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The Horned Helmet

Metal helmet featuring a garish grin, eyes, round spectacles and curled ram like horns.

'Horned Helmet' 1511, Non-Commercial Licence (and Crown Copyright Licence) © Royal Armouries – Non-Commercial Licence

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  • Intro
    Museum's Description
    Teacher notes
    • 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?
      You can dress up your own Knight and play battles against the Knights of Henry VIII with this Tudor themed game from the Historic Royal Palaces.
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