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This is the last suit of armour ever made for a British monarch 2

Close up of Jame II's helmet

© Royal Armouries

Made for James II and VII and costing £100, this was the last suit of armour ever made for a British monarch.

The set of harquebusier armour – or light cavalry armour – is part of the collection of the Royal Armouries and includes a triple barred helmet (known as a pot), breastplate, backplate and a single, long elbow gauntlet. Together it weighs in at 17kg, with the pot alone a hefty 3.32kg.

Even so, for its time this armour, which was based on the design for a light horseman armed with an early hand gun called an arquebus and two pistols, was considered lightweight and was designed as a replacement for the heavily armoured cuirassier of the previous generation.

Outwardly it’s much like ordinary munition armour of the time, but it’s of a finer quality and the whole suit is decorated with elaborate engraved designs, known as bands of trophies.

On the faceguard, initials spell out IR (Iacobus Rex – King James) alongside the royal coat of arms supported by a lion and a unicorn.


James II's suit of armour

© Royal Armouries

There’s a proof-mark on the breastplate, showing it was tested by firing a gun at it. The armourer, Richard Holden, delivered the suit on December 14 1686 for the princely sum of  £100. Holden had been the armourer responsible for Royal commissions since 1681, five years before James’ succession.

From Swadlincote in Derbyshire, Holden who died in 1709 and is considered to be the last of the London armourer makers, was apprenticed to a London armourer in 1658, made free in 1665 and was supplying munition armour to the Board of Ordnance from 1673.

A similar but cheaper suit of composite harquebusier’s armour can be seen on the Royal Collection website,  made from rough blackened iron it could cost as little as 19s per suit, although others of officer’s quality may have cost £6.

James himself would later flee in the face of William of Orange’s Glorious Revoltion of 1688, eventually leaving British and Irish shores in 1690 for the protection of the French King, leaving his armour behind to be kept by the Tower Armouries at the Tower of London.


Royal Armouries at HM Tower of London

London, City of London

The Royal Armouries is located in the White Tower, the central keep of the Tower of London, which is its historical home. The Armouries is one of the ancient institutions of the Tower of London. Its origins may be traced back to the working armoury of the medieval kings of…


Royal Armouries

Leeds, West Yorkshire

Home to the national collection of arms and armour, the Royal Armouries in Leeds houses a world-renowned collection of over 75,000 objects. Explore the weapons and armour of warriors through the ages from early medieval knights to the modern-day soldier. Discover treasures from around the globe over five floors of…

2 comments on “This is the last suit of armour ever made for a British monarch

  1. Brett Kearney on

    Sophia Marci Anderson, I think you should revise your intro to this. James II and VII (14 October 1633 O.S. – 16 September 1701) was King of England and Ireland as James II, and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685 until he was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. James l was James Vl of Scotland

  2. Ellen C Thomas on

    What beautiful metal work! It makes me want to know more about the traditions of armour – the terminology, the armourers & their skills, the traditions that culminated in such fine work.

    A heads-up though: this was made for King James II and VII, not the

    Thank you for the opportunity to see this.


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