'Horned Helmet' 1511, Non-Commercial Licence (and Crown Copyright Licence) © Royal Armouries – Non-Commercial Licence
Imagine receiving this as a gift! We don’t know what he thought of it
but that’s what happened to Henry VIII when he was presented with a
whole suit of armour including this horned helmet by Holy Roman Emperor
Maximillian I in 1514.
It has such a funny appearance that for some time after Henry’s death, people thought it may have belonged to his jester or fool, Will Somers. It was created for entertainment rather than battles but Henry VIII may have worn it as part of pageants (performances) which happened before tournaments.
Tournaments were combat games on foot and horseback with weapons and were a chance for knights to practice military skills and show off their abilities. They were sporting events, enjoyed by both nobles and towns people, but they could also be very dangerous. Henry VIII injured his leg in one in 1536 and never completely recovered.
Things to think about:
- Do you think this helmet was meant to scare or entertain?
- Why do you think the makers included features like glass, eyes and curling horns?
- Why do you think the Holy Roman Emperor was sending gifts to the King of England?
Here at Show Me we have loads of resources relating to the Tudors and Henry VIII. Here are some of our favourites:
- Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I presented Henry VIII with the armour that included this extraordinary ‘Horned helmet’ in 1514. This helmet was chosen as the symbol of the Royal Armouries in Leeds because of its extraordinary appearance and association with Henry VIII. The full armour from which the ‘Horned helmet’ originates was one of three of similar design. Only the armour given by Maximilian I to his grandson, the future Emperor Charles V, survives intact and it is now in Vienna. The rest of Henry VIII’s armour no longer survives and for some time after Henry’s death this helmet was believed to have belonged to his jester or fool, Will Somers, because of its unusual nature. Konrad Seusenhofer, the maker of Henry VIII’s gift armour, was one of the leading armourers of the early 16th century. The ‘dragon’ hinges, left and right, suggest that alternative face defences were also supplied. It was made for use in pageants rather than for combat. Henry VIII might have worn it at sumptuous events such as the parades that accompanied tournaments.
- Imagine receiving this as a gift! We don’t know what he thought of it but that’s what happened to Henry VIII when he was presented with a whole suit of armour including this horned helmet by Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian I in 1514.