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The Armada tapestries were a series of tapestries that commemorated the defeat of the Spanish Armada. They were commissioned in 1591 by the Lord High Admiral, Howard of Effingham, who had commanded the Royal Navy against the Armada.[1]

The Queen's Surveyor of Buildings, Robert Adams, had been instructed by Effingham shortly after the battle to make charts of the engagements between the English and Spanish navies.[1] The Dutch painter Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom used these as his guide for the design of tapestries and they were made in the Delft workshops of François Spierincx.[1] In 1595 Effingham paid £1,582 for the completed tapestries and he later sold them to James I for £1,628-8-0 in 1612.[2]

In 1649, after the execution of Charles I, Parliament ordered inventories of the goods belonging to Charles to be drawn up in preparation for their sale. The tapestries were listed at the Royal Wardrobe in the Tower of London and were valued at £2,113-10-0. However, the Council of State decided to retain the tapestries for Oliver Cromwell's use in Whitehall.[2] In 1651 they were hung in the recently abolished House of Lords, which was used for the meetings of the committee of Parliament. They remained there until destroyed in the Burning of Parliament of 1834.[2]

In 1739 John Pine made engravings of the tapestries based on the drawings of Clement Lemprière.[3]

The tapestries can be seen in John Singleton Copley's painting The Death of the Earl of Chatham.[4]




  1. ^ a b c Phillis Rogers, 'The Armada tapestries in the House of Lords', RSA Journal Vol. 136, No. 5386 (September 1988), p. 731.
  2. ^ a b c Rogers, p. 732.
  3. ^ Rogers, p. 733.
  4. ^ Karen Hearn, '"Elizabeth I and the Spanish Armada": A Painting and Its Afterlife', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society Vol. 14 (2004), p. 134.

Further readingEdit

  • Margarita Russell, Visions of the Sea: Hendrick C. Vroom and the Origins of Dutch Marine Painting (Leiden: E. J. Brill/Leiden University Press, 1983). ISBN 9004069380

External linksEdit

  • History of the Armada tapestries on the UK Parliament's website