaces were shown by the coloured frontispiece of Gardner as uncoloured, and in 1898 were specifically described as being bright. In 1902, however, the surfaces were re-blued, and later layers of regilding removed.