King Henry VIII is famous for beheading his wives and not so famous for what he wore on his own head. Which is strange, considering he had some pretty enigmatic headpieces to choose from.
Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian I gifted this strange headgear to Henry VIII in 1514. The helmet (which is technically an armet, a helmet that protects the entire skull) was part of an entire set created by Konrad Seusenhofer, one of medieval Europe’s most prominent armorers. The rest of the armor has been lost to time, leaving behind only this most unusual headpiece.
With its spiraling horns, glasses, and rather large nose, it’s thought the helmet was designed to depict a fool, a common character in court pageants. Because it’s so bizarre, for years it was mistakenly believed to have belonged to the king’s court jester.
It’s likely the helmet was meant to be worn during parades and celebrations. This makes sense, as it would have looked utterly absurd atop the head of someone charging into battle.
Today, you can find the helmet within the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, England. Specifically, the helmet is located on the second floor in the Tournament section, in a solitary case at the western entrance. As this item is a prominent feature, acting as the museum’s mascot, its location may change from time to time. Human guides are available throughout the museum, should one not be able to find it.
Know Before You Go
Admission to the Royal Armouries Museum is free, and the museum closes at 5 p.m.