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21.08.10 Schuessler Bond, Dressing the Scottish Court, 1543-1553

21.08.10 Schuessler Bond, Dressing the Scottish Court, 1543-1553

Scholars of early Scotland have long been grateful to James Balfour Paul, Thomas Dickson, C. T. McInnes and A. L. Murray for their 13-volume edition of the Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland (1877-1978), which covers the period 1473 to 1580. The editors preserved the Older Scots of the original records and, for each volume, provided a helpful introductory essay, glossary (essential before the days of the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue [DOST]), and a full index, the latter enabling searches by name or subject (including clothing and accessories). The originals having suffered various losses, the Accounts could not tell the full story; Balfour Paul, editor of the volumes covering Schuessler Bond's period of interest, added to those early lacunae by omitting material he regarded as repetitive.

In her introduction to Dressing the Scottish Court, author Melanie Schuessler Bond discusses the deficiencies of Balfour Paul's text for the clothing scholar: his failure to note omissions, including clothing items; inaccuracies of transcription; and his "military and political" (2) emphases. Schuessler Bond's aim to be inclusive and more rigorous in "making the rich material in the Accounts available in a form that is useful to those focused on the study of dress" (4) is borne out; she notes when a manuscript portion is missing, and includes what Balfour Paul has omitted; for instance (153), Arran's gift of white silk ribbons to the gentlemen of the Merse and Teviotdale in 1545. She also points to the modern reader's difficulties with orthography and specialist terms, attempting to remedy these by providing English translations of Accounts entries and other primary sources quoted. Schuessler Bond has selected the ten-year regency of James Hamilton, second earl of Arran, who acted for the infant Mary from 1543 to 1553, the clothing accounts considered pertain to Arran himself; high status men and boys of that court; high status women and girls of that court (including Arran's family or dependents); personal and household servants; and miscellaneous servants.

An introduction briefly discusses various themes: "Political and Cultural Context" (6-7), "Sumptuary Laws in Scotland" (7-11), and "Self-fashioning, Theatricality and Rhetoric in Clothing" (11-14). The sumptuary laws of 1429/39, 1448, 1457/58 and 1471 are illustrated by quotations from Scottish poetry of the early 1500s and late 1530, the largeish time difference perhaps serving to point out the continuity of community attitude? Accompanying English translations are not always helpful. The argument about women's illegal face coverings (9-10) is obscured. David Lyndsay's remark, "That none may knaw, I you assure, / Ane honest woman be ane hure' is translated, with little sense: 'That none may know… / An honest woman is a whore." Readers might better construe the quotation as a distinction that Lyndsay is drawing (see DOST, Be, prep. and conj., sense 3.f); he is saying that when a face is covered, "…none may distinguish…An honest woman from a prostitute." Poem title and line numbers (Ane Supplicatioun…in Contemptioun of Syde Taillis, 131-32), are lacking here; also sometimes elsewhere. Had Schuessler Bond provided this information, the dependance on a particular edition (here David Laing's of 1879, which, when cited, has the unhelpful form, "Lyndsay, Works"), might not have been necessary.

The introduction also provides essential information about the text: a helpful explanation of the Accounts as a record of the system of warrants (21); attention to coinage and fabric measurements (21-22, and "Notes on Fabric" [16-19]). These usefully list the names and relative monetary values of cloth of different kinds. Explanatory notes on the most unfamiliar fabrics could have been inserted here, though some appear later in the glossary at the back. The noted rarity of the first-listed, "camlet," is part-explained when we know that it is a dress fabric of eastern origin (see DOST, Camlet(t, Camblet(t, n.); and the queried "?grance (or grauce)" is likely to be the latter word, which appears in DOST under Tanny, adj., n., 2.b. "material of a brownish-grey colour," and further explained in the comparison with Old French gris tanné. Cotgrave's Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues (1611) does not reveal the type of fabric, but does suggest a dusky or tawny hue. In the glossary, the two forms, "grance" and "grauce" appear (unqueried) as "A type of wool cloth," unfortunately without a source noted. (Many other glossary entries enlighten; numerous Accounts entries containing the Scots word, "armosene," for example, are explained when we know that it is a type of taffeta. In contrast, for the parallel on-page English translation, the same word "armosene" is given.)

It is in the following parts that Schuessler Bond comes into her own, every page rich in information. The first part is of three chapters. In chapter 1, "Men's Garments," there are sections on night gowns, coats, cassocks, doublets, hose, breeks, shirts, night kerchiefs, belts and garters, points and more. In the section on the outermost layer of men's clothing, the gown (29-36), readers learn that this garment was generally worn only by the higher classes; how it was made; the materials and amounts used; and of special types of gown. The frequency of reference to the gown in the Accounts is recorded, as well as its popularity beyond Scotland. In other sections, Schuessler Bond shares many tiny details--that matching of men's cloaks and coats was a common practice, for example (45); or that socks were usually made of buckram (a fine linen or cotton fabric) and worn with boots for riding (72)--invaluable for the interpretation of other kinds of contemporary record, such as diary entries or merchants' ledgers.

Chapter 2, "Women's Garments," begins with discussions of the clothing in paintings slightly earlier than, or of the period of interest: the puzzle-portrait thought to be of Margaret Tudor and a nobleman, either John Stewart, Duke of Albany or Henry Stewart, first lord Methven (National Galleries of Scotland, PGL 2379); the 1539 Hardwick Hall portrait of Marie de Guise; and Willem Key's 1551 portrait of Lady Helen Leslie, wife of Mark Kerr. Schuessler Bond's attention to particular items of clothing depicted in these paintings helps readers to visualize them in the later sections, and her references to English, French, and continental paintings build a context for the Scottish Accounts material. As for men, discussions of women's garments begin with the gown. A paragraph about sewing silk--how it was used, the colours, and the word often associated with it, "styk" or "steik," opens just one of so many hitherto unnoticed clusters of interest (92). To the verb, with the sense "to fasten by stitching," might be added the noun, "steke," meaning "a quantity," as in the 1547 Accounts reference, "ane steik of unwatterit champlat." Other sections are devoted to night gowns, kirtles, wyliecoats, doublets, cloaks, skirts and sleeves, partlets, undergarments, hose, footwear, headwear. That on hoods, well illustrated, is particularly interesting, dealing with the choices and amounts of fabric in their making, and what they implied. The "wardegard" or "wairdegart" (104-05), described as "a safeguard...worn while riding to protect the lower garments," does not appear to equate with DOST's description, "A receptacle for clothes," which makes better sense of the accompanying quotations from the Accounts. The association of the "vasquine" with the "farthingale" or hooped petticoat, cites Cotgrave's entry for "Vasquine," but the dictionary more precisely links the garment with the "Spanish vardingale" (apparently an overskirt worn with an unstiffened bodice), not the Spanish "verdugado." The link to the English and French hooped petticoat or farthingale (thus also to the reference in the untitled Scottish poem quoted) therefore is not secure. (DOST's entry for vasquine, it should be noted, does not mention the farthingale.) This valuable chapter opens up many such queries. Even accessories, such as mufflers, tippets, combs, pins, and knives (as eating implements), are included, the sometimes decorative appearance of the latter marking them as items owned by the wealthy only.

The next chapter (3) is devoted to "Specialty Garments." The excellent section on military clothing, (jack, harness doublet, sleeves and gloves of plate) could have been accompanied by poetic illustrations, such as Dunbar's reference to "iakis [jacks]" in "Doverrit with dreme," 39; or to Lyndsay's amusing reference to the inept opponents' misuse of gauntlets in The Justing betwix Watsoun and Barbour, 58, "With gluifis of plait thay dang at utheris facis." Schuessler Bond's study of the comparative costs of wedding garments provided to relatives of Regent Arran is instructive; equally so her attention to mourning clothes, in which she notes Arran's grants on the death of Marie de Guise's father, and at the death of her husband James V. Livery has received little direct study (136-141), explaining how this was bestowed, to whom, and when linked to heraldry, well worthwhile. The chapter also gathers from the Accounts information on the transportation and cleaning of clothing.

The five chapters of Part II, "Wardrobe Biographies," look at the individuals who received items of clothing recorded in the Accounts. In-depth commentary precedes the relevant records from the Accounts themselves, the result providing new ways to understand the interactions of particular people at the regent's court. Arran's clothing, found to be comparable only to other heads of state, occupies the first long chapter, his personal and politically motivated gifts of clothing also noted. Two "wardrobe summaries" of Arran's clothing are appended, the first chronological, recording when Arran acquired each item; the second by type of item, so that, for example, a researcher can easily learn how many coats or shirts Arran owned. (These wardrobe summaries are also provided for other important figures, including Arran's eldest son; James Hamilton, eldest legitimate son of Arran's half-brother, Lady Margaret Douglas, Arran's wife, and Arran's daughter, Barbara Hamilton.)

The next two chapters (5 and 6) concern the clothing of various male and female relatives, and political associates, beginning with those closest to Arran--his illegitimate half-brothers James Hamilton of Sprouston and James Hamilton of Kinneil, and his wife, Margaret Douglas. Those who know Alexander Cunningham, Master and later Earl of Glencairn, as the nobleman committed to radical church reform are made aware by Schuessler Bond that (until his divorce in 1545), as Arran's brother-in law he was the recipient of a few items of high-quality clothing (291). The clothing of Arran's daughters reveals their different roles, the youngest, Anne Hamilton, possibly reliant on hand-me-downs from her older sisters, but later, in the service of Marie de Guise, possessing clothing of great richness (459).

Servants' clothing in the Accounts, including the garments of Arran's personal servants (grooms of the chamber, pages), those at the clerical level, and those who served the household in a multitude of more active ways (cupbearers (sewers), keepers of castles, chaplains, porters, falconers, animal handlers, gunners, bakers, cooks, nurses, trumpeters, fools) occupies chapter 7. The quality of clothing each was issued reflects their status in a way that might be a useful indicator to a researcher with other specialist interests. Some servants received only mourning clothes (570). In other cases, career continuity is revealed by clothing grants: Malcolm (Macke) Gourlay, for example, began as James V's household tailor, expanding his activities as he won the trust of Arran (541-542), but his clothing grants remained modest throughout. By contrast the career of Roberrt Gourlay, a groom of the chamber and wardrobe, is of increasing responsibility; by the early 1550s he had need of a horse to carry out Arran's business, his role had expanded to include care of bed linens and sometimes vestments, and his clothing was of good quality (542-543).

Schuessler Bond gathers other servants, such as those of Arran's wife, and children, in a final chapter. They are treated similarly; it is possible, for example, to pinpoint the mixed status of Frenchman, Jacobus Narratius, tutor to Arran's eldest daughter and her husband. His clothes were an odd combination of good quality and cheap (621; see also 631). Earlier chapters noted servants of James V and how they continued at court under Arran. This chapter has details of others, including James Aytoun, keeper of the king's dogs (637), and the daughter of Helen Ross, bookbinder during James V's reign (640-641).

Of the four appendices, the first, a sample document authorizing expenditure, is of interest, although as Schuessler Bond notes, it is available in John Harrison's The Wardrobe Inventories of James V, published online for Historic Scotland's major project on Stirling Castle Palace, Archaeological and Historical Research 2004-2008. The second is a family record more difficult to obtain, "a receipt of sorts" (657) from the papers of the Lindsays of Dowhill, NRS GD254/625, pertaining to Margaret Douglas's wardrobe. Next is some early sumptuary legislation, 1429/30, 1457/58 and 1471. As is noted, these texts are readily available, with translations, on the Records of the Parliaments of Scotland database. References to Scottish Poetry. Appendix 4 is the most problematic. Poems are presented out of chronological order, and the editions used are mostly nineteenth century, in which the accuracy of the text, vital if poetic references to clothing are to be truly useful, is not always guaranteed. In the case of Dunbar, in particular, this is a great pity; there is an excellent recent edition by Priscilla Bawcutt. References might have been made to it much more economically. A glossary is needed to understand fully these Accounts entries. This one is sometimes limited, as observed earlier, and could also have been expanded. Why not include, for instance, the term "rubbur," in the collocation "sponge and ane Rubbur," found in a record of April 1545 [127] (166)? DOST glosses enlighteningly as "A brush or cloth, used for rubbing in order to clean, polish, etc." whereas the English translation adjacent here is the confined to an unhelpful "rubber." A Bibliography cites Manuscript and Printed references--the Accounts, oddly, not as fully described as in note 8 (2). Indexes: General; People and Professionsand; Record Numbers, give good coverage.

This is a wonderful book, with much to offer scholars from a wide variety of disciplines, not just of clothing and textiles, but of language, literature, social and economic history, and material objects. We must be extremely grateful to Professor Schuessler Bond for demonstrating what the Accounts can reveal.