This magnificent equestrian armour from the 16th century is unique in that it has survived completely preserved to this day. The armour was acquired by the Wallace Collection in 1867 from the collection of the French sculptor Count Émilien de Nieuwerkerke, who had displayed it in his apartment at the Louvre. Before that, it was preserved for many centuries at the ancestral home of the Freyberg family at Schloss Hohenaschau in Bavaria.
Looking on in our picture are the actor Harry Lloyd and the writer and producer Philippa Langley. Lloyd is one of the stars of the recently released film The Lost King, which tells the extraordinary story of how Langley, then an amateur historian, identified the final resting place of King Richard III under a Leicester car park in 2012.
It was at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 that Richard (played by Lloyd in the film) was killed, bringing to a close the bitter conflict between the English royal houses of Lancaster and York, more commonly known as the Wars of the Roses.
The remains of the Yorkist king, usurped after his death by Henry VII, were thought lost until Langley (played in the film by Sally Hawkins) led a campaign to locate them. Following his exhumation, Richard III was given a royal burial at Leicester Cathedral in 2015.
Riding as one of two armoured horsemen accompanying the royal coffin was Dr Tobias Capwell, the Wallace Collection’s expert on arms and armour. To coincide with the release of the film, Capwell has also curated a short exhibition on the life of the controversial monarch.
The Collection’s artwork has done much to shape the image of Richard III as a figure in history. Paul Delaroche’s Edward V and the Duke of York in the Tower (1831), on display as part of the exhibition, is an ominous depiction of the two princes – and rivals to the throne – who were allegedly murdered on the king’s orders.
Capwell served as a historical advisor to the film, continuing a tradition that began in 1953, when Sir James Mann, then the Collection’s director, was approached by Sir Laurence Olivier to assist with an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III, in which Olivier played the title role.
Rubber replicas of the Collection’s armour were worn by actors during the film’s climactic battle sequence, when the king, ‘alone, was killed fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies’, as a contemporary account of the real event related. •
The Lost King: Imagining Richard III is a free display running at the Wallace Collection in London until 8 January 2023.
Text: Calum Henderson