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Arms and Armour

The first catalogue of European arms and armour from the Royal Collection.


Parts of a field garniture of Duke Julius of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel with associated helmet, gauntlets, greaves and sabatons

1563 - 1800

RCIN 62997

Parts of a field garniture with associated helmet, gauntlets, greaves and sabatons.  Consisting of a close helmet with integral gorget-plates (Mantelhelm), a gorget, cuirass and skirt, a pair of tassets, a pair of tasset-extensions, and a further pair of lower tasset-extensions including poleyns (all three together forming long tassets or cuisses), a pair of symmetrical narrow-fronted pauldrons, a pair of besagues, a pair of symmetrical vambraces, a pair of mitten gauntlets and a pair of greaves and sabatons.

The cuirass is dated 1563; the helmet and gauntlets roughly contemporary; the greaves and sabatons about 1800.

The decoration of the original parts of the armour, which is etched in relief against a blackened ground mostly relieved by rows of small bright dots, consists mainly of wide vertical or diagonal bands enclosed within narrow borders with the intervening areas left bright. The bands contain floral candelabrum ornament, slender allegorical and classical figures, some of them named, grotesques, trophies and classical heads within wreaths of laurel, all in the Mannerist style. Franz Bock, recorded 1550–78, might plausibly invite consideration as the decorator.

The central band of the breastplate includes a grotesque mask amid sprays of stylised foliage, a bracket supporting a winged female nude labelled VENVS, who holds in her left hand a bow and is attended at her right by Cupid, and a representation of Daniel in the Lions’ Den, framed within a circular compartment circumscribed ACH·GOT·BEWAR·NICHT·MER·DAN·LEIB·SELE·GVTVNDERE·I·H·Z·B·L· ('O God, preserve body, soul, possessions and honour alone').  A broad band at the upper edge of the breastplate is etched with two classical warriors clasping hands in front of their armies, each of which appears to be withdrawing. In the centre of the scene is written CONN/CORDI/A, and at the left side, the date 1563. Etched in blackened line on the plain surface immediately below is the letter ‘I’ beneath an open coronet of three fleurons at the right side, and the letter ‘H’ under a similar coronet at the left side.

Because of the way that its cuirass is constructed, this armour could have been adapted to a number of forms. In its full, knee-length form, it would have served its wearer in a medium cavalry role, while equipped with a codpiece it would have been suitable for heavy infantry use.  Light infantry and light cavalry forms were also possible.  The armour thus constituted a versatile small ‘garniture’ capable of meeting all but the very heaviest battlefield requirements of its day.

The design of the lower edges of the poleyns shows that they were not originally intended to be worn with greaves. The armour would therefore have been of three-quarter length, extending only to the knees. However, in the era of Romanticism it was thought quite acceptable to complete armours that either lacked parts or were thought to do so.  The greaves and sabatons now associated with the armour appear to be late eighteenth-century or early nineteenth-century additions.

Measurements: Helmet: height 38.2 cm, width 26.7 cm, depth 37.2 cm; Gorget: 18.8 cm, internal diameter of neck 14.5 cm; Breastplate and Front Skirt: height from shoulders to lower edge of skirt 45.6 cm, height from centre of neck to lower edge of skirt 44.5 cm, width beneath arm-openings 40.5 cm, width at waist 31.6 cm, width of skirt 43.6 cm; Backplate and Rear Skirt: height 47.0 cm; Front Skirt Extension-Lame: width 17 in 43.2 cm, height at centre 5.7 cm, height at ends 7.8 cm; Right Tasset with Extensions: height 50.50 cm; Left Tasset with Extensions: height 55.0 cm; Right Tasset without Extensions: height 22.9 cm, width 29.2 cm; Left Tasset without Extensions: height 23.5 cm, width 21.8 cm; Right Tasset-Extension: height 22.3 cm; Left Tasset-Extension: height 23.5 cm; Right Lower Tasset-Extension: height 21.6 cm; Left Lower Tasset-Extension: height 22.3 cm; Rear Skirt Extension-Lame: width 51.5 cm, height at centre 6.7 cm, height at ends 7.8 cm; Right Pauldron: height 24.2 cm, width 18.9 cm; Left Pauldron: height 24.6 cm, width 20.3 cm; weight 1.134 kg; Right Besague: diameter 19.0 cm, depth 7.6 cm; Left Besague: diameter 19.0 cm, depth 7.6 cm; Right Vambrace: length 50.8 cm; weight 1.733 kg; Left Vambrace: length 50.2 cm; Right Gauntlet: length 33.5 cm, width of cuff 11.8 cm; Left Gauntlet: length 33.0 cm, width of cuff 14.0 cm; Right Greave and Sabaton: height 50.5 cm, length of foot 29.2 cm; Left Greave and Sabaton: height 50.8 cm, length of foot 29.6 cm.

Weights: Helmet: 5.840 kg; Gorget: 1.162 kg; Breastplate and Front Skirt: 3.826 kg; Backplate and Rear Skirt: 3.150 kg; Front Skirt Extension-Lame: 0.500 kg; Right Tasset without Extensions: 0.624 kg; Left Tasset without Extensions: 0.680 kg; Right Tasset-Extension: 0.558 kg; Left Lower Tasset-Extension: 0.558 kg; Rear Skirt-Extension Lame: 0.510 kg; Right Pauldron: 1.162 kg; Left Pauldron: 1.134 kg; Right Besague: 0.369 kg; Left Besague: 0.323 kg; Right Vambrace: 1.733 kg; Left Vambrace: 1.713 kg; Right Gauntlet: 0.567 kg; Left Gauntlet: 0.539 kg; Right Greave and Sabaton: 1.750 kg; Left Grave and Sabaton: 1.759 kg.

Tests undertaken by Dr Alan R. Williams on the skull of the associated close helmet of the armour show its microhardness to vary in the range 158–207 VPH. It is formed of a steel with a low carbon content (perhaps 0.2–0.3%) and very little visible slag, which has undergone some heat-treatment in an unsuccessful attempt to harden it. It seems to have been heated up to the critical range (around 750ºC) but not given time to homogenise before being quenched.

Tests on the main plate of the breastplate show its microhardness to vary within the range 234–258 VPH. It is formed of a steel with a carbon content of around 0.3–0.4% which has undergone a good deal of hot working. The second fauld-lame of the breastplate, however, has a considerably lower microhardness within the range 108–154 VPH. It consists almost entirely of iron containing an occasional row of carburised particles and a great deal of slag arranged in parallel rows. This is a surprisingly slaggy iron, which has again undergone a good deal of hot working.

Text adapted from Arms and Armour in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen: European Armour, London, 2016

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