How the Line of Kings exhibition and the royal armours on display, played their part in over 500 years of British history.
9 April 2021. Following the death of His Royal Highness, there will be changes to opening hours for the gardens at Hampton Court Palace and Hillsborough Castle. For further information, please read our FAQs page
Updated 10 March: The Tower is closed. Following recent government announcements, we are working on our reopening plan and tickets will be on sale soon. Please keep checking back at our website or sign up to our email newsletter for updates.
This timeline gives a brief journey through the Tudor era up to the present day, highlighting major historical events and their impact on the Line of Kings.
1509 to 1515
In 1509 Henry VIII was crowned King. By 1515 the silver and engraved armour had been made for him, possibly by a Flemish or Italian armourer in the new royal armour workshop in Greenwich.
1558 to 1570
In 1558 Elizabeth I became Queen. Elizabeth allowed her favourite courtiers to order armour from the royal workshop at a great price. An example is this field armour ordered by William Somerset, earl of Worcester, in about 1570.
1603 to 1609
James VI of Scotland crowned King James I of England. In 1609 the boy's armour was presented to Henry, Prince of Wales.
1625 to 1649
Charles I became King in 1625 and 17 years later in 1642 the English Civil War broke out. Charles was executed in 1649. The monarchy was abolished and the royal armour workshop at Greenwich was closed.
1660 to 1661
Restoration of the monarchy and creation of a ‘Line of Kings’ at the Tower featuring a public display of historic royal armour. A year later in 1661, Charles II was crowned.
1685 to 1688
In 1685 James II became King. The Office of Ordnance ordered a figure of Charles II from Grinling Gibbons and added it to the Line of Kings. In 1686 the light cavalryman's armour was made for James II. This is the oldest surviving royal armour in the collection. in 1688 James II fled abroad and was considered to have abdicated.
1689 to 1702
William III and Mary II crowned joint rulers in 1689. In 1692 the Horse Armoury opened with the Line of Kings of 14 armoured figures on horseback. In 1693 Colsoni’s Guide to London for Strangers recommended a visit to the Tower, including the Horse Armoury. In 1694 Queen Mary died and in 1702 William III died. William's figure was added to the Line of Kings, Mary's wasn't.
1727 to 1760
George I died in 1727 and his figure was added to the Line of Kings. In 1760 George II died and his figure was also added. He was the last king to be included, making a total of 17.
Francis Grose published a book in 1786 called A Treatise on Ancient Armour which included the earliest known illustrations of some armours displayed in the Line of Kings. The earliest known picture of the Line of Kings was drawn by Thomas Rowlandson in 1800.
1824 to 1827
Dr Samuel Rush Meyrick’s book A Critical Enquiry into Ancient Armour was published in 1824 and was highly critical of the Line of Kings. So in 1826 a new, purpose-built gallery, called the New Horse Armoury, was constructed on the south side of the White Tower. Meyrick re-displayed the Line of Kings in the New Horse Armoury, removing many royal figures which had worn inappropriate armour and replacing them with figures of noblemen.
Earliest photographs showing the Line of Kings.
In 1882 the New Horse Armoury was closed and soon afterwards the building was demolished. The Line of Kings re-opened on top floor of the White Tower in the ‘Council Chamber’.
1996 to 1998
A small version of the Line of Kings gallery was created on the White Tower’s entrance floor.
New research leading to an new exhibition about the Line of Kings for the 21st century.