The Norman Period
William the Conqueror, 1066-1087.
by Mrs. Charles H. Ashdown.
Before proceeding with the main subject of this chapter, it may be advisable to say a few words of explanation respecting historical manuscripts, and the methods of delineation pursued by mediaeval artists. We find that very few persons, apart from those in touch with the actual books, have the least idea what, say, “Cott. MS. Nero D vii.” implies; and as references have already been made, and will frequently be met with in succeeding chapters, the explanation may probably be acceptable.
It is the method adopted in the British Museum, the Bodleian Library, and other institutions for cataloguing the manuscripts in their possession. Thus “Cottonian MS.” signifies that the manuscript is part of the collection presented to the nation by Sir John Cotton in 1700; “Nero,” simply refers to a bust of that Emperor which stood over the bookcase in the original collection; “D” is the fourth shelf (in alphabetical order); and “vii.” is the place occupied by the book along the shelf. Similarly “Roy. MS. C vii.” refers to the bequest of manuscripts by King George II. in 1757, and “Add. MSS.” refers to the large collection which has been acquired by Government grants.
With respect to the methods of delineation by mediaeval artists, it must be remembered that the latter were totally ignorant of any style of costume other than that prevailing in their own period. The dress of the Greek and the Roman was as much a mystery to them as was that of the Jew at the time of our Lord; and as the manuscripts they wrote and illuminated invariably related to sacred or classical subjects, there was no alternative but to place the various characters in the dress of the period. To our eyes it would appear incongruous to represent Pontius Pilate habited in the garb a gentleman assumes when promenading Regent Street, or Joshua attired in the immaculate uniform of an officer in the Coldstream Guards; but to those who lived in the Middle Ages these anachronisms presented no ludicrous features. Thus Moses appeared in the Saxon period (Add. MSS. 10,546) in the dress of a Thegn, while in Sloane MS. 346, written towards the close of the thirteenth century, the lawgiver appears in chain mail and plate, armed with sword and spear, and prancing upon a gaily caparisoned charger. This custom prevailed until the close of the fifteenth century, and it affords us the finest and most reliable examples of all kinds of costume, the most minute details being faithfully reproduced.
As a further example we will cite one of common knowledge. King Arthur of the Round Table is invariably represented in full plate armour of the 15th century, at which period the manuscripts were written; as is well known, he was a British prince who died in the 6th century. With the advent of the Norman Period we find no startling changes in costume, inasmuch as the Normans of both sexes were habited somewhat similarly to those of the conquered race. There were, however, minute peculiarities which distinguished the Normans, and these had been adversely commented upon by the elder Saxons in the reign of Edward the Confessor when they perceived the younger generation imitating the speech, manners, and garb of the Normans at the King’s Court. “They shortened their tunics and trimmed their hair; they loaded their arms with golden bracelets, and entirely forgot their usual simplicity,” is recorded by monkish chroniclers.
The essential garments affected by the Normans were the tunic, the super-tunic, and the mantle. The Tunic was a garment worn next to the skin by the lower classes, and over the just-au-corps among the upper. It was made of linen or fine cloth, and at the time of the Conquest did not reach below the knees, and was furnished with short sleeves. Among the upper classes this garment is never visible, nd it is simply from representations among the humbler people that we are aware of its existence.
This garment was similar to the tunica of the Saxons, but was worn much shorter; it is shown upon the Bayeux Tapestry, reaching to the knees. The sleeves were tight to the arms and long, terminating at the wrist with a small cuff. Embroidery was used at the neck and also round the hem.
This differed but slightly from the Saxon; it was more voluminous, and in the early period was frequently longer than the tunic. It fastened up the front, or on either shoulder, precisely the same as in the previous period.
Upon the head of the civilians appears a small flat cap, with a band round the forehead (No. 1, Fig. 37); No. 2 is a very prevalent round skull-cap; No. 3 exemplifies the Norman pattern of the Phrygian shape, which, as will be seen by comparison, differs from the Saxon by coming well down the back of the head; in No. 4 we note a variety of the cowl as usually worn ; and in the four, almost every variety of head-gear is comprised.
The tight coverings for the lower limbs worn by the Normans were continuous as far as the waist, and termed chausses; at times they were furnished with laces, in order to draw them closer to the body. Over these, various systems of cross-gartering were used (Fig. 38).
The Bayeux Tapestry exhibits the plainest form of shoes worn by all persons represented upon it, no ornamental work being discernible upon any character. They are similar to Nos. 1 and 2 in Fig. 39, but are generally represented without the projecting border round the top. The colours shown are yellow, blue, green, and red. As the period progressed they wore also short boots reaching above the ankle, with a plain band round the tops. The styles, however, became more elaborate, and some further examples are shown in Fig. 41.
The Couvre-chef Head-dress, 1066-1100.
During the reign of William the Conqueror the dress of the ladies to a great extent preserved the simplicity which characterised it upon their first landing in England. In the very few illuminations and descriptions which have come down to us from that period, we find no very marked deviation from the dress of the Saxon ladies; in fact the representation of one will, for all practical purposes, serve for the other. We may remark, however, that the covering for the head, although precisely the same as the Saxon head-rail, was dignified with a new name, and became the couvre-chef.
William II., 1087-1100. Henry I., 1100-1135. Stephen, 1135-1154.
Civil Costume of the Men.
The reigns of these monarchs were distinguished by a love of display and ostentation in dress in remarkable contradistinction to that of the warlike Conqueror. King Rufus was fond of dressing in gorgeous apparel, and the rich Norman noblemen, battening upon the proceeds of their newly acquired English estates, were not one whit behind in following the example of their royal leader.
The Tunics, we are informed, were made so long and full that they lay upon the ground and cumbered the heels of the wearers (Fig. 42). The Super-Tunic was considerably lengthened, and the sleeves so developed as to cover the hands. In addition to the rich embroidery used upon the dress at the time of William I., the material of the garments now showed signs of ornamentation, especially during the latter part of the reign of Rufus, when the Oriental feeling began to develop.
The Crusades exerted an influence upon the costume of the Western nations of Europe which cannot be too strongly accentuated. For many years before the First Crusade in 1096 a more or less constant intercourse with Eastern nations had prevailed, by reason of the numerous pilgrims who had visited the Holy Sepulchre; but when streams of men constantly poured backwards from the battle-fields of Palestine, wounded, or sick, or tired of the struggle, they brought with them such overwhelming stores of Oriental taste and Eastern culture, that the costume prevailing in their own land appeared to them simple and barbaric.
Among the many beautiful materials brought home from the Orient, it is probable that samite found a place; it was sometimes entirely composed of silk, but frequently was interwoven with threads of gold and silver, and much embroidered or otherwise embellished with gold in a very costly manner. This material was chiefly dedicated to sacred uses; but it was not confined to the Church however, for we know it was used by the Norman monarchs, the nobility, and ladies of high rank on particular occasions, when more than an ordinary display of pomp was required. It is highly probable that many other rich materials mentioned in the 13th century were introduced at this time, although they are not distinctly identified by name. The Mantle of the period was worn short or long, according to the length of the super-tunic; among the nobility it was made of the finest cloth, and lined with rich furs.
During this period a modified form of the Phrygian shape was worn (Fig. 43, No. 1); but during inclement weather, or when travelling, a cloak, to which was attached a hood of the Phrygian shape, was in use, and was called by the Normans the Capa (No.2). An illumination of this date exhibits another kind of hat which prevailed (No. 3), similar to the cap worn by the modern carter.
The extravagance in dress in the time of King Rufus was also exemplified in the shoes, for the twist given to the pointed toe of the boot during the reign of his father developed to an amazing extent during the reign of Rufus, while under Henry I. and Stephen the pike-toed boots and shoes excited the wrath of the monastic historians. The ecclesiastics were strictly forbidden to copy the monstrosities which they condemned. One variety, termed Pigacia, had points like a scorpion’s tail, while we are told that a courtier stuffed his with tow, and caused them to curl round like a ram’s horns, thereby eliciting much admiration from his companions.
It is worth remembering that for various reasons the civil, military, and ecclesiastical costumes, both in England and upon the Continent, were precisely similar during the whole of the twelfth century, and that a distinct national costume, so far as civil dress is concerned, was not evolved by the English until the reign of Edward III. A typical example of this is shown in the preceding figure of Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou, dating from the middle of the twelfth century, who is represented in a Phrygian cap, a mantle lined with fur, and a close-fitting super-tunic over a long tunic which reaches the ground. The long hair flowing upon the shoulders is very characteristic of the period (Fig. 46).
The Coif-de-mailles Head-dress, 1100-1150.
The eccentricities in costume displayed by the nobles in the time of Rufus were speedily imitated by the ladies, who, however, proceeded to such extremes that they finally evolved a dress so fantastic and grotesque that it has seldom been exceeded. The long hanging sleeves of the nobles appear to have given the cue to the gentler sex (Fig. 47), who forthwith commenced to exhibit a perfect craze for lengthening every part of their garments which permitted.
The Robe was more tight-fitting than in the preceding reign, and was lengthened fig. 47. – The sleeve, to such a preposterous extent that it lay in great folds upon the ground. In the Cott. MS. Nero C iv. a representation of his Satanic majesty is given in the form of a woman—a compliment to the ladies which the monastic illuminators were very fond of paying.
It is given here in Fig. 48, PL, and affords a very fair idea of the length of the prevailing skirts, inasmuch as it is seen to be knotted, and yet lying upon the ground. The sleeve also manifests the lengthening tendency, and is duly knotted. Apart from this, we may venture to say that tight-lacing is by no means a modern evil, but was practised even earlier than the 12th century; the figure in question shows a corset fastening up in front with a long lace depending from it. Fig. 51, PL, gives us no less than three varieties of the robe and its sleeves, also from Nero C iv.; the Virgin and Child, on their way to Egypt, being the first subject.
Read more: Fig. 51.— Virgin and Child, &c. Norman costume: Ladies of the 12th century.
She wears a sleeve which does not differ essentially from that of a monk’s gown, while the second and third figures have sleeves of the period. To the uninitiated the peculiar figure of the heraldic maunch is quite unintelligible (Figs. 49 and 50), but a careful comparison will at once simplify the difficulty. A further development of the sleeve, called the pocketing variety, is shown in Fig. 52, in which the terminations are very largely distended.
This varied but veryslightly from those used in the time of William I., as will be seen on referring to the illustrations.
The head-gear lost its primitive simplicity for a time in consequence of an extreme rise of militarism among the ladies, engendered by the enthusiasm then holding possession of the country consequent upon the Crusades. Without actually discarding this head-dress, they so adapted it as to represent in a marked degree the coif-de-mailles, or head covering of chain mail worn by their warrior lords. This will be seen exemplified in Fig. 53, PL, where the couvre-chef (in this case of red material) is pulled tightly down upon the head and kept in place by a band of yellow embroidery round the forehead, thus outlining the face similarly to that shown in Fig. 54, a knight in coif-de-mailles.
This figure, which is an exact reproduction of one in an illuminated manuscript of the period, exhibits another trait of military feeling which is well worthy of notice. The super-tunic is purposely cut short, in order to show a garment which is a replica of that worn by the knights under their heavy mail, to prevent the latter chafing the skin. It was termed the Gambeson, and was thickly quilted. The dove-tail device of the hem is probably the lady’s own design. It is generally supposed that the Tabard was introduced as a garment for both sexes at this period, but as we have been able to find it represented only upon one female figure, we hesitate to state it as a certainty. The tabard, however, undoubtedly came into use at a very early period, and was probably copied from the monastic habit, being identical in shape with the scapular. Later the tabard took a very prominent place in civil, and especially in military, habits.
The Hair, coiffure.
The method of dressing the hair at this period was very remarkable, and is plainly shown in a number of illustrations. It was plaited into two tails, or otherwise divided, and each portion enclosed in a long tapering case, at times reaching nearly to the ground. As a rule these were made of silk, and decorated in various ways, the ends bearing ornamental tassels. There is a strong suspicion that this coiffure prevailed among the Saxon ladies before the Conquest, but it cannot be definitely stated as such
The two plaits preserved at Romsey, which were discovered in the Abbey Church in 1839, were taken from a coffin in which a woman of this early period had been buried. They are eighteen inches in length. The effigy of Matilda, Queen of Henry I., at Rochester (Fig. 55), affords us an example of this fashion; the two long plaits descend to the hips; they are not encased, and the ends simply terminate in small locks.
Perhaps the finest example in existence is that shown upon the effigy of Queen Clotilda, from Corbeil, which is here reproduced (Fig. 56, PL). The plaits in this case reach below the knees; they are two in number on either side, and bound together by ribbons. That this style of doing the hair was not confined wholly to the upper classes is proved by a representation in a Psalter in St. Swithin’s Priory, Winchester, English 12th century, where a number of persons are shown in the place of torment, and the women represented, whether crowned or otherwise, have the two long tails. This figure is not without interest as exemplifying the cloak ornamented by rich borders down the front. It is caught up over both arms, and only partially exposes the long hanging sleeves of this period, which are shown with an edging of pleated silk. Upon referring back to Fig. 51, PL, it will be observed that the long encased plaits of the woman shown on the right exhibit the terminal appendages; the uncovered hair shown in this example is of the greatest rarity, and makes it a most remarkable figure.
The shoes of Norman ladies are generally represented black in manuscripts, but considering that the men wore embroidered examples, sometimes elaborately ornamented with jewels, it is only reasonable to suppose that the ladies did the same. It must be carefully borne in mind that the distinctive civil costumes dealt with in these and succeeding chapters are essentially those of the wealthy and the well-to-do classes, and that they do not represent, except in a very remote degree, the general dress worn by the lower orders. In works upon costume it will be found, as a rule, that the dress of the masses is but briefly referred to, if at all, and we venture to think that this is a mistake. A mental picture of England in the past, so far as costume is concerned, cannot be accurately imagined without a knowledge of the dress of all persons connected. The general rule so far as it touches the mediaeval period appears to be, that the costumes of the classes of one generation is to a certain extent the costume of the masses in the next, though, of course, there are exceptions.
Read more: Fig. 57.— Anglo-Norman servants. 12th century. Cott. MS. Nero C.IV.: Ladies of the 12th century.
During the early Norman Period the dress of the Saxons preserved the same characteristics which had distinguished it for centuries (Fig. 57, PI.), and many features pertaining to it survived even to the times of the Lancastrian monarchs.
Many illustrations of rustics have been handed down to us. In Cott. MS. Jul. A vi., the figures seen harvesting in the fields, felling trees, hunting, &c, are precisely similar to those shown three centuries earlier, and the same remarks may be made of artificers, gardeners, &c, in another 11th century manuscript (Cott. MS. Claudius B iv.) slightly later in date, the only exception being the hair, which is rather longer. As a rule the rustics worked in the open air with the head uncovered, but in one illumination, dating from the time of William I., a figure is shown with a hood over the head, which may be taken as a very early form of the capuchon which subsequently prevailed for so many centuries.
This primitive garment, which was generally the only one worn amongst the lowest classes, was drawn in round the waist by a broad leather belt, which suspended a knife and other necessary articles. Shoes of a simple shape were always worn, and to this rugged simplicity, stockings of cloth and cross-gartering of leather were added by those in better circumstances. The women of the lower classes were habited in as simple a manner as that which distinguished the men. A gown with sleeves, and reaching to the feet, with a piece of coarse linen swathed round the head after the manner of the rail or the couvre-chef, supplied a pattern which became almost stereotyped for three centuries. The hair was jealously guarded from exposure, as during the Saxon Period.
The accompanying woodcut (Fig. 60), representing Norman travellers of the middle class, may afford interesting details to the student.
Source: British costume during XIX venturies (Civil and Ecclesiastical) by Mrs. Charles H. Ashdown. Lecturer upon costume and mediaeval head-dresses. Expert adviser upon costume to several of the great pageants, ect. Published by Thomas Nelson and Sons LTD, London.
The Art of cutting in England.
Preceded by a scetch of the history of English costumes by Edward B. Giles, 1887.
THE NORMAN PERIOD, a.d. 1066—1154.
The conquest of England by the Normans, under the command of William the Conqueror, effected a most important change in the laws, manners, customs, and costume of the inhabitants. But the change in dress was not so great as might have been anticipated, because, as it has been remarked, the English had imitated the dress and manners of the Normans, instigated by the example of Edward the Confessor, whose tastes and sympathies were entirely Norman.
It is remarkable that the best authority we have for representatives of the costumes of the Norman invaders is the celebrated Bayeux tapestry, which is traditionally reported to have been worked by Matilda the wife of the Conqueror. Archaeologists have declared that this piece of work is fully entitled to our confidence as a faithful representation of the armour, weapons, and habits of William and his followers. This tapestry is still preserved at Bayeux, in Normandy. It is 214 feet long and 20 inches broad, and is rudely worked in coloured worsteds like a sampler. The Society of Antiquaries, impressed with the historical value of this important historical production, despatched the late Mr. C. A. Stothard to Normandy, to copy it in the most accurate manner possible.
Those who are curious in this matter can see an exact representation of the Bayeux tapestry, which has been copied in full size by means of photography, and coloured in imitation of the original needlework. It will be found hung on the east wall of the Architectural Court at the South Kensington Museum. It will well repay the trouble of inspection, as it is a facsimile of a remarkable relic of the past. It is a pictorial history of the Norman Conquest, commencing with Harold’s visit to Normandy at the instigation of Edward the Confessor, and pourtrays all the incidents of his stay at William’s court, his subsequent departure, the death of Edward and his funeral at Westminster, the coronation of Harold, William’s invasion, the battle of Hastings, and Harold’s death.
In speaking of costume during the reign of William the Conqueror, Fairholt says: “The ordinary costume of the people during this reign appears to have been as simple as that of the Anglo-Saxons. Short tunics, with a sort of cape or tippet about the neck, and drawers that covered the entire leg, known as chausses, were worn, sometimes bandaged round the leg with various colours, or crossed diagonally. Full trousers reaching to the knee are not uncommon, as may be seen in various instances, and one example occurs in the Bayeux tapestry, in which they end in a series of Vandykes or points of different colour to the trouser itself. The tunic, too, was sometimes variegated in perpendicular stripes from the waist, where it was confined by a coloured girdle. Their mantles were fastened by brooches or pins of an ornamental character, either square or round, which, having been common for ages previous, remained in fashion centuries afterwards.”
The Normans and the Flemings who accompanied the Conqueror into England, and those who followed in great numbers after his establishment upon the throne, are said by our early historians to have been remarkable for their ostentation and love of finery. Personal decoration was their chief study, and new fashions were continually introduced by them.
The habits of the nobility were of course more influenced by fashion than those of the common people, and the reign of Rufus is stigmatised by the writers of the period for many shameful abuses and innovations. The king set the example, and the clergy and laity alike became infected with the love of costly and extravagant clothing. The tunic was made larger and fuller, and the sleeves particularly so. The long tunic worn on state occasions, and the interula or linen vestment worn beneath it, actually trailed upon the ground. The long tunic worn on state occasions, and the interula or linen vestment worn beneath it, actually trailed upon the ground. The length and breadth of the sleeves were sufficient to cover the whole hand.
The mantles were made of the finest cloth and lined with rich furs. The extravagancy of the taste of the period is best illustrated by the grotesque shape of the shoes which were then worn. The boots and shoes were made with such extremely peaked toes that they excited the wrath of the ecclesiastical authorities, who strictly prohibited” the adoption of them by the clergy.
The shoes called pigaciae had their points made like a scorpion’s tail, and a courtier named Robert stuffed his out with tow, and caused them to curl round like a ram’s horn; a fashion which took mightily among the nobles, and obtained for its originator the cognomen of Cornadu. We glean some information respecting the dress of the poorer classes of the community of this period from a representation of a singular dream of Henry I., which is depicted in a manuscript of Florence of Worcester in Corpus Christi College, Oxford. It represents three husbandmen. They are each dressed in simple tunics, without girdles, with plain, close-fitting sleeves; the central figure has a mantle fastened by a plain brooch, leaving the right arm free, and one carrying a scythe wears a hat not unlike the felt hat now worn by agricultural labourers. The beards of two of these figures are ample.
Ascending higher in the social scale, we find an increase in the ornamental details of dress. We can see the ordinary costume of the middle classes, as worn during the reigns of William Rufus, Henry I.,, and Stephen, represented on two figures, the one designed as David and the other as Noah. The first is dressed in a long tunic, reaching nearly to the ankles; it is of a red colour, and has a white lining; the collar is gilt as well as the cuffs, which reach nearly to the elbow; it is bordered with a simple ornament, arid is open on the left side from the waist downward, a fashion common at this period. He has tight-fitting chausses and high boots, or perhaps the Saxon leg bandages. The second figure, representing Noah, wears a hat similar to the Anglo-Saxon helmet in shape, a very long full red tunic, with hanging sleeves, over which is thrown a green mantle bordered with gold. His tunic also is open at the side, showing what appears to be a stocking reaching to the knee; his shoes are ornamented by diagonal lines, and complete what may be considered a sample of the ordinary costume of the age.
The travelling costume of the period is shown on two figures of disciples. One wears a large round hat, with a wide brim, which seems to have been the original of the pilgrim’s hat, and formed a distinguishing mark of their costume. His short green tunic is protected by a capacious mantle of skin, provided with a cowl or hood to draw over the head, which was frequently used in place of a hat. He wears white breeches ornamented with red cross stripes, which end at the ankle, where they are secured by a band or garter, the foot being covered by close shoes. His companion wears the common cap so frequently represented; he has an under tunic of white, and an upper one of red, and a white mantle bordered with gold; he also wears the same kind of breeches reaching to the ankle, but he has no shoes, which frequently appears to have been the case when persons went on a journey.
I cannot omit mentioning one fact which is interesting to us as tailors, and which dates its origin from the time of Henry I. the yard measure was then fixed at the length of the king’s arm. That important branch of our commerce, the woollen manufacture, was introduced about this time by some Flemings, who settled first on the Tweed, and afterwards at Haverfordwest, in Pembroke, and Worsted, in Norfolk.
The feudal system was paramount, the barons lived in their castles, which were built for strength and safety in boisterous time. Around the castle clustered the shops and houses of those who were employed by the baron. Smiths, carpenters, workers in leather, tailors, and other craftsmen, built their huts in close proximity to the castle for convenience and protection, and thus the castle often became the nucleus of a town.
While the Norman nobles were richly dressed, the Saxon serf was clad in untanned hide, with sandals of boar-skin, and leathern bandage rolled half-way up the leg, and wearing round his neck a collar of brass engraved with his master’s name. It would appear, according to Strutt, that the trousers, posterior to the Conquest, ceased to form a part of a gentleman’s dress, and were confined to the rustics and lower classes of the people.
The short tunic of the Normans was somewhat longer than that of the Saxons, and in the twelfth century it reached to the middle of the legs: at the same time it was also richly adorned with broad borders and collars superbly ornamented with embroideries of gold and of silver, to which where even added the embellishment of precious stones. It will be easily conceived that these remarks refer only to the garments of the nobility and personages of distinction. The tunics of the Norman rustics and slaves do not appear to have differed in the least from those of the Saxons.
The gown seems to have been very commonly worn towards the conclusion of the twelfth century: it bears great resemblance to the tunic, but it was much looser; and the sleeves, which were long and large, appear to have been contrived in such a manner that the arms might either be inserted in them or left at liberty. The official gown of the chief magistrate of the City of London is made much in the same manner to this day. The gowns of the succeeding centuries were made of various rich materials, and lined with furs; they then became marks of distinction, and it is abundantly evident that they were not common among the lower classes of the people.
The Romance of the Shoe
being the history of Shoemaking in all ages, and especially in England and Scotland by Thomas Wright, 1922.
One day as Robert the Devil, Duke of Normandy, was looking out of a window at his castle, which was situated on a lofty and fantastic rock near Falaise, he saw, drawing water from the stream below, a comely girl who turned out to be Arlette the daughter of a tanner. After a while she had a son, of whom he rather believed himself to be the father; and this son, “William the Tanner,” as the men of Alençon* called him, became the Conqueror of England. * Alençon is the largest city in the department of Orne in the region of Normandy in France.
Several French kings bore the title of Duke of Alencon, since this title was given to the king’s third son after 1549. The Normans, it seems, had more enterprise than knowledge. Having heard of the opulence of Rome they, after due military preparation, made for Italy. On arriving at Luna (Luni) they took it for Rome and plundered it. Finding their mistake they again set out, but on their way they met a weazened old man in iron shoes. Said he, “I have come from Rome, But it is so far off that I have already worn out one pair like these,” whereupon the Normans lost heart and returned dejectedly home (Michelet: History of France, chap. i.).
To this legend two English stories bear resemblance—those of the Wrekin and “The Devil’s Spadeful.” According to the former, a Welsh giant who had a spite against the inhabitants of Shrewsbury, determined to block up the Severn with a load of earth, and drown the town. But losing his way, he found himself at Wellington, where he met a cobbler carrying a sack of boots and shoes. “Would you oblige by telling me how far it is to Shrewsbury, sir?” enquired the giant, for he was very polite. The cobbler, thrown off his guard, was about to tell, but suddenly recovering himself he enquired cautiously, “What is your business there?” “To fill up the Severn with this load.” Then the cobbler, who thought it would never do to lose all his customers by drowning, said, “Well, it’s a long journey, and I’ve worn out on the way all the boots and shoes in this sack.” On hearing this the giant in despair dropped his load, and this formed the Wrekin. In the latter legend, the bad person is the devil, who carries “a spadeful of earth,” and the doomed town Bewdley. On finding his errand hopeless, the devil drops the earth, with the result of the mound called “The Devil’s Spadeful” (Near the Stamford Road, about a mile from Bewdley.).
The Normans delighted in very ornate shoes, some of which, as shown by a painting in distemper in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral, had coloured bands decorated with dots round the top and down the instep, the toe being slightly twisted outward. Robert Curthose wore short boots, hence his other nickname, Curta ocrea, and Rufus, the Ram’s Horn Shoe (Invented by Robert Cornado, Robert the Horned), the toes of which were twisted and filled with wadding. The cordovanners or cordwainers, as shoemakers were then called, took their name from Cordova, whence came their leather, but the true Cordovan goat (the musmon or mouflon, Ovis musimon.) had by 1670 died out of Spain. Thomas Blount in his Glossographia (Or a Dictionarie interpreting Plard Words,” 1670.) says quaintly: “In the islands of Corsica and Sardinia there is a beast called musole not found elsewhere in Europe, horned like a Ram and skinned like a Stag, his skin carried to Cordova and there dressed makes our true Cordovan leather.” Naturally the goat and leather are to the fore in Don Quixote.
We learn that the wench who girded on the knight’s sword was a cobbler’s daughter of Toledo, that Sancho Panza started life as a goat-herd, that the Pleiads were in Spain called “The Seven Goats”, and that the Shoe Jig was a popular dance. What Cordova was to the West, Nishapoor was to the East (Capital of Khorassim, Persia.); and its stamped leathers, which had a fragrance and quality that preserved them from injury by insects, were used not only for footwear, but also for binding the old Persian books, “the sweet-scented manuscripts” of Omar Khayyam and Attar (Omar Khayyam died A.D. 1123, Attar, A.D. 1230.).
At an early date the English cordwainers began to form themselves into Companies, one of the first being that of Oxford, whose members obtained their charter from Henry I. at the price of an annual fine of one ounce of gold; and a part of the city was called “Parmuntria” (the quarter of the leather-sellers). A distinction was always made between confraternities and corporations. The confraternity regulated social intercourse, the corporation business matters. The one was associated with the Church, the other with the Guildhall, and each had its separate rules. In Paris, owing to repeated quarrels, the different classes, cordonniers (shoemakers), basaniers (workers in basein, Sheep skin.), and savetiers (cobblers), were obliged not only to worship separately, but to hold their festivals on different days.
The Anglo-Norman period. A. D. 1066-1200 by Henry Shaw.
While costume and the arts of life had remained uniform among the Anglo-Saxons, they had on the contrary undergone a great change on the Continent. Numerous and great political revolutions, and an extensive intercourse with the Arabs and other foreign nations, had brought many modifications even into the dress of the people, particularly of the higher classes. The Normans, when they had settled in Neustria, adopted the costume and language of the Franks.
The costume of the Anglo-Normans and Anglo-Saxons differed most widely (at the time of the Conquest) in the military dress. The Anglo-Norman soldiers were covered with the hauberc or halberc, a tunic of mail, either ringed, or net-work, or quilted. This article of dress was probably borrowed from the Arabs. It appears in our plate of Spanish Warriors of the eleventh century, who (with the exception of the round shield) are dressed exactly like the Normans in the Bayeux Tapestry. To the neck of this tunic was attached a cowl, which covered the head, and over which was placed the conical helm, with the long nasal guard descending in front.
The shield of the Normans was long and kite-shaped, and often bore the figure of a dragon, lion, or some other device. The Norman lance had a fla£ attached to it, and was called a gonfanon. The bow and the sling were also formidable instruments in the hands of the Norman soldiers. Before the end of the eleventh century, several changes had been made in the form and construction of defensive armour, and it sustained continual alterations during the twelfth century. The cowl of mail was preserved, but the helmet underwent a series of changes; the nasal defence was thrown away at the beginning of the twelfth century, and a pointed iron cap was adopted; and towards the latter part of the same century the helmet took first the form of a high cone, which afterwards subsided into a flat-topped cap of steel, fastened under the chin with an iron hoop.
A long tunic was frequently worn under the hauberc, and the latter was partly covered with a surcoat, an article of dress supposed to have been borrowed from the Saracens during the crusades. The kite-shaped shield continued in use till after the middle of the twelfth century, after which it became shortened in form till it took nearly the form of a triangle, being semicylindrical instead of flat, as the kite-shaped shield had been. Under Richard I. the shield was charged with the armorial bearings of its owner. To offensive weapons, was added, in the latter half of the twelfth century, the arbaleste or cross-bow.
At first the civil costume of the Anglo-Normans differed not widely from that of the Anglo-Saxons. They wore the same tunic and mantle, and nearly the same shoes and leg-bands, but the mantle was attached with cords and tassels. The Anglo-Normans wore long pantaloons with feet to them, which they called chausses. The head is sometimes covered with a flat round cap. Towards the end of the century, the tunic was made fuller and longer, so that it sometimes trailed on the ground. The shoes were also constructed differently, and were profusely ornamented, as was every part of the dress. Knights and people of fashion wore long pointed shoes, which were sometimes turned up at the points. In travelling a cape, which covered the head, was added to the dress. The mantle, throughout the twelfth century, was very richly decorated. Under Henry II, a shorter mantle was introduced, from which it is said that that monarch took the name of Court-manteau. The pointed Phrygian cap was the most usual covering of the head in all classes of society, except when the cape was worn. The middle and lower classes of society wore a short tunic with sleeves, and chausses, with shoes, or sometimes short boots.
Under the Anglo-Normans the costume of the ladies was far more splendid and varied than under the Anglo-Saxons. Instead of the flowing tunic of the latter, the Norman dames wore a robe which was laced close, so as to show the form of the body. The head-covering was arranged more gracefully, and was thrown partly over the shoulders and back: it was called a couvre-chef. The hair of the ladies appears to have been frequently platted in two or more divisions, which hung down behind or before. Our information relating to the changes of fashion among the ladies during the twelfth century is defective. Towards the middle of the century, singular long hanging sleeves were in fashion, examples of which will be seen in our plate of Female Costumes. This fashion appears to have been soon laid aside. The religious satirists, throughout the twelfth century, inveigh bitterly against the vanity, extravagance, and coquetry of the female sex. At the end of the century, Alexander Neckam, one of the best of the early Anglo-Latin poets, has the following lines on the ladies of his time, in which he accuses them of covering themselves with gold and gems, of painting their eyes (as is still done in the east), of perforating their ears in order to hang them with jewels, of fasting and bleeding themselves in order to look pale, of tightening their waists and breasts in order to mend their shape, and of colouring their hair to give it a yellow tint:
“Femina, fax Sathanae, gemmis radiantibus, auro,
Vestibus, ut possit perdere, compta venit.
Quod natura sibi sapiens dedit, ilia reformat,
Quicquid et accepit dedecuisse putat.
Pingit acu et fuco liventes reddit ocellos,
Sic oculorum inquit gratia major erit.
Est etiam teneras aures quae perforat, ut sic
Aut aurum aut cams pendeat inde lapis.
Altera jejunat mense minuitque cruorem,
Et prorsus quare palleat ipsa facit;
Nam quae non pallet sibi rustica quasque videtur,
‘Hie decet, hie color est verus amantis,’ ait.
Haec quoque diversis sua sordibus inficit ora,
Sed quare melior quaeritur arte color?
Arte supercilium rarescit, rursus et arte
In minimum mammas colligit ipsa suas.
Arte quidem videas nigros flavescere crines,
Nititur ipsa suo membra movere loco.
Sic fragili pingit totas in corpore partes,
Ut quicquid nota est displicuisse putes.”
(Neckam, de laude Monachorum, MS. Reg. 8. A. xxi, fol. 11, v.)
The most remarkable article in the dress of ecclesiastics during this period, is the newly introduced mitre. At first it was very low, resembling a stunted cap, as is shown in our plate of Ecclesiastics of the Twelfth Century, where the bishops carry a very plain pastoral staff. In the Figures of Ecclesiastics from Chartres, the archbishop has a mitre which represents a plain peaked cap. Becket’s mitre, although approaching more nearly the modern form, is still low. That of the Archbishop of the latter end of the twelfth century, and the one worn by bishop Hedda in the wood cut, appear to be of the same form as that of Becket. In the latter half of the twelfth century, the English ecclesiastics were remarkable for the costliness of their apparel, and for their expensive and magnificent style of living.
We cannot perceive that the Normans, immediately after they settled in England, excelled the Anglo-Saxons in skill in drawing or in taste for ornament; but after that event they progressed very rapidly towards perfection, and the twelfth century may be considered as the most brilliant period of the arts in England during the Middle Ages. The drawings in manuscripts are generally spirited, and the outline tolerably correct, but they are much less highly coloured than at a subsequent period.
The favourite kind of ornament during the twelfth century was scroll-work with foliage, which, in the initials, &c. of manuscripts, as well as in enamelled articles, vests, church-windows, &c. is often extremely elegant.
Source: Dresses and Decorations of the Middle Ages by Henry Shaw F.S.A. London William Pickering 1843.
England Timeline 1066 to 1154
- 1066. The Battle of Senlac, or Hastings, was fought on 14 October, 1066. The subsequent conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy, occupied a very short time in marked contrast to the protracted course of Saxon subjugation of Britain five centuries earlier. The English nobles and gentry who supported William continued to hold their estates under him. The lands of those who had fallen in fight against him, or fled the country, were confiscated and given to the Norman nobles and military attendants who had helped William to conquer the country, and the names of these are set out in the Battle Abbey Roll. Among them were many who married English heiresses and widows—the Norman ancestors of noble families who hold estates in England to-day, or did so at any rate yesterday. But many, the flower of English youth, made their way to distant lands, and some served valiantly in the armies and the Varangian Guard (see Vol. L, p. 187) of Alexius, Emperor of Byzantium. No formal change was made in the constitution of the country, but the English were brought into closer contact with the Continent, thereby gaining a new culture and wider political relations. The everyday life of the people continued much the same as before the Conquest. “In the course of three months, by God’s providence, tranquillity was restored throughout England, and the bishops and barons of the realm, having made their peace with William, entreated him to be crowned, according to the custom of the English kings.”— Ordericus Vitalus.
- The coronation took place at Westminster on Midwinter Day (Christmas Day) 1066. “Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury, refused to ‘lay hands’ on one who, as he alleged, was a bloody man, and the invader of another’s rights. However, Ealdred, Archbishop of York, a good and wise man, discharged this function, realising, more astutely, that one should yield to the times, and not resist the dispensation of Providence.”— William of Newburgh.
- 1067. The tranquillity of the country was so reassuring, that within three months of his coronation King William was able to leave England and return to Normandy (1067), with a splendid company of nobles, both Norman and English.
- 1068. The city of Exeter had been held by the late King Harold’s mother, Gytha, and her two sons, but it was stormed by William’s faithful friend William Fitz-Osbern, and its fall in 1068 completely overthrew the power of Wessex. William returned from Normandy shortly after this event. Having been in England a few months he sent persons of high rank to Normandy to fetch his wife Matilda, who crossed the Channel attended by many knights and noble ladies, and by her chaplain, Guy, Bishop of Amiens. She was crowned at Winchester, at Whitsuntide of the same year, by Ealdred, Archbishop of York. William was re-crowned with her, the ceremony being more splendid than his first coronation, by reason of the charm and majestic personality of the new queen, and the number of her ladies. At this coronation the office of King’s Champion, unknown among Anglo-Saxon monarchs, was introduced into England. It was discharged by William’s “dispenser” or steward, a Norman knight named Robert, Lord of Fontenayele-Marmion, in whose family this privilege was hereditary. William bestowed upon him the castle and lands of Tamworth. He also granted to Marmion the Manor of Scrivelsbye in Lincolnshire, and at a later date the office of King’s Champion descended, through a co-heiress of Philip Marmion, to the Dymocks of Scrivelsbye.
- 1070. The last struggle of the English for freedom from William’s domination was made by the Earls Eadwine and Morkere, together with the famous Hereward the Wake, “the Last of the English,” at their camp of refuge at Ely in the midst of the Fens. Vanquished by the king, Hereward fled, but in 1070 became reconciled to William, tow hom he paid homage. At last William was in deed, as well as in name, king over England. Soon Norman barons gave cause for anxiety by faithlessness to their sovereign, and this, together with trouble arising through the turbulence of his sons, overshadowed the remainder of William’s reign. Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury. Successful invasion of Scotland against Malcolm Canmor. William, a monk of Jumiéges and chronicler, flourished 1070; died 1090.
- 1071. William, ninth Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Poitiers. The earliest troubadour known. Born 1071; died 1127.
- 1073. Henry IV. of Germany wages war against the Saxons, whom he conquers in 1075.
- 1075. Ordericus Vitalis, the historian, born at Atcham, near Shrewsbury. Died 1143. The first of many risings took place in 1075. The occasion, curiously enough, was the first of many society weddings which influenced fashions. Unfortunately, no description of the bride’s trousseau, or the gowns of the guests, remains for our edification. Ralph of Wader, Earl of Norfolk, without permission from the king, wedded Emma, the daughter of William Fitz-Osbern and sister of Roger, Earl of Hereford. The “brideale” was celebrated at Exning,* probably in the old royal residence, and to it were bidden many great men, including Earl Waltheof. Here a plot to dethrone William was hatched. Waltheof refused participation, but promised secrecy. The two earls (Norfolk and Hereford) raised an army of mercenaries, but were defeated by the English and Norman forces. The bridegroom fled overseas, leaving his bride to defend Norwich, which charge she most bravely fulfilled. Roger of Hereford was taken and Waltheof surrendered. * Anna, King of the East Angles, established his royal residence at Exning, whence he could command the surrounding dykes which had been an important defense since the days of the Iceni. His daughter, Etheldreda, queen, saint and foundress of Ely (673), was born here (630), and baptised at the Seven Springs in the vicinity. The site of this residence to-day is but a mound covered with trees, surrounded by a moat, and set in the midst of fields, wherein graze worn-out racers, less than one mile from Newmarket. From ancient times Exning was the centre of the horse trade. The old mart in this amphitheatre was deserted in 1227 on account of an outbreak of plague, and on the Icknield Way, between Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, was established another—New Market.
- 1076. Ingulf (born 1030), Abbot of Crowland 1076, and secretary to William I. Died 1109.
- 1082. Sugar, Abbat of S. Denis. One of the most illustrious ministers of France, author of Life of Louis VII., and founder of the great Chronicles of S. Denys. Died 1152.
- 1083. Florence of Worcester, chronicler, born some years previously. In 1083 he continued the Chronicles of Marianas Scotus. Died 1118. Henry of Huntingdon, English chronicler, born this year; died 1155.
- 1086. Domesday Book, or Liber Wintoniae, begun in 1080, completed this year, and kept in the Treasury at Winchester.
- 1087. Death of William the Conqueror. Accession of William II. (Rufus). Robert Curthose succeeds William I. as Duke of Normandy.
- 1093. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury. War with Scotland, and death of Malcolm Canmor.
- 1095. Second revolt of the barons. Foulcher de Chartres, historian, chaplain to Baldwin I., King of Jerusalem. William of Malmesbury, historian, born this year; died 1143.
- 1096-7. First Crusade.
- 1099. Jerusalem captured, and Latin kingdom founded.
- 1100. Death of William II. Accession of Henry I. “Maistre” Wace born in Jersey; historian and author of Roman de Rou. Died 1175.
- 1101. Third revolt of the barons. Geoffrey of Monmouth, chronicler, born about this time; died 1154.
- 1104. Guibert, born 1055, Abbe de S. Marie de Nogent-sous-Coucy, 1104. Died 1124.
- 1106. Battle of Tenchebrai. Robert of Normandy defeated and the dukedom ceded to the English crown. Simeon, monk of Durham, born 1061. Historian and mathematician. Died 1131.
- 1109. War between England and France.
- 1110. Henry V. of Germany goes to Rome, and forces Pope Paschal II. to crown him emperor (1111). He is excommunicated.
- 1114. Matilda, daughter of Henry I., marries the Emperor Henry V. Otto of Freising, German historian, born this year.
- 1118. John of Salisbury, scholar and writer, “for thirty years the central figure of English learning.” Bishop of Chartres 1176. Died 1180.
- 1120. After the festivities which marked the close of the French wars, Henry I. and his retinue returned to England, followed shortly afterwards by his only son, William the Ӕtheling. Embarking at Barfleur, the prince and all on board save one were lost in the tragic wreck of the White Ship. Through this catastrophe, Henry’s daughter, Matilda, widow of the Emperor Henry V. of Germany, became heiress to the throne of England— by right of her birth, and of her acknowledgment by the English people, who called her “The Lady of the English.”
- 1122. Christiens de Troyes, poet and romancer. Author of Lancelot du Lac. Died 1195.
- 1124. Renewal of hostilities between England and France.
- 1127. Geoffrey Plantagenet (later Duke of Normandy, 1144), Count of Anjou, Maine and Touraine, marries Matilda, daughter and heiress of Henry I., and widow of the Emperor Henry V.
- 1129. Peace.
- 1135. Death of Henry I. Accession of Stephen. Chancellor to Archbishop of Canterbury. Author, and secretary to Eleanor of Aquitaine. One of the most distinguished men of the twelfth century. Died before 1203.
- 1136. William of Newburgh, historian, born; died 1208.
- 1137. Nicholas Brakespeare born near St. Albans. Elected Abbot of S. Rufus, Avignon, 11 37; Cardinal-Bishop of Albano, 1146; and Pope, 1154. The only Englishman who sat upon the papal throne. He took the name of Adrian IV. Died 1159.
- 1138. David of Scotland invades England in support of Matilda’s claim to the throne, but is defeated at the Battle of the Standard.
- 1139. Beginning of Civil War in England.
- 1143. Walter Mapes, romance writer, born; died 1196.
- 1147. The Second Crusade preached by S. Bernard and undertaken by the Emperor Conrad and Louis VII. of France.
- 1150. Rigord, a monk of S. Denis, historiographer of Philippe Augustus. Died 1207. Roger Hoveden, chronicler, continued Bede’s History; died 1202. Gervase of Tilbury born. English chronicler, and Marshal of the Kingdom of Aries; died 1235.
- 1152. Giraldus Cambrensis, or Gerald de Barri, historian, born; died 1223. Henry, Duke of Normandy (Matilda’s son), invaded England in support of his mother’s claims and his own. After the death of Stephen’s elder son Eustace, the king was induced to make peace, and by the Treaty of Wallingford (1153) the long-fought dispute was settled. Stephen was to retain the crown for life, and at his death, to the exclusion of his other children, Matilda’s son was to succeed to his mother’s inheritance.
- 1154. Death of Stephen. Accession of Henry II.
- British costume by Mrs. Charles H. Ashdown.
- English costume by Diane Clayton Calthrop.
- Münchner Kostümbilder.
- English costume and fashion by Lewis Wingfield.
- Samuel Rush Meyrick. ‘A Critical Inquiry into Ancient Armour, as it existed in Europe, but particularly in England, from the Norman Conquest to the Reign of King Charles II’. London: John Dowding, circa 1830.
- Costumes civils et militaires des Français à travers les siècles. 1883. Author: Jean Baptiste Marie Augustin Challamel.
- Dresses and Decorations of the Middle Ages Vol 1., by Henry Shaw F.S.A. London William Pickering 1843.
- Ancient British costume history. The Britons.
- Anglo-Saxon fashion history. England c. 460 to 1066.
- Britannia Saxonica. Chronology of the Anglo-Saxons.
- King Harold II. Last Anglo-Saxon king of England.
- 11th to 13th century. Medieval clothing in France.
- Armor in England from the 10th to the 18th century.
- Richard I the Lionheart. Cœur de Lion.
- German medieval costume history. 11th to 13th century.
- Armor in England from the 10th to the 18th century.
- The Gallic and Gallo-Roman costume period.
- Frankish Merovingian costume history 4th and 5th century
- Byzantine costume history. 5th to 6th century.
- The Carolingian fashion period 987 to 1270.
- On the history of costumes. From Ancient to the 19th century.
- The Carolingian fashion period 7th and 8th century. Reign of Charlemagne.
- Europe in the time of Charles the Great (Charlemagne) 768 – 814. Maps, Places
- Syria during the period of the crusades. Maps, Names, Places. Historical Atlas.
- The influence of the Crusaders to the French clothing.
- Life-size warrior figures in full armor and equipment.
- 11th to 13th century. Medieval clothing in France.
- The Knights of the Teutonic Order of Knighthood.
- The First Crusade. The Knights Hospitallers.
- The Crusades. The Knights Templar.
- The Rise of Monachism. Monastic costumes history.