George Clifford (1558–1605) was appointed Queen’s Champion in 1590 and was made a Knight of the Garter two years later. He is best remembered for his capture of the Spanish fort in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1598. A favorite of Queen Elizabeth I (reigned 1558–1603), he chose for the decoration of this armor the Tudor rose, the French fleur-de-lis (then part of the English arms), and the cipher of Elizabeth, two E’s back to back.
The Cumberland armor is part of a garniture for field and tournament use. It was made in the royal workshops at Greenwich under the direction of the master armorer Jacob Halder (documented in England 1558–1608). The complete garniture is illustrated in the Jacobe Album, a late sixteenth-century manuscript of pen-and-wash drawings that records the decorated armors produced in the Greenwich workshops. The surviving pieces are the man’s armor and several exchange or reinforcing elements––a grandguard (defense for the lower face and upper left torso), passguard (defense for the left elbow), and four vamplates (hand defenses affixed to the lance) for the tilt; a close helmet with detachable visor reinforce for the tournament fought on foot––and horse armor, consisting of a shaffron (head defense) and saddle plates.
The Cumberland armor is the best preserved armor garniture from the royal workshops at Greenwich. It represents a technical and decorative high point of the Greenwich school.