Dover Castle
Dover Index

Queen Elizabeth's Pocket Pistol


"The most popular "lion" of the castle is a long gun exhibited on a stand near Canon Gate.  Up to the year 1827 it occupied a wooden stand near the cliff edge, but in that year the Duke of Wellington, as Master General of the Ordnance, had its present iron stand cast from the metal of guns brought from the field of Waterloo.  A contributor to the Gentleman's Magazine in 1767, gave a description of the gun as follows:- "On the most southern part of the cliffs, which form the platform of Dover Castle, lies a brass gun, 24 feet long without, and 22 feet long in the bore, with these inscriptions raised on it in Roman Capitals:-

Ian Tolhuys van Utrecht, 1554."

"This is supposed to be the founder's name.  Under it is a shield with six chevronels, quartering a fess indented; on the escutcheon of pretence a saltire cheque.  Motto:- "Sans aultre."  The arms of England in a garter with "Dieu at Mon Droit."  Then follows the inscription:-

"Brech scuret al muer ende wal
Bin ich geheten
Doer bergh en dal boert minen bal
Van mi gesmeten."

"Under an armed woman holding a spear and palm branch is the word "Victoria."  Under another woman, "Libertas."  Under a river god "Scalda."  This curious gun, vulgarly called "Queen Elizabeth's Pocket Pistol," the Gentleman's Magazine writer continues "was a present from the Emperor Charles V. to Henry VIII., while they were engaged together in a war with France.  It requires 15lbs. of powder, and will carry a ball seven or eight miles, or, as they say, to Calais."

We give the foregoing statement of the history of the gun because it has been adopted by many writers.  Opinions vary as to whether the "pistol" was presented to Henry VIII. by Charles V., or, as the inscription on the board near it asserts, by the States of Holland to Queen Elizabeth.  The latter opinion is best supported."  (JBJ 1916)

  As the gun was known as Queen Elizabeth's Pocket Pistol as early as 1767, and the Duke of Wellington had the initials E.R. cast into the metal carriage, it would seem likely that information from the Ordnance Department records of the time supported the gun having been presented to Elizabeth I. and not Henry VIII.

In recent years, after the Castle was taken over by English Heritage, the gun was removed from its position near Canon Gate for conservation and eventually re-sited inside one of the buildings to prevent further deterioration from the salt-laden winds off the Channel.