Best times to ‘armour up’
A king's personal armour were made to protect him in sport and war. As an active and ambitious King, Henry VIII found his protective armour of most use for participating in tournaments, and also for going to war. For the English king, being well protected was most important when he was:
Jousting was the extreme sport of the Tudor tournament. Two knights on horseback in full armour aimed to shatter their wooden lances on each other. For many years Henry VIII was one of the best jousters in England and, despite the risks and suffering from a number of injuries and narrow escapes, it was said that he had ‘no respect or fear of anyone in the world.’
Henry VIII’s jousting career ended at the age of 44, when he was knocked from his horse. He lay unconscious for two hours – they said ‘he fell so heavily that everyone thought it was a miracle he was not killed.’
2. Taking part in foot combat
A main event at tournaments was foot combat – often fought between two armoured knights using a sword or polaxe. The all-over protection against swords, spears and pollaxes used in the foot combat needed to be well designed to allow maximum movement in this fast and furious sport.
The skirted (or tonlet) armour pictured was worn by Henry VIII at one of the greatest tournaments of his reign: The Field of Cloth of Gold.
3. Invading France
Henry personally led three campaigns against France ‘armed at all pieces upon a great courser’. In 1544, for example, at enormous expense, his army invaded northern France and the King personally supervised the capture of Boulogne.
Armour to protect Henry VIII
Henry VIII's armour was made to protect him in sport and war. View Henry's armour in our slideshow »
Fit for a King
See five hundred years of spectacular royal armour, offering a fascinating insight into the personalities, power and physical size of England’s kings. Entrance to this spectacular new exhibition is included in your standard admission ticket to the Tower. Click here to find out more >