H. D. (Henry Duff) Traill.

Social England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) online

. (page 23 of 68)
Online LibraryH. D. (Henry Duff) TraillSocial England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) → online text (page 23 of 68)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

cannot draw a bow in their coats, and another writes :

" My doublet is unlaced before,
A stomacher of satin and no

more ;
Rain it, snow it never so sore

Metliiuketli I am too hot.
Then have 1 such a short

With wide sleeves that hang 1

They would make some lad in

this town
A doublet and a coat."

The stuffs most often
mentioned, in the ward-
robe inventories of the
nobility are cloth of tis-
sue, russet tinsel, white
damask cloth of gold,
white silver, velvet, tawny

, "Spider ninl FZie," 1556.J

SOCIAL LIFE, 1509-1558.



camlet ; doublet-linings were of sarcenet ; gown-linings of tinsel,
satin, velvet, fur, cloth of silver and gold. Shoes were of black
velvet, cloth or leather.

The king was deemed to be the best dressed sovereign in
the world, for he put on new clothes every holy day. Opening
Hall's chronicle at haphazard we meet with descriptions of the
king's dress that show him apparelled " in a garment of cloth
of silver, of damask, ribbed with cloth of gold, so thick as
might be ; the garment was large and pleated very thick, and
cantled of very good
intail, 1 of such shape
and making that it
was marvellous to be-
hold. The courser,
too, which his grace
rode on, was trapped
in a marvellous vesture
of a n e w-d e v i s e d
fashion ; the trapper
was of line gold in
bullion, curiously
wrought, pounced and
set with antique work
qf Remain figures."
At this time the dress-
ing of horses was, like
the dressing of men,
as much an art of the
goldsmith as of the

tailor. The passion for variety soon spread from the high
places to the humbler ranks. The serving-man who had been
content to go in a Kendal coat in summer, and a frieze coat
in winter, with a plain white hose " mete for his body," by
the middle of the century looked to have a coat of the finest
cloth to be had for money, hosen of the finest kersey of some
French puke, or some strange colour or dye. " Then their
coats shall be guarded (i.e. trimmed) cut and stitched, and the
breeches of their hosen so drawn with silks, that the work-
manship shall far pass the price of the stuffs."

1 Broken up with good designs.


(National Gallery.)


Female The dross of court-ladies was, until the reign of Mary, as

Attire. simple in its outlines as that of the middle class, and lavishness

in goldsmith's work and embroidery alone afforded scope for

variety. The gown fitted the body and had an ample, Mowing

skirt. The satirist on dress has nothing to say against the

women more than :

" The streets so sweeping
With women's clothing,
And so much swearing
Saw I never.

Of women kind
Laced behind
So like the fiend
Saw I never.''

The stiff diamond hood, with its angular lappets and
quasi-monastic gravity was now worn only by elderly ladies.
Anne of Cleves came " dressed in the English fashion in a
French hood," or chaperon, which was small and without lappets,
edged round the face with jewels, beads or lace. Latimer preach-
ing before Edward VI. said : " Paul saith, that a woman ought
to have a ' power ' on her head . . . this ' power ' that some of
them have is disguised gear and strange fashions. They must
wear French hoods, and I cannot tell you, I, what to call it.
And when they make them ready and come to- the covering
of their head, they will say ' Give me my French hood, and
give me my bonnet or my cap/ Now here is a vengeance
devil; we must have our 'power' from Turkey, of velvet, and
gay it must be ; far fetched, dear bought, and when it cometh, it
is a false sign." Unmarried women did not wear a covering
on the head within doors, but drew the hair up into " tussocks"
and knots, or plaited it tightly with ribbons. The hair was
allowed to Mow loose at weddings. Henry's numerous queens
passed through the streets to be crowned or married with hair
hanging down. After marriage their hair was completely con-
cealed in a hood or folded kerchief. "When the moment of
execution came, it was the removal of the kerchief that was a
woman's necessary thought upon the scaffold.

The sumptuary laws of Henry VIII. are the best evidence
for the distinctive dress of the various ranks of society. It was
rendered incumbent upon a husband to keep a Jight horse

SOCIAL LIFE, 1509-1.".*.


furnished for the king's service if his wife wore a gown or
petticoat of silk, any velvet in her kirtle or in any lining or
part of her gown other than cuffs and purties (edgings), or any


(From the picture by Holbein, by permission of his Grace the Duke of Bedford.)

French hood or bonnet of velvet, with any habiliment (border),
paste or edge of gold, pearl or stone, or any chain or gold
about her neck or anywhere a comprehensive list.


Here is a fairly complete description of a rich woman's
ordinary <l;iy dress: "A gown of tawny camlet with velvet
of tin- same colour turned up, a kirtle of white taffeta and
a pair of sleeves of white satin, a frontlet (for the forehead)
of crimson velvet lined with crimson satin, an ouch (a jewel)
of gold for the collar and sleeves, and a French-white

In Mary's reign the Spanish farthingale came in to destroy
the natural outline of the figure and to develop ultimately into
the Elizabethan monstrosities. The Spaniards who came to
England on the occasion of Mary's marriage perceived that the
English ladies had not yet learned to manage the new fashion
properly. ' They wear farthingales of coloured cloth without
silk ; the gowns they wear over them are of damask, satin, or
velvet of various colours, but very badly made." Some oi
them had velvet shoes slashed like men's, "which does not
look well to Spanish eyes." " Their stockings are black, and
they show their legs even up to their knees, at least when they
are travelling, as their skirts are so short." The Spaniard.';
noticed, too, that English women wore a muffler over the lower
part of the face, leaving the eyes only exposed, which made
them look like nuns, who do not wish to be known. A
pithy Spanish judgment on Mary was, " She has no eyebrows,
is a perfect saint, and dresses very badly."

Food. Although the reign of Henry VIII, saw the introduction ot

many novelties in dress which were of Continental origin, in the
matter of food the early Tudors followed on lines that were
thoroughly medieval. The week divided itself into flesh-days
five days a week, and fish-days Friday and Saturday, and the
hours and number of meals varied accordingly. Breakfast was
not served in every household as a necessary meal, but some
noblemen made it a somewhat heavy meal in spite of the
fact that dinner was to follow very shortly upon it. The North-
umberland household (one of the most detailed examples we
have) was unusually late in beginning the day's work. The clerks
were to assemble at seven to be " breved " or sent to their duties,
and breakfast was not served till half-past eight. Latimer, address-
ing the nobles, says, "Many complain against you that ye lie abed
till eight, or nine, or ten of the clock. I cannot tell what revel ye
have over-night, whether in banqueting or dicing or carding, or

Sir Oliver Hyde,
Denclnvorth, Berks, 1510.

Lady Hyde,
Denchworth, Berks, 1510.

J. Marsham.
Xorwicli, I.JL'.'I.

Witv nf .1. Marsham,
Xonvieh, IJL'">.

Wife of Thos. Perys,
Little Barford, Beds. 1535.

Sir T. Savili-,
Islington, 1546.

Lady Savile,
Islington, 1/J46.



how it is; but in the morning when poor suitors come to your
bouses, ye cannot be spoken withal." On flesh-days the break-
lust of my lord Northumberland and bis lady was a loaf
of bread in trenchers, two manchets (tine white bread), a
quart of beer, a quart of wine, a chine of mutton or beef,
or boiled beef. For the " mercy ' of the children my
Lady Margaret and Master Ingram, one manchet, a quart
of beer, three mutton- bones boiled. On h'sh-days, instead
of the meat there was a dish of butter, a piece of salt
fish, or a dish of buttered eggs. On the " eating " days
dinner was between ten and eleven, on fasting days between
eleven and twelve. At three o'clock on flesh days there was
a " drinking," and supper was over about seven. At nine o'clock
a "livery" was served. The hard days were the "scambling
days" of Lent Monday and Saturday when the servants of
the household depended upon what happened to be left from
the tables of their superiors. With a view to the claims of
these reversioners, the supper provided was in the Northumber-
land household fairly liberal. The earl and his lady had before
them five manchets, a pottel of beer and one of wine, forty
sprats, two pieces of salt fish, a quarter of a salt salmon, two
slices of turbot, a dish of flounders, a baked turbot. and a dish
of fried smelts. The flesh-day dinner included two courses,
each of Avhich consisted of savouries and sweets. In a great
household, when the lord exceeded his ordinary fare by reason
of a feast day or the .presence of guests, the first course would
be introduced with a " warner " or subtlety, and would be
"voided" with another, while spice-plates were handed. The
" subtlety " was an erection of wax, and, it would seem, purely
decorative ; the spices were digestive comfits " grains of
Paradise," or " dragcts " ; a box of wafers and a pottel of
" ipocras," or spiced wine, finished the dinner of the most
wealthy. The wines were commonly classed merely as white
or red, or, more specifically, as Gascoigne or claret. The
stronger wines Malvoisey, or Candian Malmsey-sack, Alicante,
and Rhenish appear less frequently. The English inexperience
of strong wines got the young soldiery into great trouble at the
time of the Spanish war (p. 2). Water-drinking was unheard
of except in the case of the More family, who were famed for
many eccentricities of a strangely modern type. Catherine of

SOCIAL LIFE, 1509-1558.


Aragon was solemnly warned before her first marriage to
drink no English water.

The most frequent sweets were fritters, custards, tarts, Table
" blankmanges," jelly, cream of almonds ; but the appearance ]
of sweets was characteristic only of the tables of the rich.
The dinner was served in messes, each mess being shared as a

Photo: Wallar Cockcrell,

(National Portrait Gallery.)

rule by four people ; the guest held the meat in his left hand
and cut it with the knife in the right.

' Touch never with your right hand no manner meat surely,
But with your left hand, as I said afore, for that is goodly."

The handing of the ewer before and after dinner was
a serious and purposeful ceremonial. Of table manners
perhaps Hall's casual mention of a ceremony at Anne
Boleyn's coronation feast may serve to give as graphic an




account as is necessary. On the right side of the Queen's
chair stood the Countess of Oxford, widow, and on the left
side stood the Countess of Worcester all the dinner season
which divers times in the dinner time did hold a tine cloth

before the Queen's face, " when she
list to spet or do other wyse at her
pleasure." Anne had had, we may
be sure, too long a training in court
manners to commit a solecism.
Howbeit, the English prided them-
selves a good deal upon their table
manners. The Venetians noticed
how punctiliously they sat in their
order of precedence, and the ex-
traordinary silence of everyone,
except in the long pauses between
the courses. Polydore Vergil spoke
favourably of English manners,
saying that they resembled those
of Italians.

The tables of the richer people
were daily provided with silver
spoons, cups, and salt-cellars. Those that possessed a
great store of family plate displayed it in high cupboards
in the banqueting rooms. The plates used at table were

or of pewter. Each person used his
in his girdle. After dinner strangers
were brought to a chamber " cleanly apparelled and dressed,"
according to the time of year ; in summer time the bed
was to be covered with pillows and head-sheets in case they
would rest ; and after this done they must have cheer of
novelties in the chamber, as junkets, cherries, pippins, and
such novelties as the time of the year requireth, or else green-
ginger comtits, with such thing as winter requireth, and
sweet wines, ipocras, tyre, or muscadel.

When Philip of Spain visited Queen Mary, after supper,
in her closet, he went up by a narrow winding staircase
and found a party assembled in a "long narrow room or
corridor where they divert themselves." The Spaniards
were much amused at the English custom of

(/;// iii'i-niimtinn of tli?

Company of Ironmongers.)

commonly of wood
own knife, carried

kissing ladies

SOCIAL LIFE, 1509-1558.


on the mouth, and took full advantage of it. Philip kissed all
the ladies, and learned how to say " God nihit " to them.

There was some spread of comfort among the lower ranks, The standard
but certainly the progress was slight compared with what was of Comfort -
to come. Poor men were beginning to look for more meat,
mid to expect a greater variety than before, according to the
doctor's Discourse on the commonweal. Time was when a
serving man was well content with a piece of beef to last
all the week long. Bread and beer were all he needed to eke
it out. Tusser bids

" Good ploughmen look weekly of custom and right
For roast meat on Sundays and Thursdays at night."

But many poor shepherds lived on nothing but bread, "milk,
whig (sour milk), and whey." The rise in prices which had
brought an increase of wealth to some, had brought ruin to others,
who were unable to adapt themselves
to the new economic conditions.
Hence, on the one liana we read
in the time of the early Tudors of
an increase of luxury and comfort,
of a higher standard of living, and
at the same time we hear a louder
outcry from those who saw or felt
the miseries of the very poor than
is heard in the literature of any
earlier period or in the succeeding
Elizabethan and Jacobean periods.
In estimating the general conditions
of society in Henry's reign the two
opposite tendencies have to be played
off against each other. The change
in the system of agriculture, apart
from all other considerations, had
enormously increased the pauper
population. If the statistics of Fish's
Supplication can be trusted, it has

been estimated that an eighth of a population of five millions Pauperism,
must have been in a state of destitution. The sea of mis-
chiefs that flowed from the " more than Turkish tyranny '


(By perm ission of the Worshipful
Company of Armourers.)



which ruined so many are thus summed up : Honest
householders made followers of dishonest men's tables ; honest
matrons brought to the needy rock (distaff) and cards ; men-
children, of good hope in the liberal sciences, compelled to
fall to handicrafts, to day labour : froward children running
headlong into wickedness, who finally garnish gallow-trees ;

modest virgins for lack of dowry
compelled to pass the days of
their youth in ungrateful servi-
tude, or else to marry to perpetual,
miserable poverty ; wanton girls
made thereby sisters of the Bank 1
(the stumbling-block of all frail
youth), and finally most miserable
creatures, lying and dying in the
streets, full of all plagues and
penuiy. Latimer's famous descrip-
tion of his father (Vol. II., p. 5-il),
often quoted because it is one of
those rare passages in which a
contemporary describes a whole
class of society intimately known
to him, held true in Latimer's
own time of only a remnant of the yeomanry. One class was
pushing another out in a manner that meant suffering for
some, pleasure for others : and the cause was inexplicable
to the onlooke

" Merchant-men travel the country,

Ploughmen dwell in the city,
Which will destroy the laud shortly."

One of the remedies desired was an Act ordering merchants
to employ their goods continually in the traffic of merchandise,
and not in the purchasing of lands; that craftsmen shall con-
tinually use their crafts in cities and towns, and not leave
the same and take farms in the country ; and that no mer-
chant shall hereafter purchase lands worth above 40 by the
year ; but the Tudor officials drafted many statutes which either

Photo : Walker .t Vuckerell.

(National Port ni it

Disorderly houses ou Bankside, Southwark.

SOCIAL LIFE, 1509-1558.


remained mere drafts, or if they became statutes the Govern-
ment was powerless to enforce them. The legislation to check
the high prices of meat in times of scarcity and murrain,
ordering beef and pork to be sold at -kl. a pound, mutton and
veal at f d., had to be suspended three years later owing to the
great dearth. But as a rule the complaint was of an un-
accountable dearth in the midst of plenty. Prices had doubled
within a generation, according to the popular belief. Yet men


(Foxe's " Book of Martyrs," 1570.)

were buying things they had never bought before. Within
twenty years past there were not a dozen sellers of the
fashionable luxuries in London. " And now from the Tower
to Westminster along, every street is full of them, and their
shops glister and shine of glasses, painted cruises, gay daggers,
etc., that is able to make any temperate man to gaze on them
and to buy somewhat, though it serve to no purpose necessary."

London, which at the beginning of Henry's reign ranked, with London
its population of not much over 120,000, with the third-rate
towns of the Continent, 1 began to spread as the great country
households and retinues of serving-men broke up, and men began

1 So Friedmann, who gives to Paris a population of 400,000, Milan 200,000



to take chambers in London and go attended with only a page
and a lackey. OH the east the town had been bounded by
the Tower and the Minories, on the north by Houndsditcli
and the London wall, on the west it reached Old Bailey. That
the population within this walled space was not densely crowded
would seem certain, inasmuch as there were orchards and
gardens in the busiest thoroughfares. Thomas ( Vomwell
ripened fruit in his garden near Lothbury Lane. But space
was economised by the very narrow streets, perhaps not more
than ten or twelve feet broad. More's Utopian city had
streets twenty feet broad, and every house was built of
stone and had a garden behind. Bricks were still too costly
for general use. More had before his eyes mud walls and
overhanging gables that shut out light and air. The Strand.
with its great gentlemen's houses and goldsmiths' shops, was
perhaps his ideal. In 1533 the street had been continued in
the Westminster direction, but St. Martin's still lay in " the
fields." The magnificence of the Strand is described by one
of the Venetian ambassadors, who says that there alone were
fifty-two goldsmiths' shops, " so rich and full of silver vessels,
great and small, that in all the shops of Milan, Rome, Venice,
and Florence put together I do not think there would be found
so many and of such magnificence as those of London." " These
great riches of London are not occasioned by its inhabitants
being noblemen or gentlemen, being all, on the contrary, persons
of low degree and artificers who have congregated there from
all parts of the island, and from Flanders and from every
other place." London was creeping on in every direction to
become one with Westminster, Holborn, and Smithfield. Over
London Bridge Southwark was spreading from a few hundred
poor houses to a populous if still squalid neighbourhood.
Henry VIII. on his death-bed ordered the stews on Bank-
side to be put down, but the order had to be re-enacted by
Edward VI. 's Government. The Westminster, Lambeth, and
Strand " bridges," which are named in the literature of the
period, were the watermen's landing-stages.

A Popu- One of the best accounts of London on a gala day is Hall's

tivaiT description of Anne Boleyn's coronation. She came from

Greenwich to the Tower by water, and all the river barges

were garnished with targets on their sides, banners, bannerettes,

l-l .5

o S

O -S


and streamers, each barge having " minstrelsy," shawms and
" shagbushes " and divers other instruments, which continually
made good harmony. On a lighter there were fireworks, a
great dragon continually moving and casting wild tire, and
round about were terrible monsters and wild men casting fire and
making hideous noises. The sides of the Mayor's barge were
set full of flags and banners of the devices of the Company of
Haberdashers and Merchant Adventurers, the cords hung with
"pensells," or pennons having little bells at the ends, which
made a goodly noise wavering in the wind. " For to speak of
the people that stood on every shore to behold the sight, he
that saw it not, would not believe it." The town was full, and
great purveyance had been made of all manner of victuals.
From the Tower and Temple Bar the streets were graveUed (as
nowadays) to prevent the horses from slipping on the pavement,,
and rails were fixed on one side, behind which stood the " crafts."
On the unrailed side stood the constables of the city, apparelled
in velvet and silk, with great staves in their hands to cause
the people to keep room and good order. Cornhill and
" Gracious " Street were hung Avith fine scarlet, crimson, and
other grained cloths, with rich arras, tapestry, and carpets,
and the most part of " tho Cheap " was hanged with cloth
of tissue, gold, velvet, and goodly hangings, and all the windows
were replenished with ladies and gentlemen waiting to see the
queen go by in her litter of white cloth of gold. The king
had ordered the city to be garnished with pageants in the
accustomed places, and the Merchants of the Steelyard put up
a Mount Parnassus with the fountain of Helicon, which was
of white marble, and four streams rose three feet high and
met together in a little cup above the fountain, which ran
" racked " Rhenish till night. On the mountain sat Apollo,
and at his feet Calliope, and the Muses played sweet instru-
ments. At Leadenhall the pageant was the globe with a
heavenly roof, and in the pageant sat St. Anne and all her
issue beneath her, and under Mary " Cleoph " sat her four
children, of which one made a goodly oration to the queen
of the fruitmlness of St. Anne, trusting that like fruit should
come of the queen. The conduit in Cornhill and in Cheap
ran wine, white and claret, all that afternoon. In St. Paul's
Churchyard stood a scaffold with 200 children reciting goodly

SOCIAL LIFE, 150!J-1,KS. 229

verses of poets translated into English. At Ludgate trie gate
was garnished with gold and " biss " (blue) ; on the leads of
St. Martin's Church a choir of singing men and children sang
new ballads made in praise of Anne. The pageant at the conduit
in Fleet Street was much regarded and praised.

Although Londoners understood thoroughly the art of Sanita
organising a beautiful triumph, domestic comfort and even
decency had as yet made little progress. The condition of
houses within is best described in the often quoted words of
Erasmus : " The floors are commonly of clay, strewed with
rushes, so renewed that the substratum may lie undisturbed
some twenty years." It was a collection of scraps of food and
miscellaneous filth not fit to be mentioned. When the weather
changed, a vapour was thence exhaled which in Erasmus's
opinion was by no means sanitary. " Boarded chambers " were
rare. Floor-earth, however, had its uses. For stitch in the
side, says Andrew Boorde (p. 334), " take up the earth within a
door that is well trodden," make a cake of it with vinegar,
toast it, and clap it hot to your side. The roads, according to
Erasmus, were as much a source of danger as the floors of
houses, and it was well, if possible, to keep the windows tightly
shut to prevent the admission of the poisonous outer air. He
complains of the want of public aadiles to clean the streets.
The cleanliness of the streets varied in proportion to the activity
of the officers of any given town. The town of Nottingham
presented its common officer "because he doth not look upon
his office, wherefore we think our town lies in many places
in great nuisance and filthy thorow his slothfulness." Activity

Online LibraryH. D. (Henry Duff) TraillSocial England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) → online text (page 23 of 68)