English/French Pikeman’s Half Armor, ca. 1620, with Interesting History


Out of stock

SKU: A1563 Categories: ,


Composite armor comprising forged iron pot helmet (some pitting and minor damage to
one end of brim) with two-piece skull and low turned comb; the base of the skull encircled
by original dome-headed lining rivets (remnants of original leather remaining). Downward
angled brim with rolled edge. Breastplate with medial ridge stamped with the name
‘TOIRAS’ towards the base; neck, arms and shaped skirt all with plain turned edges and
bordered by incised double lines. The skirt adapted for rectangular tassets, each
embossed with four simulated lames, with brass dome-headed lining rivets, and secured
by hook catches on later leather straps reinforced with riveted brass plates. Iron parts
pitted with some minor damage and a small expertly repaired hole to the breastplate.

The name “TOIRAS” stamped on the breastplate refers to Jean de Saint-Bonnet,
maréchal de Toiras (1585-1636), a distinguished French general in the service of Louis
XIII, and later of the Duke of Savoy. In 1623 he was made governor of Fort Louis, in the
port of La Rochelle on the French Atlantic coast, then a Huguenot center. As the result of
a Huguenot rising in 1625, the King went to war with them, and in 1627 his forces
besieged La Rochelle. The rebels were supported by Charles I of England, who sent a
relief force under the command of the Duke of Buckingham, which landed and occupied
the nearby island of Ré. It was eventually heavily defeated by the French royal forces, as
was another expedition sent in 1628. Toiras played a prominent part in the defeat of the
rebels. According to C. J. Ffoulkes a number of breast and back plates were captured
“from a French ship” and must have been intended for these troops.

The Tower Armouries’ Remains (inventories) for 1676 and 1688 contain the following
entries relating to the Toiras pieces:

“Armes of the Toryas Provision Backes 236 Brestes 229″

“Armr of the Toiras Provon 339 Backs at 8s a pce, 239 Breasts at 8sa pce.”

Ref: C.J. Ffoulkes, “Inventory and Survey of the Armouries of the Tower of London”,
2 vols., published in 1916. By the time this volume was published the number of breast
and back plates remaining in the Tower had been reduced to 213. A number of these
were sold by Sotheby’s in the 1960’s and this is presumably one of them.