When Christmas was cancelled

From swords to muskets, buff coats to pistols: in preparation for the museum’s ‘Christmas is Cancelled’ event we take a look at some of the most significant objects in the Royal Armouries collection from the British Civil Wars. In part two of this two-part blog series, we take a look at objects from the period, including an armour of Charles I and a sword associated with Charles Worsley

Objects from the Time

The Royal Armouries houses the ‘Littlecote Collection’, the most important surviving armoury of the British Civil Wars. Many private armouries furnished with relics of the Civil Wars existed in Britain, but one-by-one they were dispersed until the only major example left intact was the armoury of Colonel Alexander Popham at Littlecote House. Here we take a look at some of the most significant objects from this period of political and religious turmoil.

The historic long gallery at Littlecote House, before the collection was relocated to the Royal Armouries

 1. Gilt Armour of King Charles I, made for Henry Prince of Wales

Armour (1612)
Gilt Armour of King Charles I, made for Henry Prince of Wales (II.91)

Dating from 1612, the Gilt Armour was originally made for Henry, Prince of Wales, Charles I’s elder brother who died aged eighteen that same year. The armour was then passed onto Charles who met his unfortunate fate at the hands of the executioner in January 1649. The armour is that of a heavy cavalryman, or ‘cuirassier’. Due to its restrictive nature and sometimes its weight, such armour was rarely worn during the Civil Wars. However, there are a number of accounts of Charles I appearing on the battlefield in full armour. The armour is on display at the White Tower and after restoration, it served as the armour of Charles I in the Line of Kings, one of the world’s oldest exhibitions.

2. Harquebusier’s Pot

Harquebusier's pot (1645)
Harquebusier’s Pot (IV.547)

Located in the War Gallery in Leeds the Harquebusier’s Pot or ‘Lobster Pot’ dates from 1645. Helmets of this kind were popular in Europe in the 17th-century and are famed for their lobster tail-like defence to protect the neck in combat. Despite the common image often presented in films, such helmets were worn on both sides by Royalists and Parliamentarians.

3. Matchlock Muzzle-Loading Musket

Matchlock muzzle-loading musket (1640)
Matchlock Muzzle-Loading Musket (XII.5347)

Dating from 1640, the Matchlock Muzzle-Loading Musket also comes from the Littlecote Collection and is currently on display in the War Gallery in Leeds. Muskets of this type were common use in the New Model Army, requiring care when loading as the presence of loose gunpowder and a smouldering match made the process hazardous. The majority of firearms of the period were smoothbore, which meant that they were really only accurate at close range.

4. Sword Associated with Major General Charles Worsley

Sword and scabbard (1651)
Sword Associated with Major General Charles Worsley (IX.1428)

Currently on display in the War Gallery in Leeds, this sword and scabbard dates from 1651 and is thought to have belonged to Major General Charles Worsley. The Royal Armouries also possesses an impressive painting of Charles Worsley who was a notable parliamentarian commander and Lieutenant-Colonel in Lancashire in the 1640s and 1650s. In 1654 he was elected as the first Member of Parliament for Manchester in the First Protectorate Parliament.

Portrait of Major General Charles Worsley. (I.111)

The museums ‘Christmas is Cancelled’ event takes place from the 27-30 December. Find out more about the event on our website.