King James II’s armour

Housed within the Royal Armouries is the last suit of armour that was ever designed and made for a British King. It was created for James II of England (James VI of Scotland) and it cost £100 at the time, which was a great deal of money when you consider that similar suits for the less wealthy might only cost 19 shillings.

This is a suit of light cavalry armour and it includes a pot helmet (triple barred), backplate and breastplate and a single gauntlet. This whole suit weighs around 17kg. This type of armour was designed for a horseman who would have been armed with a handgun.

This suit of armour does show signs of wear and tear. On the breastplate, there is a mark known as a proof mark. This is evidence that the strength of the plate was tested by firing a gun at it. The suit was made by Richard Holden, the armourer at the time, and was delivered to the King in 1686. The design was considered to be a replacement for the cuirassier that was used by the previous generation, which featured a much heavier metal plate. It features the initials of the king – IR (Iacobus Rex) – with the royal coat of arms.

For those who cannot get to the museum to take a look at this suit, there is one that features on the website of the Royal Collection which is similar, but it is a far cheaper version that was definitely not made for a wealthy individual. The king’s version is definitely finer quality and has engraved designs to decorate it, setting it apart from similar armour of the time.

When James fled to France in 1690, his armour was left behind and has been part of the royal collection ever since.