Tudor Tuesdays – Gilding

January 19 2021 | Castle History

Castle Trail for young visitorsGilding is the theme for #TudorTuesdays with Historic Houses.

Despite the fact it is a replica c.1800, the suit of jousting armour in Hever Castle’s Council Chamber is a good example of the sort of item that would have been gilded in the Tudor era. 

As there was no football at the time (or at least, not as we know it today, which is a story for another day) jousting was one of the most popular sporting events, although due to the basic requirements of full armour and a horse (preferably a small, but quick turning Spanish breed) jousting was a pastime reserved for the wealthy. 

In order to stand out on the jousting field and to allow spectators to cheer on their favourite, competitors would wear brightly coloured and beautifully decorated suits of armour. Those surviving examples we see today have often lost their colours, but we know that there were armours in blues, blacks, reds, whites and golds, with the gold often in the form of gilded detailing to make the designs stand out all the more. 

Credit Oliver Dixon Photography

In the 1500s, the Royal Armoury workshops in Greenwich were considered to be among the best in Europe. Armour here was made only by order of the King, or in the case of Elizabeth I, the Queen. Whereas Henry VIII ordered armour for himself, however, Elizabeth, as a woman who did not therefore ride into battle, instead gave out licences for Greenwich armour as gifts to her favourites. This included her loyal supporter Sir Christopher Hatton, who had several of Greenwich jousting armours, including a black and gold one still on display at Windsor Castle. 

In today’s money, it has been estimated that this kind of exclusive, specially designed and highly gilded jousting suits of armour could have cost the Tudor purchaser the equivalent of £1m. 

If you enjoyed this item on gilding why not discover the previous #TudorTuesdays news items: