James II was king of England and James VII of Scotland from February 1685 until he was deposed during the ‘Glorious Revolution’ in December 1688. As a young man he was a capable soldier and sailor, and in later life led armies in the field during his campaign to retake the throne in 1690.
In 1686, following the ‘Monmouth Rebellion’, James took delivery of this harquebusier armour made by the London armourer Richard Holden. It comprises a pistol-proof backplate and helmet, a carbine-proof breastplate and a bridle gauntlet. All of these pieces have been etched with foliage and trophies of arms. The most striking feature of the armour is the helmet’s faceguard which, instead of the usual three bars, takes the form of the royal coat of arms along with the letters ‘IR’ for ‘Iacobus Rex’ (King James).
Originally silvered and gilt and lined with crimson velvet, this exceptional armour cost the princely sum of £100, compared to £2 for an ordinary ‘munition-quality’ example. Under the armour, as was normal at the time, the king wore a buff leather coat; however, the example shown here, although of the period, is not his.