Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Field Armor of King Henry VIII of England (reigned 1509–47)

ca. 1544
Milan or Brescia
Italian, Milan or Brescia
Steel, gold, textile, leather
H. 72 1/2 in. (184.2 cm); W. 33 in. (83.8 cm); D. 14 1/2 in. (36.8 cm); Wt. 50 lb. 8 oz. (22.91 kg)
Armor for Man
Credit Line:
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1932
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 371
This impressive armor was made for Henry VIII (reigned 1509–47) toward the end of his life, when he was overweight and crippled with gout. Constructed for use both on horse and on foot, it was probably worn by the king during his last military campaign, the siege of Boulogne in 1544, which he commanded personally in spite of his infirmities. Originally, the harness was fitted with a detachable reinforcing breastplate, to which a lance-rest was attached, and a reinforce for the left pauldron (shoulder defense). A pair of exchange vambraces (arm defenses) remains in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle.

The armor is described in the postmortem inventory of the king’s possessions, drawn up in 1547, as “of italion makinge.” Possibly, it was supplied by a Milanese merchant known in England as Francis Albert, who was licensed by Henry to import luxury goods, including armor, into England for sale. Subsequently, the armor was given to William Herbert (ca. 1507–1570), first earl of Pembroke, Henry’s esquire and an executor of his will. It is recorded at Wilton House, seat of the Pembroke family, from 1558 until it was sold in the 1920s. By the end of the eighteenth century, and until very recently, the armor was erroneously identified as having belonged to Anne de Montmorency (1493–1567), Constable of France, its royal English ownership having been forgotten.

The armor is an early example of the “anime” type, in which the breastplate and backplate are constructed of horizontal overlapping plates connected and made flexible by rivets and internal leather straps. The decoration, consisting of foliage, putti, running dogs, and Renaissance candelabra and grotesque ornament, is typically Italian.
Ex. coll.: The Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery, Wilton House, Salisbury, Britain; Clarence Mackay, Roslyn, Long Island, New York.
Los Angeles. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Loan Exhibition of Mediaeval and Renaissance Arms and Armor from the Metropolitan Museum of Art," January 15–March 18, 1953.

San Francisco. California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. "Loan Exhibition of Mediaeval and Renaissance Arms and Armor from the Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 18–June 7, 1953.

Pittsburgh. Department of Fine Arts, Carnegie Institute. "Loan Exhibition of Mediaeval and Renaissance Arms and Armor from the Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 1953–April 1954.

Hagerstown, Md. Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. "Loan Exhibition of Mediaeval and Renaissance Arms and Armor from the Metropolitan Museum of Art," February 27–March 31, 1955.

London. White Tower at the Tower of London. "Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill," April 1–November 1, 2009.

Meyrick, Samuel Rush. A Critical Inquiry into Ancient Armour, as it Existed in Europe, but Particularly in England, from the Norman Conquest to the Reign of King Charles II, Illustrated by a Series of Illuminated Engravings, with a Glossary of Military Terms of the Middle Ages. Vol. III. 2nd ed. London: H. G. Bohn, 1842. p. 115.

Dean, Bashford. Notes on Arms and Armor. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1916. p. 51, ill.

Laking, Guy Francis, Charles A. de Cosson, and Francis Henry Cripps-Day. A Record of European Armour and Arms Through Seven Centuries. Vol. IV. London: G. Bell and Sons, 1921. p. 268, fig. 1047b.

Scofield, J.K., J.F. Hayward, James G. Mann, and C.G.E. Bunt. "Old Firearms in America." The Connoisseur CVIII (1941). pp. 228–229, fig. 8.

Grancsay, Stephen V. Historical Armor: A Picture Book. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1944. pp. 3–4, pls. 6, 8.

Aroldi, Aldo M. Armi e Armature Italiane Fino al XVIII Secolo. Milano: Bramante Editrice, 1961. fig. 148.

Grancsay, Stephen V. "The Japanese Armor Gallery in the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Connoisseur 148 (1961). p. 115.

Nickel, Helmut. Ullstein–Waffenbuch: Eine Kulturhistorische Waffenkunde mit Markenverzeichnis. Berlin: Ullstein, 1974. p. 121, ill.

Wixom, William. "An Embossed Visor of the Duke of Urbino." The Burlington Magazine 148 (2006). pp. 23–30.

Terjanian, Pierre, John Cooper, Graeme Rimer, Thom Richardson, Royal Armouries, Karen Watts, Nicholas Hall, Richard Holmes, David Loades, Lucy Wooding, Eric Gruber von Arni, Maria Hayward, Steven Gunn, Geoffrey Parnell, Eric Ives, Peter Smithurst, and Peter Brears. Henry VIII: Arms and the Man, 1509–2009, edited by John Cooper, Graeme Rimer, and Thom Richardson. Leeds: Royal Armouries, 2009. pp. 194–195, no. 31.

Terjanian, Pierre. "The King and the Armourers of Flanders." Henry VIII: Arms and the Man, 1509–2009 (2009). pp. 194–95.

Norman, A. V. B., Ian Eaves, and Howard L. Blackmore. Arms & Armour In The Collection Of Her Majesty The Queen: European Armour. 1st Ed ed. London: Royal Collection Trust, 2016. ill. pp. 250 fig. 80, pp. 251.

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