Category Archives: Facts of the Fiction

What is a Historical Romance

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I’ve been asked, once or twice, “What’s a historical romance”? Quite simply a historical romance is a romance story set in a specific time period (generally accepted as pre 1940). The setting of the story acts as a background, a silent character, adding a “feel” to the story. Making the conflicts and resolutions the characters find slightly more unique for the era in which they are playing out their dramas. The romance genre takes all the “good”, flowery and sparkling parts of the history and intertwine it with characters who will eventually find a “happily ever after” ending to their adventure.
What makes a historical, of any genre, is the history. Factual people, events, codes of conduct, dress, technology and social and religious beliefs of the time add a purer sense to the possibility of the story having actually taken place.

I do want to make sure its understood while “historical fiction” uses facts of time, place, people, events as a “secondary character” in the story, which interact with the main characters to draw out the drama (goal, motivation, conflict), by contrast a “costume drama fiction” really only uses the general idea of the period as a setting and often the real historical facts have little to do with the story over all. In Costume Dramas history is often played fast and loose to fit the characters rather than the characters fitting the history.

For those who read historical romances (or historicals of any genre) the likelihood is some mental picture of the time period already exists (thank you Hollywood). Often readers tend to stick with a specific time frame, say Regency or American Western. Readers do this for the very same reason writers do, because its what is well known to them.

books2As someone who can never decide, day to day, whether to be a writer or a historian first I have a harder time making history something it never was even for the purpose of a sweet story line. So yeah while some oral health care happened people weren’t brushing teeth at least twice a day. Taking liberty with history is a writer’s prerogative and while I do much to avoid this I find even I cannot be purely historically factual and maintain the romantic elements, she would be missing teeth and his breath was going to be gag worthy. Although what I write directly in regards to historical events, people and places are factual for some who may not know or who will question the facts I am adding these blogs to build a better picture of the period in hopes to spark interest and deepen the appreciation for the “love found” aspect of every romance.

Because I write both historical fiction AND costume dramas I will try to be clear in my blogs which I am referring to.  For The Debt (not yet available) I use the standards of Historical Fiction while books3The Worship Series is fully a Costume Drama and I use more of the darker, harsher elements of history which wouldn’t really fit into a typical Romance Genre story.

The reason I mention this is because while I hope you enjoy the story in a pure sense, that the characters make you laugh and cry and feel my true intent is to get you thinking about the history. books4I hope often to give you some fact you may never have known otherwise. To encourage you to revisit a historical place or to seek out confirmation of my facts and find even more facts about the history. I hope to give you a passion for our past. For while history doesn’t have to define us at the time we are currently it does lay the foundations for what we may become in time.

So as a quick reference I want to use a grand Hollywood Historical (Romance, Action, Intrigue,) you put the genre tag on it you want.  I say Romance because that is how I watched it.  I will be using this example off and on throughout my blogs because its an easy reference, not because I “loved” the movie.

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We all know the “block buster” movie Titanic with DiCaprip and Winslet playing Jack and Rose (respectively). We all know the “big facts” of the Titanic’s ill-fated maiden voyage. We know from the beginning of the movie it will end with a tragedy, that 1100 people will die and a ship once proclaimed “unsinkable” will end on the bottom of the North Atlantic Sea. But we watched the story unfold all the same.book6 Why? Simply, we want to follow the story of two people who were on the ship. And while we know those two people didn’t really exist we see their drama play out and we hope, we really hope that maybe someone really found what Jack and Rose found before the villain iceberg stole it all away. That we know in our logical minds such a wild, passionate, class-crossing romance probably didn’t happen, the setting of a doomed ship where so many were lost and unaccounted for and the lack of electronic records of passengers and such gives that place in our minds (really our hearts) hope.

In its basic form the Titanic is a historical romance that is POSSIBLE. We couldn’t do the same story really with a modern back drop the technology of the day prevents it, but on a ship in 1912 with only a modest telegraphing system and no finger prints or driver’s licenses or pass ports the story works and we fall in love and we feel all those wonderful feelings a romance is meant to give us.

History is often glorified, in every genre that uses it to create a fictional story.books7  The truth is history was often dark, dangerous, violent and unjust.  What we can all look at though is that enough of the glory, the beautifulbooks8 survived because as humans, as people we strive to find heroes and heroins, bravery and love. People have always done this and most likely always will.
On this blog page I will be giving you more detail of the history of the stories. I will give you sources to find information yourself and I will answer questions, the best I can. Hopefully, this information will bring more of the story alive for you and help you enjoy the romance even more.

READ ON!

books9PS The claim the Titanic was “unsinkable” was a mis-quote of Capt E.J. Smith (RMS Titanic, seated 3rd from left) what he actually said was “I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder… Modern ship-building has gone beyond that.” 1907

Welcome to the Year 1490

For those who have read historical romances before the likelihood is high some mental picture of the time period already exists, thank you Hollywood. Often readers tend to stick with a specific time frame, say Regency or American Western. Readers do this for the very same reason writers do, because its what is well known to them.

What the romance genre does is take all the “good”, flowery and sparkling parts of the history and intertwine this with characters who will eventually find a “happily ever after” ending to their adventure.

As someone who can never decide, day to day, whether to be a writer or a historian first I have a harder time making history something it never was even for the purpose of a sweet story line. So yeah while some oral health care happened people weren’t brushing teeth at least twice a day. Taking liberty with history is a writer’s prerogative and while I do much to avoid this I find even I cannot be purely historically factual and maintain the romantic elements, she would be missing teeth and his breath was going to be gag worthy. Although what I write directly in regards to historical events, people and places are factual for some who may not know or who will question the facts I am adding these blogs to build a better picture of the period in hopes to spark interest and deepen the appreciation for the “love found” aspect of every romance.

I do want to make sure its understood while “historical fiction” uses facts of time, place, people, events as a “secondary character” in the story, which interact with the main characters to draw out the drama (goal, motivation, conflict), by contrast a “costume drama fiction” really only uses the general idea of the period as a setting and often the real historical facts have little to do with the story over all.

Because I write both historical fiction AND costume dramas I will try to be clear in my blogs which I am referring to.  For The Debt I use the standards of Historical Fiction while The Worship Series is fully a Costume Drama.

So, what was happening in 1490? In general not very much. For the British Isles this is still the very beginning of the Renaissance Period which started roughly 1485 and lasted through 1649. The Renaissance was going strong in places such as Italy for more than 100 years but due to the lack of full stability in Great Britain over the same time frame as well as disturbances on the European continent the Cultural Revolution or rebirth was slower to gain ground in England.

From 1327 until 1484 England saw seven different monarchs sit the thrown and each fought to hold both the thrown and the kingdom. The seating of Henry VII was not without controversy and not without troubles, but for the British it was the end of the conflict between the Lancastrians and Yorkists. King Henry VII line would lead England to world superpower status.

However, this did not mean such things as slavery, human chattel and servitude to an over lord disappeared. The practice of indentured servitude which is the premise of “The Debt” was very common and not often was the indentured person treated fairly. wedding4The person would die still owing a debt in some kind of bondage. In all likelihood because “The Debt” deals with a contract and civil matters these would have been approved through either The Court of Sessions or The Court of Baron both of which dealt with civil issues, trespass and debts. However, these two official courts were not established in a formal manner in 1490. Although legal proceedings became more cohesive by this time the intervention of courts would not have happened for the protagonist.

The second main premise is of a “forced” marriage. While less common these did happen and for the very reason given in the story; to advance someone politically.wedding1 Marriages in general during this time period became more “love based” as people were waiting till their early to mid twenties to wed. Nobility still wed slightly younger to protect inheritances but the tradition of marrying children was almost completely ended by this time.  The “marriage contract” was only the first step in a legal marriage and while binding, alone it was not enough to force someone to wed. While never mentioned directly in “The Debt” there is an assumption that the “spousals”, oral promises given in front of witnesses, have been spoken. Legally speaking a marriage didn’t occur until several more steps had taken place but for the Anglican Church a contract of marriage was enough standing. Under English Law a marriage not done by the book but sanctioned by the church committed the couple to each other for life however did not give a guarantee any heirs would be allowed to inherent. In this “The Debt” sets up enough of a quandary for the protagonist to be concerned and thus not want to risk the “marriage” as it stands.

Here now are the historical bases for the premise of the story. I hope this gives you a better perspective on the complex tangles a young woman such as Torlanwedding2 could find herself in. And    gives you an even more clear understanding of how difficult it will be for Torlan and Dark to overcome these legal and social issues.

Enjoy and READ ON!

A Woman’s Work…

We all have these “ideas” about what it must have been like to be a lady living in a castle with a handsome lord. Or even what it would be like to be a knight defending a strategic fief for the king. Well not to bust any bubbles but…

The management of any home in the late middle ages and early renaissance was a feat as complex and time consuming as the management of some of today’s small governments. And for the most part it was the lady of the house whose duty it was to run the house. To find time to “sit and work embroidery” was a rare pleasure for most ladies. One almost never found by a common woman.
On an average day the lady of the house could have to oversee    ladyswork5 everything from the setting of menus, some needing to feed dozens, to the buying of foods, organizing hunts, the care of livestock and directing planting and harvesting. The collection of water the distilling of wines and ales and the heating of cooking fires would be just a few every day duties a lady would see too.

She would also be the one responsible for ensuring such things as weaving, spinning, dying and use of cloth happened productively. The making of things the house would need such as soap, candles and torches. ladyswork3Even with the establishment of guilds for each of these products many homes were self sufficient and didn’t “shop” for basic home items.
All chores, while usually done by others were overseen by the lady of the house and failure for the completion would fall on her shoulders. However, there was more a lady would be responsible for.

The very defense of a home would be the lady’s responsibility if the house fell under attack while the lord was away. Direction of soldiers, knights or just the house staff to defend the gates, the fields and the shires could be a responsibility a “lady” would have to meet.ladyswork4
Then, if there happened to be guests in the home the lady was the one responsible for all the entertainments. This could include hunts or just riding, meals, readings and stories, dance and music, possibly the access to … well to put it politely … sexual pleasures. ladyswork2The lady of the house would also be the one responsible for the bathing and dressing of any “higher” visiting lords, and yes bathing was an important task so much that several descriptive manuscripts existed detailing how a bath should be given. The lady of the house would know these things.

Often in most homes it would be the lady who would be responsible for “education”. In the early English Renaissance period education was making a huge come back. Henry the VII’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, never known as “queen mother” because she never was, was noted during her life for establishing a sort of “public” education system. ladyswork 1Prior many, including nobility could not even read and had to hire ministers from the church to do all their reading and writing. Any lady who could read would be expected to pass on that knowledge to any child born to the house.
I hope these facts do not completely strip the ability to romanticize history just a little bit. Pageantry and intrigue, scandalous affairs and bitter rivalries still existed. Knights and “romantic love” from afar were standards of the time as can be found in the writings.

I only tell you these facts so you have an easier time accepting what skills the sweet protagonist of ‘The Debt’ could actually posses. Women of 1490 were strong, smart, skilled people who had great responsibly; every bit the same as today’s women.

READ ON!

Food For Thought

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Alright, I know people eating “gruel”, what a cliché right, but it worked for the story line so I just made it happen. In reality though meals of this time period could be very elaborate or very disgusting depending…

Around the 14th century (aka 1300’s for those who prefer to not do math) a slight shift in diets started to happen. Although what people ate then would most likely make most of us gag today meals and food were a very important and generally ceremonial event.food3

To start; you must remember that there was no refrigeration. Food “preservation” consisted of heavy salting and still rarely prevented rot. Foods therefore were highly “spiced” to hide the flavor of the rot.

For nobility meat was the main staple. Nobility ate so much meat it should be no wonder so many including our famed Henry VIII ended up suffering from gout.food4 Pastries and white breads were also consumed most by nobility and while the developing merchant class also ate meats they tended to supplement meals with some vegetables.

Common meats (and fish) for the time included what you might think; beef, deer, sheep, pork, and chicken as well as cod, salmon, and sardines. But nobility also consumed frequently peacocks, storks, dolphins, eels, and until banned by the church, horse.

Nobility tended to avoid vegetable as they were seen as “commoner’s” foods but when they were consumed they were very basic. Peas, beans, cabbage were the main vegetables although things like leeks (which are an onion if you didn’t know) and cucumbers were available they were not often eaten. Potatoes did not become available until the late 16th century although yams were eaten.food2

Now by contrast commoners ate mainly vegetables, salads were a dietary staple. They also consumed dark breads such as rye and wheat. Oatmeal and fish were part of the “everyday” diet as well. On slaughter days common people would have a supply of pork and bacon but they ate far less of it than their noble counterparts.  We could assume then that their diet was the better and their lives in general healthier because of it. Only there is a problem with this theory. food5That problem would be Alcoholism.

Everyone in this period drank. They drank all the time and not milk and water. They drank wines, meads, ales, beers and just about anything that could be distilled. There are some records indicating that there were more deaths caused by drinking, such as alcohol poisoning, liver disease, and accidental deaths than deaths during the outbreaks of plagues. Although no one could have ever seen drinking as a problem by today’s standards most of society would be considered legally drunk for the most part of every day.

There is more to know about the meals of this time period and I will be elaborating more on some of the other aspects in blogs to come but as it might be close to your meal time I think I will stop for now.

Hope this makes you think and READ ON!

The Home is a Castle

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I am fairly certain that most everyone will, when hearing the word ‘castle’, recall a mental picture of something from a Disney movie. People imagine large stone structure with tall tower and high walls, maybe a mote and a drawbridge that sits on a hill overlooking a pretty little town and farms. When the sun shines the castle sparkles and gleams in the light. The floors are made of marble which reflects the beautiful painted ceilings and the windows are filled with stained glass.

Well, considering that Mr. Disney used Castle Neuschwanstein in Bavaria as his model (shown above), a castle designed by The “fairytale king” King Ludwig II it is little wonder such glamour is what people first think of when they think of living in a castle. But this was a castle built late in castle building history and was not a castle like what would be found in the early renaissance period in Great Britain.

Castle building began, in England, around 1060. When William of Normandy aka William the Conqueror aka William the Bastard Came to England with the intent of taking over, and he did. He did mostly due to his military tactics one of which was building fortified structures in strategic places.

The first castle were little more than earthen mounds strengthen with timbers. castle2Everyone and thing lived inside. The floors where mud and straw the openings had either no coverings or animal skins were used. If you can imagine, the tradition of carrying a “bride” over the threshold, came about because as more and more straw, or thresh, was placed on the floor to soak up both human and animal waste the entrance way became blocked with a high mound which was hard to climb in skirts. Yeah I know gross.castle3

Thankfully, as time passed these structures became more and more developed. Stone was used to fortify outer walls then inner walls. Single towers or buildings were expanded and then connected with “allures” the walkway between “battlements” which were the walls around the buildings. Arches and Arcades or columns were added both as structure enforcements and design enhancers. Bow windows and finial added grace and beauty as well as finished looks. Baileys and courtyards were gardened for the purpose of providing food but also as a way to make the living comfortable. castle4The common central fire pits were changed into the fireplaces we recognize now. Tapestries and furnishings became more elaborate and useful stone and wood were used more effectively and the import of materials gave builders more flexibility in design and appeal.

The castles of 1490 were well on the way to being some of the more elaborate. Castle Rising (below left) built in the 12 century being an perfect example of castle7what a “keep” could look like and Bamburgh Castlecastle8 (right) built in the 13th century is a fine statement for the security potential with its twin-tower gatehouse.

I must confess that when thinking over what type of home to make for our brooding hero in “The Debt” I focused on Warkworth Castle (below) for inspiration. I simply liked the “look” and the size was ideal. castle9

But castles still were not the best places to live. They were, due to the structural faults of building with stone in a very wet environment, damp and drafty. These problems were dealt with through the use of fur rugs and wall hangings as well as tapestries which hung and even a type of “paper” window shade which would be tacked into place to shut off the opening during the coldest parts of the year. Passages could be very narrow and steep which while good for defense, it hard to swing a sword in such confines, could be deadly if one tripped and fell. Lighting was a moot point as people were more “sun centric”, as in they woke and moved and worked while the sun was up and slept when it was dark. Torches and candles as well as fires in a hearth required the use of resources which might not have been available for practical nighttime lights. Such things as bathrooms do not exist in castles for many, many more centuries, although the builders of some added small chambers which sat partially open over a water flow and over the opening a wood box would be placed for those moments.

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Castles were not just one building and walls. Most were complexes with stables, barracks, food storages, and even private churches. Other areas could include a designated place to relieve ones’ self sometimes referred to as “the jakes”. The baileys, which were the practical yards, were used for training and storage as well as a buffer between the walls and the main or great hall. The kitchens, cleverly enough, were very rarely attached to the house or any other building seeing as how they were the most likely to burn and why take down the entire castle if only the kitchen could be sacrificed. There were laundry areas and even “medical” areas. Sometimes a small graveyard for people existed and always an area for the disposal of rubbish and animal remains such as bones.

Castles are now the very romantic and beautiful structures we dream about. But in 1490 they were a practical home for many people castle6responsible for the protection and defense of both people and property. I hope you take the time to view, if only virtually, a castle or two and marvel and the great architectural feats they were and still are today.

As always READ ON !

 

Fathers and their…

So I’m jumping to one conflict which may cause the reader to pause and question. The conflict involving our hero not inheriting may seem like an improbable one. inheirate5Truth the law governing inheritance were fairly well set after the Norman invasion but, we all know that laws can be gone around and they are never simple.

Where inheritance is concerned from about 1000 CE to about 1200 CE the only rule/law that was in place was that of inheirate2Primogeniture, meaning the oldest (male) inherits. Any other child was left out completely. But reality shows this was more a façade than a fact. And it wasn’t only males who inherited.
Those who had land or wealth accumulated through their lives were not commonly so willing to give their hard earned gains to just any child be he first born or not. Father’s then, like now, wanted to insure their life’s work and reputation wasn’t going to be lost with death. So how did inheritance work exactly?

Primarily it worked with the first born son being groomed to inherent as the laws prescribed however, widows had first dibs on anything their husbands had accumulatedinheirate1 so before a son could take position they had to wait for their late father’s wife to pass and nothing stopped that woman from remarrying and having more children although the new husband became completion for the properties he did not become the owner. And nothing could stop a widow from simply going on a spending spree so to speak and leaving the son not only without and inheritance but with huge debt.
But assuming the mother was aged and wished to retire to a convent or to a residence of another female relation or even that she was sent to her maker before the father, it still may not have all gone to the eldest son. Father’s could in a legal moveinheirate4 known as maritagium “gift” some of his holdings to younger sons when they married. We know this as a “dowry” gift when it concerns a daughter. The difference being while a daughter had the legal right to demand this gift upon marriage a younger son needed his older brother’s consent. The father couldn’t, at least “legally”, just gift lands and monies to a younger son. Although no one could stop a land owner from using whatever means he felt necessary to insure his possessions went to the heir he felt most responsible. So while an older son would obtain any hereditary title he could find himself a lord without a castle.

It is this concept which I use in the story to set up the conflict which keeps the hero from just taking what he wants and while it works I bet you are still asking yourself well what about if there is no son only a daughter?inheirate8
So I will tell you. In the case where the only person left to inherit was a daughter the daughter inherited. Unlike common misconceptions would have people believe the inheritance didn’t go to an uncle or a devious male guardian who was going to use the poor girl for his own purposes. The eldest daughter, like the eldest son, got everything. Although later it would change for daughters and the inheritance would be divided a little more equally if there was more than one living female child.

Inheritance in the early renaissance was less a matter of law and more a matter of how to get around laws.inheirate6 While common law was the rule there was always the exception and widows, sons and daughters equally had the opportunity to become powerful land owners upon the death of the family patriarch.
To see how all this factual stuff plays into the plot read the books.

Till next time READ ON!!

Whips and Chains…

Hmmm: a “hero” who is a bit vindictive? Is that possible? Well in 1490 the man in charge of insuring discipline could indeed be both. Especially when you think how vital discipline could be in basic survival.

In “The Debt” Farg is that man and admit it readers you really liked him… but alas, I have no plan to give him his own story… but plans could change. As for the methods for maintaining discipline in this period of history well the lash was just one of many, but the lash is perhaps the oldest method used by society.

Use of the whip throughout history to both punish and discourage disobedience can be found in some of the earliest texts, certainly it appears in the text of the “Bible” and in the classical writings from both the Greeks and Romans. The fact is the whip and “corporeal punishment” is one method of instilling discipline most every society shares.

What should be most understood though is with the exception of those intended for capital punishment to follow, a lashing was not truly intended to inflict lasting damage. Much like the use of the stocks a lashing was intended to bring public shame to the criminal ilk. Long standing “rules” about how many lashes could be given and usually the man wielding the whip was in fact an expert on the delivery because a mis-stroke could lead to an unintended death or at the very least a whip2maiming or crippling.

From Roman times the number used as a maximum tended to stay steady at 40 strokes, but often to insure there was not a miscount the lash was swung only 39 times. Still, lacerations, broken bones and internal damage to vital organs occurred with just one heavy swing.

Now while I only made use of this punishment twice once as a means to punish “evil” and the second to define my villain, during its long stretch of use (it was used in the western world until the late 19th century to the early 20th in different parts of the world and is still in use in some nations) the whip was easily used for even the smallest of crimes. Again this was as a means to intimidate people in the society. The marks left much like the later use of branding marked one as a miscreant and allowed others to be at the very least weary when in dealings with the person.

Punishment during the Renaissance certainly evolved as courts of different levels developed and the building of prisons began, but to start a crime was a crime and thus punishable by whatever means where decided upon by the local society. If one committed a crime of theft where hanging was the common punishment it could well cost a person his or her life to steal a loaf of bread.

Simply put, crime did not pay during this period in history and the “executioner” was a man to be both respected and feared.whips 3

As for Farg, well I am sure there are at least three characters who wished they had never crossed him and at least one woman who might try and match make for him…

As always READ ON.

Being a Clothes Horse Might Be a Crime

clothes4 Being a clothes horse might be a crime.

At least in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Yes it is true the clothes police really existed in history. As far back as the Roman and Greek empires, laws and enforcement of laws concerning what people wore (and ate and did in their “free time”) were in place. So it seems there is nothing that man cannot create which it will not try to regulate. We could have all just stayed naked I suppose…. Or maybe not.

These laws, known as sumptuary laws, were being used and changed and repealed for centuries but during the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries they were almost fanatical in their use. clothes3Although most of these laws were either repealed or impractical to enforce by the mid 16th century, their influence carried over into the period of exploration and colonization. The Puritans had very strict sumptuary laws in their settlement (and you thought they wore black to be practical).

So why these laws concerning what people wore (ate and did)? What purpose did they serve?

In truth they were not very practical at all, more or less they were a means to separate the classes. However, not every sumptuary law was strictly an “I am better than you, look at what I wear law” so I will address this use of the laws first.

Industry during the 15th century was very limited. Most everything was “cottage” industry meaning individuals or very small groups would create the products that would eventually end up in markets. clothes7The crafts men and women, in time would form guilds to protect themselves, relied heavily on the ruling class to protect their markets from competition. Sumptuary laws served this purpose. By restricting what materials could be imported and used in a kingdom, many items could only be bought if made in the homeland. Gives a whole new twist to “made in…” doesn’t it.

So what did this kind of sumptuary law have to do with clothing? For a very long while cloth made of cotton as well as silks and velvets had been available for use in clothes making, but some nations,clothes6 England being one of them, refused to allow the import and use of these fabrics so as to protect their wool industry which was a huge part of the economy. Thus for many people clothing was made of either wool or flax (linen) and fashion was a little more limited. With the refinement of manufacturing of cloth better clothes were developed and fashion opened up.

A second, if far less practical (or not considering the times and societal structure) reason was to distinguish between the social classes. Fashion, while it changed as fast as it does in modern times, often only varied slightly in style between the nobility and everyone else. There were hardly designer labels in the Renaissance so the only way to tell the higher classes from the working classes was through the use of fabric types and amounts.

The upper classes often used silks, velvet, lawn, freize, satin, brocade, taffeta, scarlet and damask became popular in 1415. The creation of fuller sleeves and broader skirts appeared in the fashions of refined women.clothes8

The lower classes and working classes still were regulated to using linen, wool, flannel, russet, canvas and serge and for the practical purpose their clothing served material was minimal with tighter sleeves and trimmer dress.

In contradiction to the general population and use of sumptuary laws smaller societal groups, usually religious groups, used sumptuary laws to reduce potential “class warfare” (yah go figure in a time of nothing but class differentiation). However these laws were usually limited to internal controls and applied only when one was within the group.clothes2 The Jewish people especially used sumptuary laws so as not to make other Jewish members of society envious but likely also to simply keep a lower profile in general society where sentiment was not always favorable.

Examples of sumptuary laws are many but one that always struck me as ‘odd” was the one which prevented anyone from wearing “Fur” (no specified species of donor for that fur) who didn’t have an annual income of at least 100 L , which was probably like a million dollars in today’s accounting. clothes9The reason for this was people did get permission to hunt small game so rabbit fur was readily available and hides from live stock might have constituted “fur” if some over lord wanted to be a jerk about it. Still laws such as these came and went.

Then certainly as trade routes opened and the merchant class (middle class) began to gain in wealth through trade these laws became harder to enforce when their purpose was to separate the classes. With the influx of new materials and fashion crossing boarders sumptuary laws which mandated clothing wear waxed and waned until they simply disappeared in the middle 16th century. clothes5The carry over that was seen in the Puritan Colonies was more likely a matter of religious views which equated luxury with idleness that the non availability of cloth.

For sure the varying sumptuary laws regarding clothing caused some problematic issues for people who wished to have more choice in what they wore but they also gave people the chance to learn how to make clothing they did have last. One thing people of the time managed to come up with… underwear. clothes99Not like the bra, panties, boxers and briefs we have now but with the use of material which could not be easily laundered such as wool and silk the development of more elaborate shifts, shirts and leggings made of linen and cotton happened.

Fashion in the middle ages and renaissance was a high priority, especially for the nobility and the new wealthy merchant class. Fashion was a statement of having made it having “arrived” in fact it was very little different then than now. Laws regarding what people could or could not wear helped make those statements more meaningful. Clothing could mean the difference between respect and disrespect, between being able to socialize with those who could advance a person even further or being friends only with others of the same social status.

Hummmm has much really changed?

Hope you enjoyed this little fact and that you now are in a mood for a shopping trip, if not just settle in and READ ON!