Armour in England during the Tudor period evolved significantly and accepted numerous influences. During the 16th century, the reign of Tudor monarch Henry VIII marked a rapid development in armour production. Through most of the Tudor era, the use of the armour was more for decorative purposes and knightly tournaments than for battlefield combat.
Henry VIII, in particular, was known for wearing different types of elaborate and high-quality armours at different occasions, many of them very expensively constructed. He also ensured a steady supply of such high-quality armour for his royal army as well, a part of his attempts to wrest the royal prestige free from dependence upon the noblemen. English noblemen of the period, in contrast, could not afford such high-quality armour and had to make do with more conventional forms of armour.
Maximilian armour was popular with Tudor Royals
Henry VIII’s Armours
Henry VIII commissioned a number of armours during his reign. He also made use of many armours constructed in other parts of Europe, such as the Maximilian armour from the Holy Roman Empire. Among the armours that were used by Henry VIII are the Maximilian armour, the Almain Rivet and the Greenwich armour.
The Almain Rivet which Henry famously wore at Calais was constructed in the style of the Landsknecht mercenaries from the Holy Roman Empire. It was more flexible since its pegs made greater movement possible for the wearer. During his campaigns across the British Isles, Henry not only himself wore the best of armours but also had thousands of top-quality plate armours supplied to his troops.
Knightly Armour during Tudor Period
Plate armour had become popular among English knights by the beginning of the Tudor period. Since this period marked little campaigns outside of British Isles, the knights mostly wore their armour for decorative purposes and for use at knightly tournaments. The knightly armour of the period is marked by innovations in sabatons and the use of tassets and fauld.
It is important to note that in the domestic battles, the knights were increasingly being used to fight as foot soldiers which accordingly influenced the evolution of the armour during the period. The most notable changed dictated by this was the symmetrical appearance of the armour which was formerly designed to give the left shoulder extra strength.
Establishment of Greenwich Armoury
During the reign of Henry VIII, the Greenwich armoury was established in 1511. This became the key part of Henry VIII’s efforts to upgrade his troops’ armour and have a ready supply of the most innovative armours of the age. To this end, Henry hired master armourers from all over Europe, including those from Germany and Flanders.
These armourers would then furnish Henry with large volumes of high-quality armours whenever needed by him or his troops. The armoury initially limited its supply to the royal court and the royal troops. However, by the Elizabethan era, the armoury was supplying armours to a number of other noblemen who were attached to the royal court. The armours produced at the armoury, especially those for Henry VIII, carried highly intricate designs and elaborate decorations.