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Folger Exhibitions
• Symbols of Honor: Heraldry and Family History
Online Exhibition
Tournaments and Armor

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Tournaments and Armor



Heralds played an important role in the staging of tournaments - elaborate and extravagant occasions for displaying one's skill in the martial arts. Clarenceux King of Arms or another herald proclaimed the occasion, recorded coats of arms, and kept score. Sir Henry Lee, who was Elizabeth I's self-styled "Queen's Champion" in the 1580s, organized the Accession Day Tilts. These were tournaments held on each anniversary of the Queen's Accession Day, November 17. Elizabeth favored men who excelled at the tilts, and her courtiers spent an enormous amount of money to create customized armor, decorated with their arms, badges, or imprese for these tournaments.

 

The Almain Armourer's Album is a collection of designs for plate armors, now attributed to Jacobe Halder, the German (Almain) in charge of the royal armor workshops at Greenwich from 1576 until shortly before he died in 1608. Plate armor was worn in tournaments and on the parade ground. The armors were made for the Crown and leading courtiers, and were extremely costly. The plate displayed in the exhibition (image unavailable) is of the subsidiary pieces that were made for Sir Christopher Hatton's full outfit. They include his horse's shaffron, and saddle steels for the horse's pommel and cantle, as well as two stirrups. Also shown is Hatton's armet with extra visor piece. The album is on loan from the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.



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