Line of Kings undergoes transformation

Line of Kings undergoes transformation

Horse Armoury, White Tower 1914

1 July 2013

World’s longest running visitor attraction undergoes transformation at the Tower of London

Royal Armouries has joined forces with Historic Royal Palaces to present the longest-running visitor attraction in the world to a modern audience – the Tower of London’s historic ‘Line of Kings’.

Opening to the public, 10 July 2013, the ‘Line of Kings’ is part propaganda, part fantasy and forms one of the oldest - and oddest – displays, reuniting under one roof, over 500 objects which have formed part of this magnificent display during its 350 year long history.

From the anachronistic ‘armour of William the Conqueror’ – to the addition of the last monarch George II, exhibits include not only historic armours worn by Henry VIII, Charles I and James II but also many of the original and unique 17th century wooden horses and kings’ heads.

Housed within the oldest part of the Tower, the iconic White Tower, the new-look ‘Line of Kings’ completes the latest chapter in a story which dates back almost four centuries and delivers a powerful statement about monarchy.

Our forebears played little heed to historical accuracy and the Line of wooden horses, carved heads and armours featured only the 'good kings' of the realm and omitted queens - plus more infamous monarchs such as Richard III.

Lodewijk Huygens, a visitor to the exhibition in 1652, noted, '..we entered a room where horses’ armour used in former times was stored on wooden horses with armed men on them. There were two suits of armour worn by Henry VII and two worn by Henry VIII; they were not very costly though'.

Ned Ward, a visitor in 1699, wrote, 'A visit to the Tower of London’ in his humorous magazine, ‘The London Spy’, 'As we gently mov’d along and viewed the princely scarecrows, he told us to whom each suit of armour belon originally, adding some memorandums out of history to every empty iron-side; some true some false, supplying that with invention which he wanted in memory'

Royal Armouries’ Head of Creative Programmes Karen Whitting, who has led the two-year project said:
'Created in the 17th century, the Line’s message was more about kingship than telling the history of arms and armour.  We believe the organisers concentrated on making a powerful statement, at a time following considerable unrest from the reign of Charles II and culminating in the accession of William III and Mary II. For example, William I was displayed in plate armour - a 14th century development for an 11th century conqueror - and his figure once sported a matchlock musket. These represented technology that William could not even have dreamed of!  But even more remarkably, the Line has not just been a story of unique objects displayed at an iconic site. It has also gained its reputation through the voices of its many visitors - from royalty to day-trippers, both from all over the world. They have left us amazing insights into their experiences for us to still enjoy today, writing letters, journals, articles and books, plus sketching, painting, creating cartoons and taking photographs.  As the Line of Kings takes centre stage for its 21st century audience, we hope that visitors today will create a new legacy of responses that will take this story far into the future - perhaps even through another 350 years.'

Alex Gaffikin, Interpretation Manager at Historic Royal Palaces said:
'The Line of Kings is a tremendous 21st century re-display of what is actually the longest-running visitor attraction in the world. Historic Royal Palaces and the Royal Armouries have teamed up to produce a huge display of weapons and armour on the entrance floor of the White Tower and I think visitors will be astounded when they walk in.'

Notes to Editors

Images of the Tower of London are available to download for free to accompany editorial through our image library.

For further information please visit the Royal Armouries' website or contact either Julia Lumley: 01130 2201979 or Cat Steventon: 020 3166 6302

Royal Armouries is home to the national collection of arms and armour and has sites in Leeds, HM Tower of London, Fort Nelson and Louisville, Kentucky. It is the first British national museum to open a permanent presence in another country.

The Royal Armouries Museum should not be confused with Royal Armouries International plc, the private sector corporate hospitality business based on the same site in Leeds.

Downloadable Resources

Some files are provided in PDF format - you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these files.

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    Line of Kings - factsheet
    (Adobe PDF, 168KB)

    Line of Kings - key objects
    (Adobe PDF, 382KB)

    Line of Kings - timeline
    (Adobe PDF, 168KB)

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