My internet rambles take me here there and everywhere as I seek nuggets of medieval information. That is how I came upon this paper by A Compton Reeves .
The title was clearly intriguing. The Foppish Eleven of 1483? Who? What? Why? Which king? Obviously 1483 was a year in which there were three kings of England….well, two and a half, because there never really was an Edward V. And did the Duke of Gloucester have anything to do with it?
So I read the article. It is actually about sumptuary laws, which decreed on allowed apparel/materials for the entire realm, from the lowest to the highest. These laws began with Edward III, endured through the House of Lancaster and then received much attention from the House of York in the form of Edward IV. In the latter’s final Parliament in January and February 1483, old laws were swept aside and a precise new list was decided upon as to who could wear what.
“….The statute of 1483 began with a lament that earlier statutes ‘touching the restraint of the excessive apparel of the people’ had not been enforced, and the realm had thereby been brought into poverty. (1)….”
Wow, that’s a bit heavy just because the likes of Bert the Baker swaggered out in a hand-me-down from his posh knight of a distant cousin.
“…The statute of 1483 cleared the slate by declaring earlier acts of apparel repealed, and thus its provisions are an insight into what seemed appropriate to those shaping the legislation. The provisions reflect a highly refined sense of hierarchy in dress. Cloth of gold or purple silk was only to be worn by the king and queen, the king’s mother, his children, his brother (the Duke of Gloucester) and sisters. With a £20 fine threatened for each infraction. No person below the status of duke was to wear cloth of ‘gold of tissue’, on pain of a fine of twenty marks. An especially curious provision was that no man below the rank of lord was to wear a gown or mantle so short that if he were standing upright his ‘privy members and buttocks’ would not be covered, with a threatened fine of 20s for each default…”
“….(1) The text of the 1483 statute can be found in Rotuli Parliamentorum 6 vols, Record commission (London, 1767-77) 6: 220-21, and Statutes of the Realm, 11 vols, Record Commission (London, 1810-28), 2: 468-70….”
Good heavens. Privy members and buttocks on display? I do hope this means intimate shapes visible through hose, etc. Oh, it has to be, because I can’t imagine even Edward IV walking around with everything swinging in the wind. Especially in his later years, when he was bloated and sagging. In fact, 1483 was his final year.
So how does this entail a ‘Foppish Eleven’? Who were they? Well, they were eleven men who weren’t of high enough rank to wear the really top togs. They were Sir Thomas Montgomery, Sir Thomas Burgh, Sir Thomas Vaughan, Sir John Don, Sir William Parr, Sir Thomas Saintleger, Sir Thomas Bourchier, Sir Thomas Grey, Master Oliver King, Master John Gunthorp and Sir John Elrington.
I won’t tell you more, because that will spoil the paper, which explains these ‘foppish’ gentlemen in detail. It’s all very interesting, I promise.