Object Title

Half armour

Half armour



Object Number



Purchased at auction from Christies, 18 November 1981, lot 185. From the collection of the Earls of Pembroke, Wilton House, sold at Sotheby's, 23 June 1921, lot 40; Reaymaekers Collection, Belgium

Physical Description

The deep-bellied, rounded breastplate comprises a large main plate with three articulated lames below, overlapping downwards. These are centrally leathered with sliding rivets at either edge. The lower lame has a flange. At each arm is a pair of sliding gussets each with an internal spring. Hinged to each are side pieces of corresponding construction, articulated by sliding rivets whose slots are situated in tongues. The lames of the breastplate and side pieces were formerly leathered; extension pieces were riveted to the upper edges of the lames at the sliding rivets to serve as attachment points for the leathers, in a working-life modification to the armour. At the bottom of the breastplate is a fauld of two lames, overlapping upwards with internally hinged side pieces. The tassets are each of three lames, and are attached to the fauld by sliding rivets and two internal leathers each.

The backplate has pronounced embossed shoulder blades, and is continued to the waist by three articulated lames overlapping downwards, the lower one with a flange. A narrow culet with a central cusp overlaps the lower lame. Hinged to the backplate are side pieces corresponding to the breastplate. Mushroom-headed studs on the rear side pieces engage lateral slots on the front plates, and the back and breast are fastened by straps from the front side pieces and buckles on the rear ones. At the upper edges of the back and breastplate lines of rivet holes reveal the former presence of lining rivets.

The collar is composed of four plates front and rear, and overlaps the cuirass. Holes near the lower edges of the lower lames front and rear engage vertically sliding pierced studs on the back and breastplates. The collar is fitted with spaudlers of three lames, attached by hinges at the rear, a rivet at the left front and a turning pins at the front left to the lower lames. The turning pin is situated on a small plate which protects the slot of its own sliding rivet on the lower collar lame. The collar is hinged at the left, where the lower lames are connected by a sliding rivet on a trefoil plate, and opens on the right where it is fastened by a pin catch at the neck and a stud and keyhole slot at the shoulder. Beside this stud, on the upper edge of the lower rear lame is a slotted projection, possibly for retention of a strap from the helmet, or a baldrick.

The vambraces have upper and lower cannons formed of six longitudinal slats, attached by vertical sliding rivets to the lower of five lames at the shoulder, and a curving lame inside. The lower two of these lames are articulated by lateral sliding rivets, the upper three by rivets and a central leather. They overlap up and down from the central lame. At the base of the upper cannon and top of the lower the slots are connected by curving lames to a rounded couter with a small bi-lobed wing. The cuffs terminate in pairs of lames. The lower cannons are hinged on the inside and fastened by pierced studs and hooks on the outside. The shoulders have original leather tabs pierced for arming points, attached by four rivets each.

All the main edges have roped inward turns. On the cuirass and collar the roping is continuous and chiselled in high relief. On the vambraces it is symmetrical about its mid point, light and filed. The subsidiary edges are bordered by pairs of incised lines, and the centre of the backplate and collar has a vertical groove. All the visible edges and buckles are gilt, as are the round headed iron rivets on the cuirass and the brass headed rivets ion the cuirass. The point of each outer is embossed with an asterisk design within a circle, formed of eight file roped and gilt lines. The surfaces are rough from the hammer, and retain much of their original black colour. A belt has been replaced, connected to the brass rosette stud at the rear and plain brass stud at the front, with a modern iron buckle.

Conservation 1981-4

On the breastplate the leathers of the tassets were removed and replaced. The outer ones were only leathered up to the lower lame of the breastplate to reveal the extension brackets which had been riveted to the tips of the articulating lames of the breastplate and side plate, at their conjunction. The central leather, those covering the springs, and the fragmentary traces of lining leathers were preserved. The curved line of rivet holes for the inner leather of the right tasset is inexplicable; the one on the left is straight. The shoulder straps were removed, as a later addition.

When acquired the spaudlers had been riveted to the vambraces in error. They were detached and the holes plugged. The collar, although it had six sets of rivet holes for leathers, had been bent, misaligned, drilled and riveted solid. All these rivets were removed and the collar releathered. The spaudlers were originally on two leathers, front and middle, with sliding rivets at the rear. The hinges which join the spaudlers to the rear of the collar are prevented from working by the rivets which join the upper plate of the spaudler to the slots on the collar plate. If they were not there, the right spaudler could move on its hinge, though the movement of the left spaudler would be severely limited because of the front leather, which appears to have been attached on to the collar. None of the rivets currently securing the spaudlers at the front appears contemporary with either the construction or modification of the armour. However, the hinges may have always been decorative. The lames of the spaudlers have been left riveted together, to preserve fragments of the original leathers, traces of which remain on both.


Dimensions: collar height 185 mm, width 380 mm; breastplate height 570 mm, width 335 mm; backplate height 470 mm, width 310 mm; vambraces length 575 mm Weight: Collar 1050 g, breastplate 3320 g, back 2156, vambraces 1135 g each, total 8796 g

Inscriptions and Marks



Bibliographic References

F H Cripps-Day, A record of armour sales, London, 1925: 216, fig 137

J F Hayward, 'The armoury of the First Earl of Pembroke', The Connoisseur, April 1964: 225-30, fig. 6

ChÔteau de Larne, Catalogue de l'exposition armes et armures anciennes conservÚes dans les collections privÚs belges, Brussels, 1968: no. 21

C. Paggiarino, The Royal Armouries, masterpieces of medieval and renaissance arms and armour, Milan, 2011 volume 2


The armour can easily be identified from the 1558 inventory of the armoury of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke (1501-70) 'Item a black anymate pcell gilte with the vambraces splinted in partes wthoute gauntletts'. The absence of a lance rest and general light construction show that was a light cavalry armour. Pembroke commanded 100 light horse at the siege of Boulogne in 1544, and was in 1557 appointed captain General of the English army in France, taking part in the storming of St Quentin.

The armour has been attributed to Greenwich from various characteristic features: the distinctive forms of its buckles and hinges, the fitting of the collar outside the cuirass, and the articulation of the anime part of the cuirass on three vertical leathers with pairs of rivets visible on the outside. The triple division of the cuirass into main plates and side pieces is paralleled by the 'Genouilhac' armour, probably made for Henry VIII, in the Metropolitan Museum, but the side pieces are quite different from those of the Pembroke anime. The same general form of cuirass construction is found on another Pembroke anime (II.137) and on the 'Lord North' armour (II.82).

Many of the details characteristic of Greenwich production apply only to the vambraces. These include the delicate, file roped turns, the hinges, gilt brass-capped rivets and pierced stud and swivel hook fastenings. The only Greenwich feature of the cuirass, apart from the overlapping collar, is the internal leathering. The leathers at the joins of the mainplates and side pieces were added after modifications to the armour had been carried out, and these involved extensive addition of brackets to the lames for the leathers. Other details of the cuirass are quite unlike Greenwich production. The baggy form of the breastplate, the shape of the back, the heavy, continuous roping and the tongues for the sliding rivets are all unparalleled at Greenwich, and the form of the buckles and inward curve of the tassets are comparable to that of north Italian armours.

The arrangement of and anime cuirass with side pieces with matching lames is also unparalleled at Greenwich. It is found on an armour of Charles V by the Negroli family of Milan (Madrid, Real Armeria A.160). Another armour with a similar construction also belonging to Charles V (Madrid A.108-11) is attributed to Coloman Helmschmied of Augsburg, and this armour also has mushroom headed studs on the backplate engaging lateral slots on the breastplate. The most closely comparable collar is of Nuremberg manufacture (RA II.168). Another closely comparable construction is found on the armour of Henri II in Paris (Musée de l'Armée no. G.118, Thomas, Gamber & Schedelman 1963: no.78) also by the Negroli.

It seems most likely that this armour was made in |north Italy, probably Milan, and modified for the Earl of Pembroke at Greenwich with the addition of new vambraces and internal leathering.