Horned helmet of Henry VIII

10:09 AM

One of the most iconic pieces of armor ever is the horned helmet of Henry VIII. It formed part of a magnificent armour, commissioned in 1511 by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I as a gift for the young king, who would have worn the armour for court pageants rather than in combat.

The Horned helmet is technically called an armet, with protection for the skull, hinged cheek pieces, and a face defense. An armet is a type of helmet which was developed in the 15-th century. It was extensively used in Italy, France, England, the Low Countries and Spain.

It was distinguished by being the first helmet of its era to completely enclose the head while being compact and light enough to move with the wearer. Its use was essentially restricted to the fully armored man-at-arms.

Originally, the helmet had silver-gilt panels placed over rich, velvet cloth. The glasses were implemented because Henry VIII was actually nearsighted, a theory supplemented by the fact that there were dozens of glasses in his possession after his death. It was made for use in pageants rather than for combat. Henry VIII might have worn it at sumptuous events such as the parades that accompanied tournaments.

Following Henry’s death in 1547, it was probably placed on display among other arms and armour belonging to the king – while the rest of the armour was apparently discarded as scrap metal after the Civil War. The extraordinary appearance of the helmet probably saved it from destruction and it has remained one of the most enigmatic pieces in the collections ever since. 

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