Some of the Most Elaborately Decorated Objects in the Royal Armouries Collection

This summer, the Royal Armouries will be playing host to a number of exciting activities part-inspired by our latest book release titled ‘Dangerous Arts’. Embellished with stunning images of the objects which once adorned the great palaces, tournament fields and parade grounds of the world, the book combines themes of art, conflict, death and beauty to highlight pieces in our collection chosen specifically for their fine craftsmanship and careful design.

To help tell the stories behind some of the armouries most elaborately decorated objects, our Education Team will be giving flash talks on some of their favourite items from the book.

Here’s an introduction to just a few of these fascinating objects:

The Burgundian Bard

A horse armour, gifted to Henry VIII
The Burgundian Bard, an ornate horse armour

Situated next to Henry VIII’s famous tournament armour, the Burgundian Bard is perhaps one of the collections lesser known treasures. The intricately decorated horse armour was gifted as a wedding present in 1509 to King Henry VIII and his first wife Katherine of Aragon by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. The Bard features an embossed pomegranate design with the fruit representing the house of Aragon and also includes symbols of the Burgundian Order of the Golden Fleece, which Henry VIII was awarded in 1505.

The Painted Sallet

A painted sallet.
The Painted Sallet with its colourful decoration.

The Sallet is dated from 1490 and is of German origin. It is incredibly rare for painted decoration to survive on helmets such as the Sallet, and the colour perhaps challenges traditional views of the medieval period as being full of dark colours and little decoration. The top of the helmet bears a flame design, while the lower part has a chequered pattern in red, white and green.

The Ming Sword

The Ming Sword
The ornately decorated Ming Sword

The Chinese Ming Dynasty Sword dates from the early 15th century and was likely made for imperial presentation to one of the great Tibetan monasteries of the time. The distinctive monster mask at the top of the sword is known in Tibetan as chibar or ‘that which resembles nothing’.

The Admiral Lord Collingwood Sword

Ornate sword, with handle of gold.
Ornate sword, complete with solid gold hilt.

Dated from the early 19th century, the Admiral Lord Collingwood Sword was made to celebrate the victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. The sword was created by London-based goldsmith Thomas Harper, with the hilt being made of solid gold. One side of the knuckle-guard states ‘ENGLAND EXPECTS EVERY MAN TO DO HIS DUTY.’

II Armour

li Naomasa's helment
The Helmet of li Naomasa

This helmet belonged to li Naomasa, one of the four generals of Tokugawa Ieyasu. It is dated from the Momoyama and Edo period, and when the armour is fully constructed it features tall horns covered in gold lacquer. The armour is also laced with intricate white, green and purple silk braid.

Find out more about this summer’s flash talks and our Dangerous Arts event programme on our website:

Our latest book ‘Dangerous Arts’ is available to purchase at the museum and online, find out more on our website: