Pikeman’s Armor

British, probably Greenwich or London

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 371

In battle formation, pikemen stood together in tight ranks and used their pikes to defend unarmored musketeers. The latter were deployed on the flanks of the pikemen and retreated behind them to reload after firing a volley. The pike is a steel-tipped spear up to eighteen feet long with which the pikemen fended off attacking cavalry. This tandem use of “shot and pike” was the fundamental principle governing infantry tactics for much of the seventeenth century.

The quality of this armor and its decoration suggest that it was worn by an officer and that it may be a late product of the royal armor workshops at Greenwich, which closed in 1637 after 120 years of activity.

Pikeman’s Armor, Steel, brass, British, probably Greenwich or London

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Overall, three-quarter