October Treasure of the Month


October Treasure of the Month

Garniture for the Field of Sir Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, Greenwich, c.1587

In 1515 King Henry VIII founded a royal armourers’ workshop at his palace at Greenwich, to make armour for his personal use in war, tournament and parade.

By 1587, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the English knew that soon they would be attacked by a massive invasion force- the Spanish Armada. The whole country mobilised; weapons were stockpiled and prominent Elizabethans were assigned military commands across England.

Sir Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, led cavalry patrolling the south coast. This ornate war armour was made for him by the Greenwich Royal Workshop during that frantic period of preparation, but it was never used. The Armada was destroyed before it could land, by bad weather and the English navy.

Sixteenth-century armour with gold detailing

This garniture ‘for the field’ (for war only) includes interchangeable parts so that the armour could be used for several different forms of combat. Like most Greenwich armour of the time, it is richly decorated with acid-etched and fire-gilt strapwork and borders. The main bands contain a dynamic ‘zigzag and guilloche’ pattern against a blackened and granulated background.

This armour is the only Greenwich garniture to retain its original set of matching stirrups, and in fact the only parts of this armour to have been lost are the saddle steels.

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