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King Henry VIII’s Horned Helmet

 The Royal Armories Museum in Leeds has in his possession a strange helmet believed to have belonged to the infamous English King Henry VIII. With curved horns, bulging eyes, jagged ridges and a puffy chin, this is the most bizarre helmet ever made for a king. In fact, due to its resemblance to a court fool, historians have long debated who the wearer was.

The horned helmet (actually, it is an armate as it completely encircles the head) forms part of a full suite of armor commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and the young king after their alliance in the Battle of the League. Henry VIII is gifted. Why Cambrai? The Holy Roman Empire, until 1510, was on the French side. In 1509, Henry married Catherine of Aragon, whose sister, Joanna of Castile, was married to Philip, Maximilian's son.


The armor was designed by the famous Austrian armorer Konrad Seisenhofer. The carving was done by an Augsburg goldsmith. The suite was completed in 1514, and was given to Henry later that year. This suit was the second gift of armor given to Henry by Maximilian. The first tournament parade was a suit of armor made in 1510 by the Flemish armorer Guillaume Margot. Maximilian had a gift embossed with the instruments of the House of Burgundy, which Maximilian incorporated through his wife Mary of Burgundy and Catherine's pomegranate instrument.

The suit of armor was not made for combat – it would have been impractical with the protruding horns anyway – but was worn as a joke in tournament parades. Its design was inspired by intricate clothing, which may have been worn with armor. It is possible that the armor was designed to include interchangeable pieces to suit different forms of tournament competitions.


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