Subject: noble knight-nobleman
Culture: Valois French nobility
Setting: Wars of Religion, France mid-late 16thc
Context (Event Photos, Period Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* Arnold 2001 p186
"The next round of religious wars opened in France, where the unexpected death of Henry II in 1559 ushered in thirty-five years of royal weakness and internal strife. Henry's immediate successor, the teenaged Francis II, reigned for barely a year; he was succeeded by Henry's second son, the 10-year-old Charles IX. Henry's widowed queen, the shrewd and capable Florentine princess Catherine de' Medici, picked up the pieces and served as regent. She would continue to be a force at court long after Charles, an uninspiring and mentally suspect man, reached his majority. Catherine eventually rallied the royal cause in the name of her sons -- three would rule France -- but in the meantime a few crucial years had been lost to dynastic flux and confusion. France descended towards a complicated, many-sided civil war.
"The French crisis was in part purely political, as the most prominent and ambitious noble families of the realm jockeyed both with each other, and with the crown, for position and power. This competition would only intensify as it became clear that Catherine's three sons, the last Valois kings of France, would remain without legitimate issue. The struggle in France was also, of course, about religion. Calvinism had found many converts, particularly in the south and west, and also within some of the great noble houses. Faith and family therefore determined the factions. The most powerful Catholic party was that of the Guise; their rival-allies included the Montmorency. Several clans shared -- and squabbled over -- leadership of the French Protestants, or Huguenots. Among these men were Gaspard de Coligny and the Bourbon princes of Condé. The Valois remained staunchly Catholic, but Catherine de' Medici was profoundly -- and correctly -- suspicious of the Guise. She also rightly concluded that her own family had the most to lose by civil war, and so Catherine was often, but not always, one of the foremost promoters of settlement and peace. In January of 1562 she promoted a royal edict that granted Huguenots the right to worship openly.
"Toleration proved no solution to the French crisis, as a particularly provocative act of violence forced a civil war. On 1 March 1562 the armed entourage of the Duke of Guise massacred a Huguenot congregation discovered holding a service -- now perfectly legal -- in a barn outside the small town of Vassy. In response the Protestants of France rose in arms, and committed their own excesses: in late April, Lyons was pillaged with exceptional ferocity. Indeed, atrocity and counter-atrocity would be the steady, brutal pattern of the wars to come.
* Lester & Kerr 1967 p114-116
"The religious wars overshadowed France at this period (1560-1574), and had a gloomy effect upon all matters of dress. Charles IX openly professed his contempt for over-attention to dress, and during the first year of his reign sent out the royal edict: 'We forbid our subjects, whether men, women or children, to use on their clothes, whether silken or not, any bands of embroidery, stitchings or pipings of silk, guimp, etc., with which their garments or part thereof might be covered or embellished, excepting only a bordering of velvet or silk of the width of a finger, or at the most two borderings, chain stitchings or back stitchings at the edge of their garments.' He also forbade farthingales of more than one and on-half yards in width, gold chains, buttons, and all devices for ornamentation.
"As usual, however, Fashion continued to wield he scepter. The king might pass edict after edict, but it was of no avail. [...]
"When Henry III came to the throne in 1574 the gloom in France had by no means been lifted. Religious strife and bloodshed still made the atmosphere of Paris heavy. One would think that under such conditions fashion would step aside and give place to thoughts of more serious import. Generally speaking the national mood is reflected in the dress of the period; but at times extreme frivolity will flaunt itself in the face of disaster. Just such a condition in France attended the accession of Henry III.
"Instead of the simplicity which Charles IX tried to sustain, Henry of Valois set the pace for his nobles in the most eccentric extravagance of dress. Great was the luxury and license of the French nobility. The men and women vied with each other in the elegance of their dress to such an extent that the gentlemen became as feminine as possible in their attire, and their whims and absurdities were unbounded. They imitated the ladies in wearing not only necklaces, rings, and ear-rings, but also ruffs and rolls of artificial hair. They adopted the corset to give them slim waists, and the busked doublet (the doublet with boned front coming down to a point), which gradually evolved into the padded front, forming a pouch-like protuberance which imparted a grotesque appearance to the wearer. This fashion, however, did not last, possibly because it was clumsy, or still more likely, because it created a great deal of ridicule. It was in the latter part of this century that pockets were introduced in the trunk-hose, thus doing away with the pouch which had been in common use for six hundred years. The doublets, also called pourpoints, were usually open, revealing the most exquisite Venetian point. Fans were carried by these 'curled darlings' of society, and as a vanity of vanities they wore at night masks and gloves saturated with oils and pomades."
* Wilcox 1958 p94-95
"Under Charles IX, men's costumes changed slightly, the Spanish influence still dominating the mode in the padded or bombast style. The long-bodied, small-waisted pourpoint or doublet became really a corset. It had stiffening, a busk in center front and the skirt of the garment was short. Sleeves were still tight at the wrists and padded, but not full. The embroidered linen shirt was still worn with a turned-down collar showing above the neck of the doublet. Buttons fastened the doublet down center front. The newly invented watches were carried in the pockets inserted in the trunk hose. Pockets were also inserted in the doublet sleeves.
"Also worn were Venetians, which were breeches, full at the upper section of the leg, tying buttoning below the knee. The codpiece embroidered with gold thread and jewels was still seen, but in the 'seventies, began to disappear, to be entirely gone by the 'nineties.
"Gowns, cloaks and jerkins developed wings or shoulder puffs. An unusual jerkin worn by soldiers was the mandilion, short and wide with hanging sleeves, a garment which later became part of the livery. The short Spanish cape continued in fashion. An interesting note in men's costume is that after 1565, the long robe and the flat béret cap continued to be worn only by elderly men and city people, eventually becoming the uniform of professional classes.
"The soft crown of béret grew high over a wire foundation and a narrow rolled brim appeared. The hat was fashioned of velvet or silk with a small standing plume, the crown encircled by a cord or perhaps a jewelled band. This toque was adopted by both men and women. The hair was worn short, beards were cropped and pointed and mustaches were the style. Pearl earrings were worn by both sexes."
Rapier & Dagger