The Renaissance, wedding dresses….and Robert de Vere….


Well, I wasn’t looking for observations on when the Renaissance commenced, rather was I trying to find information on the wedding of Robert de Vere, Duke of Ireland, Marquess of Dublin, and 9th Earl of Oxford KG. The wording of my Google search brought up a site in which I found the following:

“….During the Renaissance (approximately 14th through 17th centuries; coincides with the England’s Elizabethan era, 1558-1603), fashion was generally established by the aristocracy….”

At last, someone who knows the Renaissance commenced far earlier than is generally stated. However, the 14th century doesn’t coincide with the Elizabethan era, so Elizabeth can’t be credited with bringing it to England. Nor indeed can any of the Tudors lay sole claim to it. Let’s be honest, if the nascent Renaissance commenced in the 1300s, I think it more likely that Richard II should be credited with encouraging it to England.

Wilton Diptych

And after Richard II every 15th-century King of England oversaw its gradual nurturing. Some more than others, of course, and although Richard III was only on the throne for two years, he was an educated, very literate man who appreciated the arts. Had he won at Bosworth and reigned for a long time, I don’t doubt that the Renaissance would have flourished here in England.

Richard’s handwriting – a record of his own birthday in his Book of Hours

So, no matter how loudly Tudorites shout that Tudor = Renaissance, Henry VII didn’t wake up the morning after Bosworth, sit up in bed and cry “Eureka!” Er, maybe he’d cry “Renaissance!” No, indeed. He can climb on his rickety bike and pedal back whence he came. He didn’t start the Renaissance single-handedly. The Renaissance didn’t have anything to do with the Tudors, they merely continued the blossoming that had started at the end of the 14th century.

But I’m wandering from the point. The sentence I quoted above was from an interesting little site called the History of the Wedding Dress , It seems that blue was a popular colour for medieval brides.

Time was that brides would do everything they could to conceal what might have been regarded as “flaws”. Not so our lovely Princess Eugenie. We all know that Richard III suffered from scoliosis—a curvature of his spine—but in our modern period Princess Eugenie suffered from it too. The difference being that we now have the knowledge to correct it, whereas Richard would have only become worse as he aged. So top marks to Eugenie for choosing the wedding dress she wanted, and to hell with a little scar on her back. She looked beautiful on her big day.

Princess Eugenie

Of course there are other sites dealing with wedding dresses through the ages. Here’s one and if you go here  you’ll find links to many illustrations.

But I have to add this site if only for the lovely imagining Anne of Bohemia in her wedding gown.

Oh, and I still can’t find much information on Robert de Vere’s nuptials. By which I mean his first marriage (to Philippa de Coucy, a first cousin of King Richard II) not his later shenanigans with a lady named Agnes. I’ll keep trying, because there must surely be something somewhere about the occasion.

Robert de Vere fleeing from defeat at the Battle of Radcot Bridge. It was the end of his spectacular rise to favour under Richard II.


  1. Robert de Vere appears in the January folio of Les Très Riche de Heures de Duc de Berry. He is portrayed as the marshal (in red) placed behind the empty seat vacated by Richard II, and to the left of John, duke of Berry (in blue). The scene depicts an Epiphany Feast – perhaps an occasion for the revival or renaissance of forgotten or abandoned resolutions for the New Year. But not a woman in sight, though some do get a mention in the disguised iconography!

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    1. I do hate those hairstyles. They don’t flatter anyone. But thank you for the identification! As a matter of interest, which year might the January illustration depict? When might Robert de Vere be marshal at an Epiphany feast attended by both the Duc du Berri and Richard II (who is still clearly quite young as he’s on the floor fussing a greyhound instead of remaining at table with the adults)? Or do you think the scene might be imaginary?

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  2. The three Limbourg bothers, who were commissioned by the Duke of Berry to produce the prayer book, all died in 1416, as did the Duke. Various artists worked on the book after that. My understanding is Barthélemy d’Eyck produced the January folio sometime in the 1440s. And, yes, the scene is imaginary and intended to be a tribute to the painter Jan van Eyck who died in 1441. Richard II features in one of Jan Van Eyck’s paintings – the Just Judges panel of the Ghent Altarpiece.

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  3. Viscountessw, you rang all my bells with this post! Thank you for both the photo of Princess Eugenie’s wedding gown and the comment about when the ‘Renaissance’ arrived in England – or didn’t! As per Eugenie, somewhere I read that she has/had the exact same degree (or Cobb angle) in the same vertebrae as Richard and may have developed scoliosis for the same reasons he did: adolescent growth spurt! Piers Mitchell from the Univ of Cambridge who was on the team investigating Richard’s spine remarked in 2014 that this twist is “more common in slim people who are going to be particularly tall … (the) growth spurt is just faster than the spine can balance everything so you get this corkscrew forming in the curve of the spine” – this brings home a more human aspect to his ordeal – a reasonably healthy boy, probably 10-12, possibly not even in Warwick’s household yet, who was growing 3 and 4 inches at a clip. I wonder if the Great Wardrobe receipts would be a help here (we know they exist for both George and Richard, at least through 1463, (my brother was like this, grew 3″ over the summer, another 3″ by the holidays. And like Richard always slim, still is, and also topped out at 5’9″ but no scoliosis, which is why I agree with some doctors who suggest it was genetic.
    Wouldn’t I just love to find Edward V (and no he’s NOT in the Urn at Westminster, for all we know those could be the remains of a Saxon girl … or Henry Pole!) and see what his spine looks like (wherever he was spirited away the summer of 1483, and I can hazard a couple good guesses as to when Richard moved him and where) until post-Bosworth exposed him to the same fate as Edward of Warwick and John of Gloucester (and prob at the same time) that spine would be of a young man in his later 20’s, perfect for corroboration if this was genetic.
    As for the ‘Renaissance’ – the Hundred Years War delayed or suffocated I should say any chance for the same robust rebirth for BOTH France and England that one sees in Italy from the early 1390’s (or proto-Renaissance) onward – Italy also had all of ancient Rome underneath its feet, and for the most part in every major city and most towns. Once the devastation of the Hundred Years War (and it was a disaster in so many ways for both countries) is calculated look at the ineptitude of kings in both countries which further exacerbated the poverty and ruin of the French peasant and middle classes as well as the wounded pride of the English: the waste of human capital of decades. Art is a LUXURY, not a necessity, it may flourish as an expression of vanity in personal goods (jewelry, illuminated Book of Hours and other prayer books, furs (read Elspeth Veale’s amazing history of the English Fur Trade, the furs of the elite were not just for the royal family) but overall one does not see massive examples in the secular architecture or domestic items like furniture (gentry and nobility too busy paying off ransoms for sons in the Wars (just consider the Hungerfords plight here, there is a reason the grants Edward made to Richard from Lady Margaret’s estates were so fraught with unpleasant details, which historians love to throw at Richard as if he had something to do with it; no, had Edward done his homework he would have realised that the Hungerford estates were in tatters from the ransom debts dating back to Patay and Chatillon!)
    Had Richard lived what I think he would have done, aside from the push for more printed material coming into England, and being produced there, which we already know about, is emulate Burgundy to the hilt, a odd reservoir of culture that rose about the Wars despite of being in the middle of them! If he had had the quiet life of a country nobleman unencumbered by the Border raids, (and that little family problem of a civil war) he had all the makings of a massive architectural enthusiast, and “not for waste” as they said about foolish building (just to throw around money), but for purpose, innovation – even Michael Hicks, of all people, admits Richard was the visionary, the intellectual of the two brothers, the one who would devise new directions in government policy. That would also I think have meant religious reformation as well, without the blood and destruction of the Tudors. Where H8 ripped the Church apart for personal power and massive wealth, for himself and for rewards to his newfound friends and allies, Richard’s reformation would have been not quite Martin Luther, I don’t see him doing that, but certainly addressing corruption as it touched his people and certainly I can see him endorsing an English Bible. It would have brought in a softer more religious based Reformation, not the centuries of bloodshed, executions, and utter ruin of cathedrals and abbeys that are monuments of ART all on their own.
    here is a fun thought, what if Henry2nd duke of Buckingham had just kept his hot little hands cool for 6 months, for 9 moths or so… whatever Margaret Beaufort and her allies were planning (and it was alot) it would have crashed and burned in Oct-Nov 1483 even if Harry just sat at home watching his money chests overflow. It is what happens in the April of 1484, probably mid to later April (Peter Hammond uses 17 April I think) that is so tantalizing … Edward of Middleham (probably 7 or 8) dies. The heir to the throne dies. And the king’s wife (as far as we know) unable to have more children.
    Tell me Harry Stafford wasn’t the one whispering in Richard’s ear ‘not to worry, I’ve got your back’ …. had the impulsive little twit just sat on his heels 8 or 9 months he would have been next man up, NOT Henry of Richmond.
    (And he had two sons already, with a very fertile Woodville wife. Richard would have needed more than a food taster …)


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