In honour of this Saint Valentine’s Day, we’ve put together a special ‘loved up’ post from the Royal Armouries. We’ve chosen to highlight two special romantic items of our collection; the amorous armour of Henry VIII, currently at the Tower of London, and the heartfelt gifts of World War One soldiers at Fort Nelson.
Did you know that Henry VIII declared by Royal Charter that all of England would celebrate February 14th specifically as “Saint Valentine’s Day”? In honour of this, we thought we should discuss his most amorous armour, which was made about 1515. Throughout its decoration there are constant symbolic representations of his happy marriage to Katherine of Aragon, who had been his Queen for 6 years (married 1509).
All-over the armour’s decorations are beautiful flowering Tudor roses and pomegranates of Aragon, to illustrate this happy union (for now anyway!) The wings of the poleyns (knee protection) bear the sheaf of arrows badge of Ferdinand II of Aragon, as well as the combined Tudor rose and Katherine’s pomegranate badge, while the toecaps of the sabatons have the castle badge of Castile and the Tudor portcullis.
Most noticeable is the decoration around the base of the Tonlet (skirt), where the initials of H and K are joined by true lovers’ knots in copper alloy.
This romantic representation of Henry and Katherine is continued on the accompanying horse armour. At the rear of the crupper (back/rear protection) the initials H and K, with a rose, are supported by putti (cherubim’s). The side panels (flanchards) are decorated with winged mermen, holding shields with combined rose and pomegranate badges – flanked by portcullis and sheaf of arrows badges for the King and his Queen. The lower border of the horse armour (bard) is decorated with the King’s motto DIEU ET MON DROIT, interspersed with even more roses and pomegranates, just in case.
For more information about the armour and bard, take a look at this link: http://www.royalarmouries.org/line-of-kings/line-of-kings-objects/single-object/349
Gifts from the Front
Donated to the Royal Armouries by local resident Mrs Shelia Borer, these heart shaped cushions show us a ‘softer side’ of the First World War.
These Romantic heart shaped cushions were sent to the wives of two soldiers serving in France during the First World War. They were perhaps intended as love tokens for Valentine’s Day.
The velvet and silk cushions were most likely purchased in France by Frederik Branson of the Royal Artillery and Everett Freeman of the Oxford Light Infantry. They would then have personalised them and sent them home to their loved ones.
One has the Royal Artillery crest whilst the other has that of the Oxford Light Infantry. The latter has a poignant poem that reads:
“Think of me
When the Golden sun is shining
And your mind is care set free
When of others you are thinking
Will you some time
Think of me.”