Want a special gift for the gun nut who’s got everything? The Abdeen Palace Museum in Cairo has you covered! How about this 13-shot breastplate? The perfect accessory for the discerning armed citizen.
Abdeen Palace was built in the 1863 by the Khedive Ismail and remained the residence for the royal family for many years. The khedive wanted a more central seat of government than the Citadel, built on a hill on the edge of Cairo and all too medieval for a modern monarch. A great fire in 1891 led to Abdeen Palace being substantially rebuilt. It imitates European palaces in style, at least in those portions I have seen. The grander rooms such as the throne room, reception room, and private quarters are all off-limits. A historian friend of mine has seen them and says they are magnificent. Perhaps I’ll have to work on my connections in Cairo and find a way to take a peek.
After the revolution of 1953 toppled the monarchy, Abdeen Palace was shut for many years before being reopened with the ground floor devoted to several museums, including the Silver Museum, the Arms Museum, the Hunting Museum, and the Royal Gifts Museum.
The armory doubled as the reception room. The first thing visitors see
is the Marquis’ coat of arms flanked by these two fine suits of armor.
Madrid is filled with museums. While most visitors see the “Golden Triangle” of art museums consisting of El Prado, La Reina Sofia, and El Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, there are dozens of other museums, some big, some small, that are well worth a look.
One is the Museo Cerralbo, the former mansion of the Marquis de Cerralbo. Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa (1845-1922), 17th Marquis of Cerralbo, was an avid collector of art and antiquities and stuffed his grandiose city home with his purchases. The Marquis did more than simply collect, he was also an active archaeologist and did much to advance the study of prehistory in Spain. Of greatest interest to Black Gate readers is the impressive collection of medieval and Renaissance arms and armor.
The Wallace Collection in London is often overlooked by international visitors in favor of the more famous British Museum and National Gallery, but if you’re looking for a world-class collection of medieval European and Asian arms and armor, this is the place to go.
The Wallace Collection is a national museum that displays works of art collected in the 18th and 19th centuries by the first four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the son of the 4th Marquess. It was bequeathed to the British nation by Sir Richard’s widow, Lady Wallace, in 1897. Located in Hertford House and free to the public, it gives you an insight into a sumptuous home of a leading art collector of that era. The collection is especially strong in paintings, sculpture, ceramics, and antique furniture. The arms and armor section has some 2,500 objects dating from the 10th to the 19th century and is one of the best collections in Europe.
After the initial couple of months of World War One, the front stagnated and both sides began to dig in. The war settled in for four years of trench warfare. While trench warfare was nothing new — the American Civil War, Russo-Japanese War, and the Balkan Wars all saw the use of trenches — this was on an unprecedented scale.
The new situation called for new measures. None of the participating armies had an adequate number of grenades and it took a year for supply to catch up with demand. Some countries never managed to produce enough. Artillery commanders discovered that shrapnel, deadly in the open battles of the past, did little against entrenched enemies unless the gunners were lucky enough to score a direct hit. There was a long lag before enough high explosive shells made it to the front.
Europe is filled with many fine museums showcasing medieval arms and armor. Famous collections such as the Tower of London or the Hofburg in Vienna get top billing, but there are dozens more. One interesting collection can be found at The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History in Brussels, Belgium.
The medieval section is well laid out with displays running chronologically. Armor and weapons from the same half-century are displayed together, giving the visitor a good overall idea of the military technology of that time.
Living in Spain, I’ve had the good fortune to visit many of the country’s castles.
The most stunning, and most popular, is the Alcázar in Segovia, an easy day trip from Madrid. It’s in great condition, mainly because it was never caught up in the Reconquista or blasted apart during the Spanish Civil War. Built on the end of the rocky promontory atop which Segovia stands, it’s literally cut off from the rest of the town by a deep moat cut through the bedrock.