Metalworks! - Episode Two: The Knight's Tale
First broadcast: BBC Four, May 2012
This film charts the extraordinary history of the Greenwich Armour workshops in the reigns of Henry VIII and his daughter, Elizabeth I. It looks at the royals and aristocrats who wore armour, and the men they commissioned to design and make it. Armour was protective clothing, but it was also high fashion. It was costume; it was theatre. It gave the wearer an incredibly imposing presence, making him look powerful and invincible – even superhuman.
Presenter Tobias Capwell, Curator of Arms and Armour at The Wallace Collection and keen jouster, traces the history of armour from its use in ancient Greece and Rome, through Medieval innovations, to the new Renaissance styles found at the Tudor courts.
Using surviving pieces of armour, the film shows how Henry VIII’s personal enthusiasm for jousting and a spectacular gift armour from his hero, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, led to the foundation of the royal armour workshop at Greenwich. While the Almain Armourer’s Album, an extraordinary collection of designs for armours at the V&A, drawn by Jacob Halder, Master Workman at the Greenwich Armouries, reveals the artistry and elaboration attained in the decoration of armour, as the Greenwich workshops entered their Golden Age in the reign of Elizabeth I. During these years, as part of the cult of chivalry around the unmarried Elizabeth, England’s leading noblemen competed for the Queen’s favour by commissioning increasingly magnificent armours.
In addition to V&A curators, contributors include Philippa Gregory, Susan Foister, Thom Richardson, Stuart Pyhrr and Ninya Mikhaila.
Click on a selection of objects featured in the programme to view more details