King Henry VIII’s Horned Helmet

The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds hold in their possession a peculiar helmet, believed to have belonged to the infamous English King Henry VIII. With spiraling horns, protruding eyes, a toothy grimace and a stubbly chin, it is one of the most grotesque helmets ever forged for a king. Indeed, because of its likeness to a court’s fool, for a long time historians debated who the intended wearer was.

The horned helmet (actually, it is an armet because it completely enclosed the head) formed part of a full suit of armor commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and gifted to the young King Henry VIII following their alliance in the War of the League of Cambrai. The Holy Roman Empire had, until 1510, been on the French side. In 1509, Henry had married Catherine of Aragon, whose sister, Joanna of Castile, was married to Maximilian's son Philip.

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