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Archive for the tag “medieval clothes”

The “naughty” corpse of Henry VI….

Ophelia's costume

The link below concerns an exhibition entitled ‘Costuming the Leading Ladies of Shakespeare: From Stratford to Orange County’ at UC Irvine’s Langson Library, West Peltason and Pereira drives, Irvine; The exhibition is there through to the end of September.

Several amusing anecdotes are described in the article, including one about Lady Anne’s apparent effect upon an on-stage corpse of her father-in-law, Henry VI!


Britain’s most historic towns

This excellent Channel Four series reached part four on 28th April as Dr. Alice Roberts came to Norwich, showing streets, civic buildings and even a pub that I have previously visited, describing it as Britain’s most “Tudor” town. She began by describing Henry VII as “violently seizing” the English throne (or at least watching whilst his uncle Jasper and the Earl of Oxford violently seized it for him).

As the “Tudor” century progressed, she changed into a red woollen dress and explained how the sumptuary laws would have prevented her from wearing other colours and fabrics. Henry VIII’s attempts to obtain an annulment were mentioned, as was Kett’s Rebellion on Mousehold Heath under Edward VI. The Marian Persecution was described in detail and some of her victims in Norwich were named, most of them being burned at the “Lollards’ Pit”, where a pub by that name now standsLollardsPit.jpg. As we mentioned earlier, Robert Kett’s nephew Francis suffered the same fate decades later.

Dr. Roberts then spoke about the “Strangers”, religious refugees from the Low Countries who boosted the weaving industry, bringing canaries with them. Her next subject was Morris dancing as the jester Will Kemp argued with Shakespeare and danced his way up from London to the Norwich Guildhall over nine days. She was then ducked three times in the Wensum as an example of the punishment of a scold from Elizabeth I’s time.

Other shows in this series have covered Chester, York and Winchester whilst Cheltenham and Belfast will be covered in future episodes, each covering a town that epitomises a particular era in our history.

Snowballing, medieval style….!


An unlikely scene, surely? Would medieval ladies really go out snowballing in such décolleté gowns? Can’t believe it. One of them is even bending down to present a better target.

I would be far  better wrapped, and so would all of you, I’m sure. Or do I have some very daring minxes among my lady friends?

And another thing. Just what is the golden ‘tablet’ that floats above the bending gentleman? If someone has thrown it, the fun will be over.


Queen Margaret (also known as Margrethe and Margareta) was a Scandinavian queen who died in the early 15th century.

Briefly she was monarch of Sweden, Norway and Denmark and earned herself the title of ‘the Lady King.’ Her only son died young and hence her heir became Eric of Pomerania; it was her desire to have him make a marriage alliance with Philippa of England, Henry IV’s daughter, and possibly at the same time match Eric’s sister Catherine to Henry’s son, the future Henry V. However, only  the first marriage to Philippa took place.

Margaret died aged around 59 while on board her ship during in the middle of a war; no one knows for sure what killed her, and some contemporaries said she had been poisoned by Eric.

Over the years her reputation has been debated by historians, with some calling her ‘Machiavellian’ while others praise her strong leadership qualities.

What she did leave behind was a stunning golden gown, which has survived intact to this day. A replica has been made in order that it can be worn by a model.



Was Richard the big-spender on fashion? No, it was Henry….

Fashionisto Henry


I must admit that the following article didn’t come as quite the surprise it should. Henry has always struck me as a man who enjoyed the good things in life, and was prepared to be lavish when he felt like it.

Big spender

Yes, indeed! And he enjoyed being entertained and so on…but that he was quite as spendthrift on clothes takes me aback. He really was a fashionisto! £3 million is a lot by today’s standards, let alone the 15th/16th century. On top of which, if he spent wildly when he was under threat, then I suspect he suffered from depression. Come the calamity, someone with depression will spend. So perhaps Henry Tudor was a sufferer.

The following link takes you to the article that has prompted this post:-

Henry VII blew money on clothes when he feared invasion

by Sarah Knapton, Science Editor

Henry VII has gone down in history as a miserly monarch who instigated punishing tax policies in order to replenish the Royal coffers following the Wars of the Roses. But a new book suggests the first Tudor monarch was not so parsimonious as previously believed.

In fact, according to Tracy Borman, the Chief Curator of the Historic Royal Palaces, Henry was a vain spendthrift who blew the equivalent of £3 million on his wardrobe in just two years. It’s like he looks in his wardrobe and thinks, Oh God, I’m going to be invaded and I’ve literally got nothing to wear.

 “The first Tudor was the one that probably changed most in my opinion when I looked behind closed doors,” Borman told The Hay Festival.

“Perhaps the word miser springs to mind when you think about Henry VII and he’s quite sobre, serious minded. Well at least that’s how he may have appeared to his public but behind closed doors how different he was.

“That miser has to be one of the first myths to be exploded. He probably spent more than any of the other Tudors and particularly he liked to spend money on clothes. “And so in the first two years of his reign alone he spent the equivalent of £3 million on his dress.”

Henry VII established the Tudor dynasty after defeating Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. But the new king was increasingly paranoid and expected to be toppled from the throne at any time. Borman said that he always spent vast sums on clothing when he was feeling particularly vulnerable to attack.

“It’s really fascinating with Henry VII bought new clothes because it’s always when he’s feeling vulnerable. Nothing changes.

“He was seen as an illegitimate usurper, he himself was born legitimate but his line was illegitimate. He wasn’t expected to last as this new dynasty, even though we look back and see the Tudors of all powerful, in fact they weren’t expected to last beyond about five years.

“And there were a serious of rival claimants to the throne during Henry VII’s reign notably the two pretenders Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck. And when Warbeck started to rise to prominence look at Henry’s personal accounts and yet again he buys a new wardrobe.

“It’s like he looks in his wardrobe and thinks, Oh God, I’m going to be invaded and I’ve literally got nothing to wear.”

Borman also said the public image of Henry VIII, who was portrayed as ‘stridently self-confident’ was also far from reality. The king regularly sought the advice of astronomers and doctors and was in constant fear of falling ill.

“This was another real surprise to me, as a Tudor historian, just how different Henry VIII really was behind closed doors to this magnificent public image,” she said.

“In fact, the Henry behind closed doors was described by one astonished visitor as ‘the most timid man you could hope to meet.’

“He was a hypochondriac and was absolutely paranoid about illness, so much so that he kept his own cabinet of medicines. Henry also submitted himself daily to the examinations of his physicians.

“There is the Tudors that they want us to see, these great iconic figures and then there is the real human beings who lie behind that public image.”

Borman’s new book The Private Lives of the Tudors is out now.

At last, Richard gets a smidgeon of the Renaissance credit he’s due….

A man of the reign of Richard III A woman of the reign of richard III

English Costume from William I to George IV by Dion Clayton Calthrop, published 1937.

I have just received this book, and of course turned immediately to the reign of Richard III. Dismay promptly ensued. Hump-backed Richard! Oh, natch. Then: “The axe of the executioner soiled many white shirts, and dreadful forebodings fluttered the dovecots of high-hennined ladies.” Really? Sez who?

Richard’s death, predictably, means the burial of winter, while Henry VII’s reign heralds the first day of spring. Oh, my, how things had changed when the Tudors’ very own ‘Winter King’ finally turned up his blunt toes. Off we went again, declaring that the winter years were over and a new spring had begun. Erm, with Henry VIII? If ever dovecotes should have been fluttering with dreadful foreboding, this was the time. My, my, we never did learn, it seems.

But not even this biased tome can condemn Richard entirely, although it must have galled the author to concede it:

“It is in the reign of Richard III that we get, for the men, a hint of the peculiar magnificence of the first years of the 16th century; we get the first flush of those wonderful patterns which are used by Memling and Holbein, those variations of the pineapple pattern, and of that peculiar convention which is traceable in the outline of the [hrumph!] Tudor rose.”

So Henry doesn’t get the credit. And about time too! The first buds of the Renaissance did not appear after Bosworth, but before it, when Richard was king!  What a wonderfully enlightened realm England would have been if the last Plantagenet had been given the chance to prove it.

Another very interesting WordPress blog…


I have just found a very interesting site at It belongs to a lady who makes 15th-century clothes by studying the old illustrations. It’s packed full of photographs and old pictures, and a LOT of information about the fashions. She is very talented and tells her stories very well. Worth a really good look.

A very interesting site for many things medieval….

Professor Sarah Peverley Well, I may be late on the scene again with this one, and everyone out there already knows all about it, but I’ve only just stumbled over the site. I have to say it’s well worth following for all things medieval. The article about Elizabeth Woodville I found particularly informative, describing her clothes, her signature, the image created of her and her situation in general. Well, everything was informative and well illustrated. Thoroughly recommended for everyone interested in ‘our’ period.

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