One of the most fascinating aspects of the Tower is its collection of arms and armour, which offers visitors a unique insight into the history of warfare and combat in England.
The collection of arms and armor at the Tower of London is one of the oldest and most extensive in the world. It includes weapons and armor dating back to the 11th century, as well as more modern examples from the 20th century. Many of the pieces in the collection have played important roles in English history, from the armor worn by Henry VIII during his reign to the ceremonial armor worn by the Knights of the Garter.
The White Tower and the New Armouries contain the national collection of arms and armour. The collection, one of the greatest in the world, illustrates the development of arms and armour from the Middle Ages to 1914.
The White Tower is entered through the Tournament Room. The display here is devoted entirely to armour specially designed for use in warlike exercise. This collection includes the tilt armour for the German form of joust known as the Scharfrennen, in which sharp lances were used, and the splendid Brocas helm. The armour was made in about 1490 in Germany for use at the court of Emperor Maximillian I; the tilt helm was probably made in England in the same period.
The armor is a masterpiece of design and craftsmanship, with intricate details and lavish decoration, it was worn by the king during the final years of his reign, and it is a powerful symbol of his military prowess and political power.
Another notable piece in the collection is the armor worn by Charles I at the Battle of Edgehill in 1642. The armor is a fascinating example of the transition from traditional plate armor to the more flexible and lightweight armor that became popular in the 17th century. Despite its historical significance, the armor was not actually worn by Charles during the battle, as he was too afraid of being captured or killed while wearing such a valuable piece of equipment.
In tournaments mounted men ran different courses against each other, each course requiring armour of a special design. Men also fought against one another on foot and this required armour of yet another pattern. The Armouries contain three foot-combat armours made for Henry VIII; the first dates to about 1512 and the second about 1515 when he was slim and active. The third one was made in 1540 when he was forty-nine and very portly. The middle armour is remarkable in that all the plates fit together, over flanges, thus enabling his height of six feet one inch to be accurately determined.
In the adjacent room, the collection of hunting and sporting arms includes crossbows and firearms. Here can be traced the technical advances in firearm mechanisms, from the matchlock, the snaphance, and the wheel lock to the flintlock. The development of decorative techniques is also evident. Craftsmen applied or precious inlaid metals, ivory, bone, and even mother-of-pearl to enhance the wood they carved and chiseled with such consummate skill; the contemporary artistic styles from the 15th to the 19th centuries can thus be compared.
An especially interesting exhibit is the elegant silver-decorated sporting gun made in Dundee in 1614. It came from the personal gun-room of Louis XIII of France. Another unique exhibit is the Scottish gun made entirely of engraved brass for Charles I when he was a young man. Through the Chapel of St John is the Mediaeval Room which is now devoted to the earliest arms and armour in the Tower. The exhibits are mostly of the late 14th and 15th centuries and include a superb Italian visored bascinet with its original neck protection of mail. There is also one of the few Gothic horse armors surviving. It was probably made to order for Waldemar VI of Anhalt-Zerbst (1450-1508).
Interesting Details To Look Out For During The Tour
During a visit to the Tower of London, there are several interesting details to look out for in the collection of arms and armour. One is the intricate decoration on many of the pieces, which often includes images of animals, mythical creatures, and historical figures. Another is the variety of materials used in the construction of the armour, including leather, steel, and gold.
The Making of The Arms and Armour
The making of armour was a complex and time-consuming process, involving skilled craftsmen and a wide range of materials. Some of the most common materials used in the construction of armour included steel, leather, and canvas. Steel was used to create the metal plates that formed the main body of the armour, while leather and canvas were used for padding and reinforcement.
In addition to these materials, armourers also used a wide range of tools and techniques to create their masterpieces. Some of the most important tools included hammers, anvils, and files, which were used to shape and refine the metal plates. Armourers also used techniques such as engraving, etching, and gilding to decorate their armour and create intricate designs.
From the armor worn by Henry VIII to the weapons used by soldiers during the two world wars, the collection offers visitors a unique insight into the evolution of warfare and combat over the centuries. With its intricate details, lavish decoration, and fascinating historical significance, the collection of arms and armor at the Tower of London is a must-see for anyone interested in the history of England and the art of warfare.