the French Hood: Tudor-Era Headgear part I

It occurred to me that Halloween is encroaching rapidly and if you’re like me, you’d prefer to dress in period costume! Well, I know we all didn’t spend WAY too many duckets on an 18 inch-high Marie Antoinette wig.

Okay, fine…Halloween wasn’t my inspiration. It was all that kokoshnik-talk from a couple of weeks ago. Remember how the traditional peasant kokoshnik was likened to the French hood? Well here We are…and so are you.

The French, English and “gabled” hoods were fashionable in Western Europe in the sixteenth century, especially in England and France (Duh. Wait! No duh…if it weren’t for ridiculous misnomers this stuff wouldn’t have to be clarified.) Both were made from stiff fabrics, often adorned around the edges, and hid the back of the hair with a veil or a snood. (Keep your pants on, we’ll get to the snood. In the meantime, just laugh at the name. I will…) But let’s start simple with the French hood…it’s Monday, after all.

The French hood is characterized by its rounded shape. It is similar to the Russian kokoshnik, but that’s just one of those happy coincidences I suppose. Unlike the Russian peasant kokoshnik, the front part of the hair was always visible in Tudor England, the neck more often exposed and the shape of the headdress’ shape evolved from from horse-shoe in shape, covering the ears to more of a waning crescent moon, worn a bit further back on the head. Introduced to the French court by Anne of Brittany. (Anne of Brittany is really fascinating. She was the Duchess of Brittany in her own right, first married to a Holy Roman Emperor and then to two French Kings.)

six queens wearing the French hood: Anne of Brittany, (clockwise from top-right) Anne Boleyn, then-Princess Mary Tudor, possible watercolor of Katherine Howard, then-Princess Elizabeth Tudor, "verified" portrait of fifith wife Katherine Howard

Five queens wearing the French hood, pioneered by Anne of Brittany. This half-halo caught on in England and became all the rage, especially among the ladies most royal of Henry VIII. (Clockwise from top) second wife Anne Boleyn; then-Princess “Bloody” Mary Tudor; possible watercolor of Katherine Howard, then-Princess Elizabeth Tudor, “verified” portrait of fifth wife Katherine Howard

The French hood was introduced to England primarily by Anne Boleyn, who had been raised in France. As a result, the hoods were referred to as being “in the French style” thus the evolution of the name. (More ‘duh’ anyone?) To nobody’s surprise, the French hood was rejected by Anne’s successor, Jane Seymour, under whom the English hood returned to vogue at Henry VIII’s court. After her death, the French hood became the headgear of choice at Hampton Court anew.  It was also championed by Anne Boleyn’s cousin and fellow ill-fated wife of Henry VIII, Katherine Howard.

I look at both the watercolor and the painted miniature of Katherine Howard with a bit of doubt…for years it was believed that no image of adulterous Queen Katherine existed. Supposedly the far-left picture has been “verified” vis-a-vis the necklace she’s wearing which supposedly matches one listed in her personal jewels by court officials. (I dunno, still not convinced. This is information found on Wikipedia…)

The court of Versailles was not the only one to tie politics up with fashion. It wasn’t the first and I doubt it will be the last.  Whichever of the two hoods was en vogue was dictated primarily by Henry VIII’s current queen. Just like Marie Antoinette’s love of the repugnant hue of puce, everyone clamored to wear whichever shape hood the Queen of England was wearing. So what was everyone wearing when Catherine of Aragon and Jane Seymour were Queen Consorts? Its not as elegant but just as political. Hang tight for the English hood. It’s like wearing a birdhouse on your head! Yayyy…

About ♔ la dauphiine ♔

Connecticut-based jewelry monger, history buff, Mets fan. On the hum-drum side, call me a lauded poet, novelist and ghost-writer. (That's right, I haunt prose.)
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6 Responses to the French Hood: Tudor-Era Headgear part I

  1. J. G. Burdette says:

    I would have looked super silly in one of those!


  2. sammiwitch says:

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    Brightest Blessings


  3. Pingback: the English Hood: Tudor-Era Headgear part II « tiaras and trianon

  4. Pingback: the Flat hood: Tudor headgear III « tiaras and trianon

  5. Pingback: trivia ‘toinette #15: nobody ever drank anything from m@’s breasts | tiaras and trianon

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