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In order to pursue his ambitions in France, Henry VIII formed an alliance with the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I. This painting records their meeting and the main events pertaining to Henry’s first campaign against the French in 1513.

The composit

An introduction to European armour in the Royal Collection

Flemish School, 16th century

The Battle of the Spurs c. 1513

RCIN 406784

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Military success and glory was of great importance to Henry VIII (1491–1547) and featured heavily in his foreign policy. In August 1513, he defeated Louis XII's troops outside the town of Therouanne. The speed with which the French cavalry spurred their horses to retreat gave the event its name: The Battle of the Spurs.  

In this painting, Henry VIII appears on horseback at the centre of the conflict, while the French Chevalier Bayard kneels before him in surrender. The armour the king wears is not one that survives. It is brightly gilded, and his helmet bears distinctive gold, white and red feathers, making him easily recognisable on the battlefield. To the left, lines of English cavalry begin to charge, their lances held vertically. Moments before contact, each lance would be lowered and secured in a lance-rest attached to the breastplate, to prevent it dislodging at impact. Use of the lance in this way was practised in peacetime at tournament 'tilts' or jousts.