Years 1399-1485 page 10
In Edward IV.'s reign the toes of shoes were longer than ever, and the doublets, or tunics, shorter than ever. Only lords were allowed by law to wear these "indecently short dresses;" but the law was ignored freely, and even boys wore short, rich doublets of silk, velvet, or satin, and tremendously long toes, now called poulaines. The caps of cloth assumed very much the shape of hats; and the hair was not only worn long, but brought down upon the forehead into the eyes. All gentlemen wore chains of gold of the most sumptuous kind. Large jack or top boots began to be worn; occasionally robes bound at the waist, and sweeping the ground, in strong contrast to the short doublets.
But of all the head-dresses ever introduced in the wildest vagaries of fashion, those of the ladies of this reign were the most preposterous. The horns now rose up from the cap or bonnet, enclosing it from behind, and rearing their lofty points into the air, like those of some wild bison. These were covered with some richly-patterned silk or velvet. Others had round tower-like bonnets, with battlemented tops, and huge transparent shades enclosing the face, and running to a point half a yard before and behind them. Others had conical frames half a yard high set upon their heads, covered with lace or velvet. These had frequently a large wing on each side, like those of butterflies; and from the top fell a piece of fine lawn, often quite to the ground. These preposterous caps became so much the rage, that the peasant women of Normandy, especially in the Boccage, still wear them, where they tower aloft in the markets, white as snow, and with their butterfly wings generally tied over the front. "Thus," says Planche, "the evanescent caprice of some high-born fair has given a national costume to the paysannes of Normandy, who have reverently copied, for nearly four centuries, the headdress worn by their mothers before them." Paradin says that the ladies would probably have built their bonnets still higher, but that a famous monk, Thomas Conecte, came to Paris, and preaching in the Church of St. Genevieve for nine successive days against them, produced such effect that the ladies threw off their steeple caps, and many of them not only their horns but their tails and other vanities, and made a bonfire of them. But he adds, "The women that, like snails in affright, had drawn in their horns, shot them out again as soon as the danger was over." Some had this steeple frame set on the back of their heads in such a way that it is difficult to imagine how it was supported there.
In the costumes of the short reign of Richard III. the gentlemen appear again in top-boots,
with spurs, and enormous long toes. They have the long tight hose, which are fastened to the doublet with laces or points, as they were called; and we are told that the poor boy, Edward V., when in the Tower, convinced that his uncle meant to murder him, neglected fastening his points, or otherwise attending to his dress. The doublet was open in front, showing a stomacher, and over this was worn a short loose gown, plaited before and behind, with full slashed sleeves. These gowns and doublets were of the richest and most brilliant velvets and satins. On the head was a small cap, generally round and closely fitting, with a roll of fur round it, or turned up at the side with a feather, jewelled up the stem. The hair was worn thick and bushy behind.
The ladies had now, in a great measure, discarded the steeple caps, and wore the hair thrown backwards, in a caul of gold, and over it a kerchief of the finest texture, stiffened out and descending to the back. Some of these kerchiefs were very large. Their gowns were as before, with turn-over collars and cuffs of fur or velvet. On state occasions, the hair was suffered to fall in natural ringlets, and the ermined jacket was worn with a kirtle and mantle. These dresses were very rich with crimson or other bright velvet, cloth of gold, chains and jewels; the shoes being of tissue cloth of gold. They wore also a singular plaited neck covering called a barbe.
The armour through this period was of solid plate, varied in every reign by too many small particulars to be enumerated here. In Henry IV.'s reign, increase of splendour in arms and armour was visible. The basnet was ornamented by a rich wreath, and the jupon, or surcoat, had its border cut into rich foliage, spite of the prohibition. In Henry V.'s reign was introduced the panache, or crest of feathers, stuck into a small pipe on the top of the basnet. The petticoat or apron of chain was replaced by horizontal plates of steel, called tashes or tassets, forming a sort of skirt, and extending from the waist to about the middle of the thigh. In this reign the two-handed waving or flaming sword was introduced. In Henry VI.'s reign the sallet or German steel cap superseded the basnet. In Edward IV.'s the armour was distinguished by its very globular breastplates, and immense elbow and knee plates. Every joint was double covered, and in Richard's reign, the pauldrons, or shoulder plates, and the knee and elbow plates, generally large, fan-shaped, and of most elaborate workmanship, were still more striking. Such it is seen in the effigy of Sir Thomas Peyton, in Isleham Church, Cambridgeshire. Over this armour was worn, not the jupon, but a tabard of arms, loose like a herald's, as in Edward IV.'s reign.
CONDITION OF THE PEOPLE.
We have thus endeavoured to present the reader with as complete a view as possible of the state and appearance of our ancestors of the fifteenth century - a century which seems to close the more strictly feudal ages, which printing, literature, reform of religion, and the discovery of a new world were hastening to terminate, and to inaugurate a wholly new period, and new state of society. This century was by no means favourable to the intellectual or moral advance of the people. It was spent in fighting and in perpetual revolution, alarm, and violence, and the national character suffered no little in consequence. The destruction of high, principle and kindly affection amongst the higher classes spread to the lower. "We have seen that voluptuousness, epicurism, and perjury were every-day sins. The people were superstitious; running after pilgrimages, saints, fastings, and flagellations; whilst they had so abandoned the very heart of Christianity - love of God and love of neighbour, that they began to burn God's children and their own brothers for opinion.
Swearing had become so English a characteristic that Englishmen had already acquired the epithet of "God-dammees;" and Joan of Arc told the Earls of Warwick and Stafford that they would never conquer France, though they had 100,000 more God-dammees with them. There was a spirit of ferocity awoke in the people by their long familiarity with blood and violence which even infected the women, who, many of them, took up arms, and were as fierce as the men. The women of "Wales acquired an infamous celebrity for their horrid mutilations of the soldiers of Lord Mortimer; and Rymer says that, at the siege of Sens, there were many gentlewomen, both French and English, who had long fought in the field, but now also lying in arms at sieges. Sir John Fortescue, chief justice of the King's Bench, writes that there were more men hanged for robbery in England in one year than in France or Scotland in seven; and the ignorance and luxurious effeminacy of the clergy deprived the people of much chance of improvement from that quarter. Perhaps no period of our history, with much military fame and general vigour of character, presents us with so little that is elevated in moral character, or attractive in its social features.
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