Monday, 11 August 2014

Early Tudor Armour

In a few weeks I will be able to get my hands on the latest Perry Miniatures boxed set of Foot Knights which I believe are perfectly suitable for my 1513 era of interest and in some cases perhaps beyond, in this post I shall offer my summary case.

There is no doubt that Henry and his richest nobles would have worn the latest armour of the period in the fashionable Maximilian style as featured above. Henry personally took a number of garnitures, ranging from that above to Flemish influenced Greenwich armour as well as lighter pieces; he is mentioned arriving at Calais wearing a decorated suit of Almain Rivet; these were flexible off the peg pieces favoured by his Landsknecht (Almain) mercenaries. Henry spared no expense in commissioning thousands for the English army for this campaign at 16s a set.

The arrays of his nobles indentured retinues would have presented a much varied image as dictated by their wealth.

One must return to original sources to get a better understanding of the early Tudor Knight. This was a period of relative peace and very little European campaigning thus the English harness remained in a slow transition from high Medieval to early Renaissance as European influence, incliation and budget to follow the latest fashions slowly began to be felt. The Greenwich armoury was in its infancy and at this time was reserved almost exclusively for the king so most nobles would have worn late 15c harness, here are some contemporary examples;

Sir Ralph Verney d.1547

Sir William Mathew d.1528

 Sir John le Strange d.1509

Sir George Speke d.1528 

Sir Humfrey Stafford d.1546

These armours appear late 15c at first glance with earlier features such as tassets and fauld prevalent, however the sabatons are generally moving to the 'bear paw' style typical with the Maximilian and other early renaissance styles. One must also remember that English knights at this time expected to fight on foot which will influence certain aspects; armour appears more symmetrical as the left shoulder does not require extra defense. Also note the remaining adoption of the heraldic tabard, something not typical of the English;

Louis d'Halluin, Lord de Piennes
(Commander of the main French relief army at the Battle of the Spurs)

So, a brief but I hope reasoned argument for more than a smattering of earlier armours in my Tudor ranks. I only intend to have a few bases of foot knights for flexibility, choice, and pure painting fun !

I hope you've had a good summer - my painting desk has languished somewhat as I've watched my daughter grow and enjoy the outdoors with perhaps a large bit of painters block thrown in, I'm often finding that I want to paint when it's not possible and vice versa, some discipline is required methinks.

On that subject keep an eye on my other blog for a nice little Landsknecht update.

Cheerio for now



  1. I do like the fluting on Maximilian-style armor. A period statement in armor design. Much like the slightly earlier Gothic (with sallet). Best, Dean

  2. I agree, while there would be those wearing the latest styles in armour, the rest much less so... which also explains the growth in numbers of demi-lances over the period.

    The 'munition' plate sets at 16/ would be around £400 each in modern terms and even a cheap 'off the peg' Milanese full harness would cost something like £4k in the 15th Century and I'm not sure they had finance terms.

    If you think in terms of modern car prices, there is a harness to suit all pockets, be it a second-hand beater, or a top of the range luxury model. I'm sure there would be plenty of folk still 'driving' older models.

    1. Out of interest, the guy who engraved and gilted one of Henry VIII's early armour sets was paid the equivalent of about £35k just for work & materials alone... that's on top of the cost of the original armour!