The Royal Armoury (Swedish: Livrustkammaren) is a museum in the Royal Palace in Stockholm, Sweden. It contains many artifacts of Swedish military history and Swedish royalty. It is the oldest museum in Sweden, established in 1628 by King Gustavus Adolphus when he decided that his clothes from his campaign in Poland should be preserved for posterity.
The Royal Armoury is a museum located in the basement of the Royal Palace’s southern wing in Stockholm. Together with the Hallwyl Museum and Skokloster Castle the museum constitutes a national authority, headed by a Director General, and accountable to the Ministry of Culture. The three museums base their work on a national cultural policy resolution enacted by Swedish Parliament. The main purpose of the museum is the portrayal of Sweden’s royal history from Gustav Vasa up until present day. For almost five hundred years, items once in the possession of Swedish monarchs and their families have been kept here. From generation to generation, they have built up an ever-expanding collection of memories from the different dynasties, evoking well-known events in Swedish history. Most of the artefacts in the Royal Armoury’s rich and varied collection reflect official occasions such as state ceremonies, weddings, coronations and funerals, with magnificent ceremonial costumes, carriages, saddles, armour and weapons. Seen from an international perspective, the Royal Armoury is unique, with regards not only to the age and high quality of its clothing and weaponry collections, but also to its centuries-old tradition of displaying an assortment of royal mementoes of more emotive nature. The Royal Armoury served first as instrument in the royal quest for legitimacy. Through time it became the memento collection of the Swedish nation and today we have a modern cultural-historical museum interacting with its surroundings on a widespread basis.
The Royal Armoury’s oldest artefacts are the sets of royal state and ceremonial weapons that were stored in the old Three Crowns Palace during the 16th century. It was in this royal armoury that Gustavus Adolphus in the 1620’s wanted his blood-spattered clothes to be saved as a perpetual memoria. This became the Royal Armoury’s hallmark: blood-stained costumes preserved to bear witness to royal valor. In the 1850s the ceremonial costumes of Sweden’s royals were taken from the Royal Wardrobe and incorporated into the Royal Armoury. Other valuable ceremonial props for parades, such as saddles, has been on view in the Royal Armoury since the 17th century, whilst it was not until the end of the 19th century that the royal carriages were moved from the royal stables. Artefacts with some association to the royals at war, or with political or ceremonial affiliations, have principally come to the museum directly from the royal family. Since the middle of the 19th century however the museum has also received items such as royal costumes donated by or acquired from the general public. These reflect different types of relationships between the royals and the Swedish people.
The Royal Armoury houses a number of portraits of royals with connections to artefacts within its collection. Kings and Queens, Princes and Princesses are depicted in oil paintings and miniatures, on coins or in official photographs. Some of these, especially the miniatures, have been part of the royal collections; others were bought on the open market during the 20th century. A large number of the portraits may be seen in the museum exhibition, whilst others are currently in the museum archive and storages.
Livrustkammaren was originally the storehouse of Swedish royal houses of costumes, armor and weapons. The oldest existing inventory in which the still-preserved objects are occupied is from 1548.
The foundation of what today is the museum was laid when King Gustav II Adolf in 1628 commanded that his clothes from the footsteps of Poland should be preserved as “the Rusty House for an everlasting reminder”.
This meant that the Livrust chamber became more characteristic of historical collection. In the 1660s, parts of the collections were moved to Drottning Kristina’s gazebo, and in the 1690s these objects and remains were moved from the castle to the palace Makalös, thus renamed the Arsenal. The collections then moved around between different places, including Fredrikshov Castle and Arvfursten’s palace. During the 19th century the livestock chamber was joined by the royal wardrobe, and the collections were returned in 1884 to the castle, where they were exhibited in 1906 when they were moved and exhibited at the Nordic Museum.
In 1978, the collections moved back to the castle. In the 2010s, the museum has made a commitment to market their collections digitally via mobile apps and QR codes.
The task of the Livrust Chamber is to reflect Sweden’s royal history, from Gustav Vasa to today. The museum today manages a very large collection of objects related to the various royal dynasties in Sweden’s history, a cultural heritage that tells about the role of the royal house in historical development through the centuries. What specializes in the Livrust chamber is the prominent collection of royal costumes from the 1600s and 1700s. It is unique in the world. There are objects related to everything from major events such as state ceremonies, weddings, baptisms and funerals – weapons, armor, waggons, etc., but also things that belong to everyday life at the court – such as children’s toys and various clothes. Since the 19th century, Hovstall’s most valuable wagons are here.
Examples of items that make visitors feel the wings of history are Gustav II Adolf’s bloody shirts and his horse Streiff from the Battle of Lützen 1632, Charles XII’s wreck as he wore during Europe through Turkey from 1714, Karl XII’s muddy uniform from Fredrikstens Fortress 1718 and the masculine costume that Gustav III carried on the operasquake in 1792. The oldest object of the Livrust Chamber is the royal paradises and the grandfather, which was preserved in the old castle of Tre Kronor in the 16th century. In contrast, visitors can also see items from the newer royal history in Sweden, such as the Crown Princess Victoria’s blue government dress she carried on her 18th birthday in 1995.