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The Burgundian Bard Horse Armour

Highly engraved silvered horse armour on a wooden stand embossed with the firesteels and raguly crosses of the Order of the Golden Fleece, with scrolling tendrils bearing pomegranates.

Gothic Armour c15, © © Royal Armouries – Non-Commercial Licence

  • Intro
    Museum's Description
    Teacher notes
    • Did you know horses have been helping humans in warfare for more than 6,000 years?

      Knights on horses (cavalry) were used to charge the front lines of an enemy in a battle. Because of their protective armour and elevated position, it was much easier to kill or wound a medieval knight if they had already fallen to the ground and so the horses they rode on became targets. This ‘barding’ (horse armour) would fit over a horse measuring more than a metre wide!

      Surviving examples of barding are very rare. This particular piece was presented by the Holy Roman Emperor, Pope Maximillian I to Henry VIII as a wedding gift on his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. As well as this horse armour he also gave the young king this rather impressive helmet.

      Things to think about:
      • Why do you think a heavy cavalry horse needed to be so big? Which parts of the horse would still be exposed when wearing this?
      • Why do you think Henry received such an impressive gift from the Holy Roman Emperor for this marriage?
      • How would you feel facing a line of heavy cavalry like this before the start of a battle?
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