Saturday, May 03, 2008

Questions from Brittany - misc.

Thanks, you guys, for all the help and advice about finding info on Thomas Culpeper! Maybe you can help with these three rather unrelated questions that were bothering me recently.

1. Did Tudor clothes (men or women) have pockets? I read somewhere that men used codpieces as pockets. (Ew.)

2. Does anyone know if Kathy Lynn Emerson’s “The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Renaissance England” is a reliable source to draw from when writing historical fiction? It’s a really fun book, but I’m wondering how much of it is just interesting nonsense.

3. I feel like I read somewhere that only commoners were drawn and quartered when sentenced to be executed. Were nobles always simply beheaded? And I’m pretty sure they generally used an axe, right? It was a privilege to be beheaded with a sword, as Anne Boleyn was.

[On a side note, Lara, this is an awesome website—I’m so glad I found this place! I love it!]

[ed note: Brittany - thanks!]


Anonymous said...

1. My understanding from a friend of mine who has a graduate degree in museum science and is an expert on antique clothing is that Tudor clothing did not include pockets. Instead, they carried their necessities in small leather or cloth pouch-like purses attached to a belt (called a "girdle") at the waist. Thus the term "cutpurse": akin to the modern pickpocket, he was skilled at cutting the purse away from the belt without the owner detecting its departure. Many Tudor-era purses survive and can be seen in museums today. Some of them are quite ornately made.

2. I have not read that book, but hopefully one of our other question answerers has. I'm curious about it myself.

3. Execution could take many forms, of which drawing and quartering was but one. Many crimes, even non-religious ones, were punishable by burning at the stake, for instance. Hanging was also frequently used.
It was in the monarch's power to commute the sentence of ANY convicted person from drawing and quartering to the faster (and probably more humane) beheading. In practice, that power was not often exercised for any but the very wealthy whom the monarch had known personally (i.e., former members of the royal court). Nonetheless, even the wealthy sometimes suffered the full "d&q," particularly if their offense was taken by the monarch as a personal insult. And yes, an axe was the most common method in England. Anne Boleyn was allowed a swordsman because she had grown up in France, where the sword was the preferred method, and had therefore probably seen executions by sword. English axemen tended to be less skillful than one might like, and multiple strokes were too often required (e.g., the execution of Mary Stuart). Swordsmen were apparently more reliable for getting the job done expeditiously.

Foose said...

Maria Hayward's "Dress at the Court of King Henry VIII" (p. 351, I recommend this book highly to those interested in the period's clothes, plus it covers a lot more about the households, status, etc.) states, "One of the interesting features of the great wardrobe accounts from the closing years of Henry VIII's reign is the appearance of references to pockets being made ... in a range of the monarch's clothes including coats, frocks and gowns. The garments provided for Prince Edward also had pockets...

"Initially pockets appear to have been restricted to men's clothing. By Mary I's reign the situation had changed. The queen's wardrobe accounts show that pockets were put into some of her gowns."

As to what women did before the advent of pockets, Hayward states, "A range of decorative and functional items were hung from a woman's girdle including pomanders, girdle books, rosaries ..."

I would also guess that those big detachable sleeves you see in Tudor portraits of women might have been serviceable for tucking away things like love notes, cosmetics, perhaps small dogs ...?

Lara said...

On question #2 - I can add a little info, although I'm not sure how helpful it may be! I haven't read that specific book, but I am familiar with Kathy Lynn Emerson. She's written a series of Elizabethan murder mysteries... I have "Face Down in the Marrow-Bone Pie", although I haven't read it yet (it's on the mountain formerly known as the "to be read pile"). She also wrote a book in the mid-1980s called "Wives and Daughters: The Women of Sixteenth Century England", which is a nice guide to a lot of the women you might come across when reading about that period. It mostly has short bios of the women, parent and date info (when known) and is cross-referenced by maiden and married names, which right there makes it valuable in my opinion! :)