Monday, November 24, 2008

Question from TudorRose - Rings on the middle finger

Why did the people of the tudor era and elizabethan era never wear rings on their middle finger?
I have tried researching this but I cannot find any reason/s for this.

[Ed. note - this was pretty much already covered in the thread linked below, but I don't have an email for the submitter, so I went ahead and posted it. Plus, if anyone has been able to dig up any additional information, I'd love to hear about it]

http://tudorhistory.org/queryblog/2008/07/question-from-elizabeth-m-ring-wearing.html

4 comments:

Kathy said...

I hadn't seen the original thread. I just read it and can only add that wedding rings do seem to have been a tradition of sorts before Elizabeth, as Mary I was quoted as saying something to the effect that she just wanted a plain gold hoop ring for her marriage to Philip of Spain as that is how maidens were married in previous eras.

I don't have the direct quote in my immediate grasp, but I believe the gist of it is accurate.

No word on what finger she wore it. I'd noticed that there seemed to be a lack of rings on middle fingers too, but never put much thought into why there weren't any.

Elizabeth M. said...

It was me who was the original submitter. I had noticed on a number of paintings of Tudor sitters that they rarely wore a ring on their middle finger and wondered why.

Bearded Lady said...

Have you ever tried to horseback ride or draw a crossbow with a ring on your middle finger? Ouch. That’s a good way to get blisters. It's just not practical.

And I know this was already mentioned, but long fingers were a sign of beauty in the 16th century. Putting a ring on the middle finger is sort of like putting horizontal stripes on a fat girl. When I paint, I never put rings on the hands. It makes them look chunky. And I don’t mean to be crass when I say this but...hands were like butts in our society. For example, the Venetian ambassador said Catherine de Medici needed to wear a veil to be beautiful, but then he softened his insult with – at least she had nice hands. Can’t you just picture Howard Stern making a similar comment? (except substitute the hand reference for another body part) Oh and Elizabeth was very proud of her long white fingers too.

Foose said...

I found a comment in the book Elizabethan Silent Language, by Mary E. Hazard:

"Sixteenth-century custom assigned ring position according to the status of the wearer: the thumb for doctors, index finger for merchants, middle finger for fools, annular finger for students, and auricular finger for lovers; the fourth finger also had a special association for betrothal and marriage ..."

Clearly some of the royal people in the portaits were not following this specialization of fingers-and-rings with strict attention. But the striking absence of the middle finger might indicate that they (or the artist) were anxious that they not be coded as a fool.