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New catalogue of arms and armour from Royal Collection Trust

Release date: Monday, 25 April 2016

The first major study in over 100 years of the European arms and armour in the Royal Collection has been published. Arms and Armour in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, European Armour, published by Royal Collection Trust, covers over 250 items, from complete armours to spurs, stirrups and saddles.  Among the most celebrated items in the Collection is an armour garniture made for Henry VIII in around 1540, on display at Windsor Castle.

At over six foot tall, Henry was a monarch renowned for his physical prowess, but research for the new catalogue has revealed that the King's armour was enlarged on several occasions to accommodate his weight gain in later life.  Strips of metal were added to expand the waistline to the final measurement of 138cm, while the underarm studs, connecting the breastplate and backplate, were extended twice.  

The design of Henry's sabatons (foot protectors) reflect the latest fashion in Tudor footwear.  The armour also incorporates the newest technology of the day – analysis has shown that the steel was heat-treated in several ways to make it up to five times stronger than iron.  Despite the strength of the material, the armour from head to foot weighs 39kg the Tudor armour is still lighter than the operational kit worn by soldiers today, which can weigh up to 50kg. 

A 17th-century Scottish shield covered with Fomes fomentarius, a special type of dried fungus, is displayed at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. The fungus, taken from the stem of a birch tree, was widely used as a substitute for leather.  Research has shown that this formed an impenetrable surface that could not be pierced by a dagger.

To coincide with the publication of the catalogue, a new film has been created about Henry VIII's armour garniture which explores the King's sporting abilities and examines technical features of the armour. Watch the film here.

For information about armour activities at Windsor Castle, see here.