What the Well-Dressed Little Duke Wore in 1485

Well, Obama got elected, and I’m still smiling. Weren’t his daughters cute at his acceptance speech? It’s nice to think of children that age in the White House again, particularly once they get the promised family dog.

Speaking of children, in 1485, one young boy must have been very happy to see Henry VII be crowned king. At age five, Edward Stafford lost his father, his title, and his lands when Henry Stafford, second Duke of Buckingham, was executed at Salisbury on November 2, 1483, for rebelling against Richard III. Edward and his brother and two sisters, along with their mother, were reduced to living on a pension from the king of 200 marks per year, with not an acre of land to call their own.

All this changed, of course, when Richard III was defeated at Bosworth. Seven-year-old Edward was restored to his dukedom and to his Stafford inheritance, although of course because he was a minor, he became a ward of the crown. He also acquired a stepfather, Jasper Tudor, Henry VII’s uncle, and a guardian, Margaret Beaufort, the king’s mother. To cap it all off, before the king’s coronation, he was made a Knight of the Bath. Edward’s world had turned on its axis once more.

And Edward also got quite a spectacular wardrobe.

Thanks to the grandeur of Google Books, a book called English Coronation Records by the splendidly named Leopold G. Wickham Legg is online, and it gives a list of items purchased by Henry VII in anticipation of the coronation. No description of the actual coronation survives, but the book also contains a copy of the “Little Device” for Henry VII’s coronation, which gives an idea of how the ceremony was to proceed. (Don’t ask me why it’s called a “little device.” To my knowledge, there’s no “Big Device” out there.) The Little Device, which seems to have been cribbed off a similar document for Richard III’s coronation ceremony, doesn’t mention Edward as a participant in the crowning. Probably he was considered too young to have a position of responsibility in the affair, though it seems likely that he was included in the various processions, perhaps being carried around on a squire’s shoulder as his parents had been in 1464, when they at ages seven and nine attended Elizabeth Woodville’s coronation. Edward and his younger brother were provided with gear for their horses (and a horse in the duke’s case), probably for the procession from the Tower to Westminster on the eve of the coronation

Whatever Edward did in the ceremony, he was handsomely outfitted for it. Legg’s book includes a list of the items purchased for the duke and his brother, Henry, who was probably around six at the time:

Item payde for a horse for my lorde: xxjs
Item for a Sadelle for my lorde: xs
Item for a Swerde for hym: iiijs
Item a paire hosen called Chasembles: xijs
Item for making of ij gownez of blue veluet for my lorde and his
broder: iiijs
Item for making of a gowne and a hode lyke ermytes wede for my
lorde: xijd”
Item for making of a Surcote and a mantel 1 of sarsinete: xxd”
Item for making a blewe gowne and a hoode for my lorde: xvjcf
Item a paire of Spurres: price xS iiijct
Item for furring of ij gownes of blue veluet furred w’ greye: iiijs
Item for ij furres of greye for the saide gownes at xviijs xxxvjs
Item for furring of a blue gowne and a hoode furred w’ pured: xvjd”
Item for furring of a mantelle and a surcot of rede sarsinet: xijd”
Item a tymbre of pured for the said Garments price: ijs
Item a federbedd and a bolster: xs
Item a Pillowe of downe price: ijs
Item a celour and a testour: price iiijs
Item a paire blankettes: price vjs viijd”
Item a par of Shetes: price vjs
Item a Mantelle: price vs
Item vij yerdes rede worstedd: price the yerde xviijd xS vjd
Summa vij ti ijs xd

Other purchases for the duke include Flemish cloth and buttons. His saddle and harness and those of his younger brother were covered in crimson velvet.

“Sarsinet” is defined by Anne Sutton and Peter Hammond in The Coronation of Richard III as “a very fine and soft silk.” A “tymbre of pured” appears to refer to fine furs. A tester was a bed canopy; a celour a fabric headboard.

Much of these expenses evidently pertain to Edward’s being made a Knight of the Bath, such as the bedding and the “gowne and a hode lyke ermytes wede” (hermit’s weeds), which a prospective knight was to change into after his ceremonial bath before beginning a vigil in the chapel. (The knight was also to be shaved, which in seven-year-old Edward’s case must have been accomplished quite quickly.)

This was the start of what to be a grand sartorial career for the third Duke of Buckingham, whose life ended on the scaffold in 1521 after he made the exceedingly unwise mistake of irritating Henry VIII. In 1500, the 22-year-old duke accompanied Henry VII to Calais in a “large and rich” gown of cloth of gold, with the trapper of his courser covered in “littel prety belles” of silver and gilt. The following year, he cut a fine figure at the wedding of Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon in a gown that was valued at 1,500 pounds. In 1513, in the company of Henry VIII, he managed purple satin, covered with antelopes and swans of fine gold bullion and “full of Spangles, and little Belles of golde.”

5 thoughts on “What the Well-Dressed Little Duke Wore in 1485”

  1. Those guys were quite showy. 🙂

    But a bit more fashion sense than washed out bluejeans and a formless t-shirt would be welcome today, for me. 🙂

  2. Don’t you love the wardrobe accounts? They’re so sumptuous and unimaginably extravagant that if you read very many of them you start to think of cloth of gold as normal everyday wear.

    I’d forgotten Buckingham had children. Probably a good thing Shakespeare didn’t mention them – more sadly orphanned children with big tearful eyes in that play would probably have tipped it over into farce. What did he do to peeve Henry VIII?

  3. Was it your birthday? If so , belated happy birthday!

    I love all the little details about the clothing and the costs. He must have looked quite sweet – in a noble sort of way!

    And oviously he started as he meant to go on clothes-wise. There again, I suppose that many at court took great care over their appearance.

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