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.
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Title:Field Armor of King Henry VIII
of England (reigned 1509–47)
Geography:Milan or Brescia
Culture:Italian, Milan or Brescia
Medium:Steel, gold, textile,
Dimensions: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)
Classification:Armor for Man
Credit Line:Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1932
Ex. coll.: The Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery, Wilton House, Salisbury, Britain; Clarence Mackay, Roslyn, Long Island, New York.
London. New Gallery. "Exhibition of the Royal House of Tudor," 1890–April 6, 1890, no. 575 (32.130.7a–k).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Loan Exhibition of European Arms and Armor," August 3–September 27, 1931, no. 13.
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, no. 8 (32.130.7l not part of exhibition).
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, no. 8 (32.130.7l not part of exhibition).
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, no. 8 (32.130.7l not part of exhibition).
London. White Tower at the Tower of London. "Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill," April 1–November 1, 2009, no. 31 pg. 195.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England," October 10, 2022–January 8, 2023.
Meyrick, Samuel Rush. A Critical Inquiry into Antient [sic] Armour: As It Existed in Europe, Particularly in Great Britain from the Norman Conquest to the Reign of King Charles II.... Vol. III. 2nd ed. London: H. G. Bohn, 1842. p. 115.
New Gallery. Exhibition of the Royal House of Tudor: The New Gallery, Regent Street. London: The Gallery, 1890. p. 149, no. 575 (catalogued as "Armor of Anne de Montmorency...").
Anonymous. "The Exhibition of the Royal House of Tudor." The Portfolio: An Artistic Periodical (1890), p. 66.
The Connoisseur (1917), p. 115, ill. (thigh and knee defenses illustrated).
Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge. Prints, Drawings, Pictures, and Armour, from the Historical Collections at Wilton House, Salisbury, the Property of the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Pembroke & Montgomery. London: Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, July 5–10, 1917. no. 540, ill.
Cosson, Baron C. A. de, Paul Hardy, and G. D. Hobson. The Wilton Suits, a Controversy: With Notes on the Other Archaeological Questions. London: Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge, 1918.
Kelly, F. M. "The Anime-notes." Burlington Magazine (January 1919), pp. 23–30.
Laking, Guy Francis, Sir, Charles Alexander Cosson, and Francis Henry Cripps-Day. A Record of European Armour and Arms Through Seven Centuries. Vol. III. London: G. Bell and Sons, 1920. pp. 268–71, fig. 1047b.
Kelly, F. M. "The Wilton Suits." Burlington Magazine (1923), pp. 206–211.
Buttin, Charles. "Armures et Portraits des Montmorency." Revue de l'Art (1924), pp. 207–16.
Cripps-Day, Francis Henry. The Wilton Controversy: A Sur-Rebutter. Frome: Butler and Tanner for the author, 1926. pp. 1–24.
Cripps-Day, Francis Henry. "Zwei weitere Montmorency–Harnische." Zeitschrift für Historische Waffen– und Kostümkunde, Zeitschrift für Historische Waffen- und Kostümkunde, 11, n.s.v. 2 pp. 156–68, fig. 4.
Hobson, G. D. "The Wilton Suits." Burlington Magazine (1929), p. 50.
Beard, Charles R. "New Light on the Pembroke Armoury." The Connoisseur (October 1931), p. 276.
Grancsay, Stephen V. Loan Exhibition of European Arms and Armor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, August 3 to September 27, 1931. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1931. pp. 7–8, no. 13 (catalogued as "Armor of Anne de Montmorency...").
Grancsay, Stephen V. "Historical Arms and Armor." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (March, 1933), p. 51, ill.
Cripps-Day, Francis Henry. "A Sur-Rebutter: The Wilton Controversy (revised and corrected)." The Past Is Never Dead: [Armour in the Chartres Museum], (1941), pp. 187–209.
Grancsay, Stephen V. Historical Armor: A Picture Book. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1944. pp. 3–4, pls. 6, 8.
Grancsay, Stephen V. Historical Armor: A Picture Book. 2nd ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1946. pp. 3–4, pls. 6, 8.
Grancsay, Stephen V. Historical Armor: A Picture Book. 3rd ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1951. pp. 3–4, pls. 6, 8.
Grancsay, Stephen V. Loan Exhibition of Mediaeval and Renaissance Arms and Armor from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1953. p. 10, no. 8, ill.
Grancsay, Stephen V. "The New Galleries of European Arms and Armor." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (May 1956), p. 221, ill.
Grancsay, Stephen V. Historical Armor: A Picture Book. 4th ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1957. pp. 3–4, pls. 6, 8.
Aroldi, Aldo M. Armi e Armature Italiane Fino al XVIII Secolo. Milan: Bramante Editrice, 1961. fig. 148.
Hayward, J. F. "The Armoury of the First Earl of Pembroke." The Connoisseur (1964), pp. 228–29, fig. 8.
Gamber, Ortwin. "Armour Made in the Royal Workshops at Greenwich: Style and Construction." The Scottish Art Review (1969), p. 7, fig. 4.
Nickel, Helmut. Warriors and Worthies: Arms and Armor Through the Ages. New York: Atheneum, 1969. p. 75, ill.
Schedelmann, Hans. "Ein Rückblick auf den Waffenmarkt des letzten halben Jahrhunderts." Waffen– und Kostümkunde: Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für historische Waffen– und Kostümkunde, Waffen- und Kostümkunde, 32, ser. 3 v. 15, no.1 p. 30, no. 16, ill.
Nickel, Helmut. Ullstein-Waffenbuch: eine kulturhistorische Waffenkunde mit Markenverzeichnis. Berlin: Ullstein, 1974. p. 121, ill.
Oakeshott, R. Ewart. European Weapons and Armour: From the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution. North Hollywood, Calif.: Beinfeld Publishing, 1980. p. 207, pl. 17D.
Grancsay, Stephen V., and Stuart W. Pyhrr. Arms & Armor: Essays by Stephen V. Grancsay from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 1920–1964. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1986. pp. 111–116; fig. 43.1.
Blair, Claude, and Stuart W. Pyhrr. "The Wilton 'Montmorency' Armor: An Italian Armor for Henry VIII." Metropolitan Museum Journal (2003), pp. 95–144, pl. 3.
Vogel, Carol. "Inside Art." The New York Times (January 30, 2004).
Keynes, Milo. "The Personality and Health of King Henry VIII (1491–1547)." Journal of Medical Biography (2005), pp. 174–83 (King Henry VIII discussed).
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. 194–95, no. 31, ill.
Terjanian, Pierre. "The King and the Armourers of Flanders." In Henry VIII: Arms and the Man, 1509–2009, edited by Graeme Rimer, Thom Richardson, and J. P. D. Cooper. Leeds: Royal Armouries, 2009. pp. 194–95, no. 31, ill.
Pyhrr, Stuart W. "Of Arms and Men: Arms and Armor at the Metropolitan, 1912–2012." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (Summer 2012), pp. 33–35, fig. 53.
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. pp. 250–51, fig. 80.
Metcalf, Simon, and Alan Williams. "Henry VIII's Italian Armour of 1544: A Metallurgical Note on Alterations and imrpovements by the Royal Workshops at Greenwich." In Arms and Armour: History, Conservation and Analysis. London: Archetype Publications, 2021. pp. 70–71, figs. 1–5.
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