Welsh costume in the 14th century

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Charles
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Welsh costume in the 14th century

Postby Charles » Tue Jul 24, 2012 7:12 pm

One of the biggest question I have as an amateur historian and member of a living history group - Samhain Welsh Medieval Society - is the accuracy of costume. What did Welsh people dress like in the 14th century? In fact it goes beyond that and you can ask what Welsh folk wore during the Middle Ages?

I am reasonable certain that during the Middle Ages Welsh people could be recognized by the clothes and possible hair styles. Even by the 13th century when there are some descriptions of Welsh soldiers it is likely that visually Welsh were not too different from their English brothers and sisters. There may have been regional differences like in parts of England but since there seems to be growing evidence that the DNA of people in Britain was much the same then there would have been many different colours of hair and eyes and physical structure on both sides of the border. Would it be only when someone opened their mouths and started speak Welsh that an English person could recognize Welsh folk or could be that they dressed different.

I know in the area where I live there is evidence that Mercians controlled the area up until the Norman conquest of England and there is some evidence of Viking settlements. So the people would have been a mixed bunch even then. Evidence of English place-names being Cymricized before Domesday shows that certain areas where Welshified even peaceful or by taking back militarily. So I am pretty sure the Welsh of North East Wales were a rather mixed lot and so physically not so different from the English of, say, Cheshire. But guards at the gates of Chester must have been able to tell a Welsh person when they entered the town. Laws passed in the 14th and 15th century stated that Welsh people had to abide by certain rules when entering Chester, and probably other places in England or the Marches. Therefore there must have been some way of recognizing Welsh people. But how did they do it?

When depicting the period we re-enact we do tend to look much like any other 14th century re-enactors. I'm sure many Welshmen would have served in the army in France and elswhere (you know, the usual thing - join the army to see the world and kill people [mainly French]) and so may have picked up style of dress similar to the English or French. But I would be interested to hear if anyone has any ideas about Welsh costume - primarily in the 14th century but also during the Middle Ages.
All the best,
Charles



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Fox
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Re: Welsh costume in the 14th century

Postby Fox » Wed Jul 25, 2012 9:45 am

I can tell you they didn't look like this:
[The Welsh, as depicted in the BBC's recent Richard II: The Hollow Crown]
Welsh.png


I know that's not helpful, but I made such a strange noise when I was watching it, that I needed to share the pain.



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Re: Welsh costume in the 14th century

Postby bilbobaglin » Wed Jul 25, 2012 9:51 am

Yes, noticed there were none of these chaps when Bolingbroke landed.



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Re: Welsh costume in the 14th century

Postby Dave B » Wed Jul 25, 2012 10:49 am

Fox wrote:I can tell you they didn't look like this:
[The Welsh, as depicted in the BBC's recent Richard II: The Hollow Crown]
I know that's not helpful, but I made such a strange noise when I was watching it, that I needed to share the pain.


I was just thinking of that - I don't mind saying that some of the wine I was drinking came out of my nose when they came on screen.


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Re: Welsh costume in the 14th century

Postby Cap-a-pie » Wed Jul 25, 2012 11:04 pm

please tell me that is not a tuft of sheeps wool on that guys head


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Re: Welsh costume in the 14th century

Postby Fox » Thu Jul 26, 2012 6:10 am

Alas it was some kind of fur.



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Re: Welsh costume in the 14th century

Postby Simon Atford » Thu Jul 26, 2012 8:55 am

Fox wrote:I can tell you they didn't look like this:
[The Welsh, as depicted in the BBC's recent Richard II: The Hollow Crown]
Welsh.png


I know that's not helpful, but I made such a strange noise when I was watching it, that I needed to share the pain.


Shame really as some of the other costumes in Richard II were quite good with hoods and stuff.



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Re: Welsh costume in the 14th century

Postby Fox » Thu Jul 26, 2012 10:30 am

Simon Atford wrote:Shame really as some of the other costumes in Richard II were quite good with hoods and stuff.

It's bloomin' random, that's what it is.
I wish they'd either do proper historical costume, or modern costume, or contemporised period costume, or even full on fantasy costume. The apparently historical costume is quite frustrating.

We've agreed that we'll just ignore costume, and armour and other props for the whole series, because otherwise it's unwatchable and we have to stop the playback everytime a new character appears on screen.

Sometimes, we fail in this resolve.


And sorry for hijacking the thread. Anyone actually know anything about Welsh costume in the 14thC?



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Re: Welsh costume in the 14th century

Postby Charles » Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:26 pm

Glad I didn't see the TV drama - I'd have either thrown something at the tellie or laughed myself thill I wet the chair.



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Re: Welsh costume in the 14th century

Postby Simon Atford » Thu Jul 26, 2012 6:01 pm

Fox wrote:
Simon Atford wrote:Shame really as some of the other costumes in Richard II were quite good with hoods and stuff.

It's bloomin' random, that's what it is.
I wish they'd either do proper historical costume, or modern costume, or contemporised period costume, or even full on fantasy costume. The apparently historical costume is quite frustrating.

We've agreed that we'll just ignore costume, and armour and other props for the whole series, because otherwise it's unwatchable and we have to stop the playback everytime a new character appears on screen.

Sometimes, we fail in this resolve.


And sorry for hijacking the thread. Anyone actually know anything about Welsh costume in the 14thC?


Perhaps another thread? I'll start one...



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Re: Welsh costume in the 14th century

Postby Charles » Sun Jul 29, 2012 11:10 am

Hi All,
Am I presuming that no one has any answers concerning Welsh costume or the reason why, for example, a guard at an Anglo-Norman fortified town could tell a Welsh perosn from any other. There were rules for the fortified boroughs in Wales and elsewhere and one was that swords were to taken from Welshmen as they entered and they were only allowed to carry a small knife, the type used for eating food.
Maybe there is no answer and we don't have enough information but I still would like to see if anyone knows anything.
Best wishes,
Charles



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Re: Welsh costume in the 14th century

Postby Brother Ranulf » Thu Aug 02, 2012 7:05 am

I was waiting for someone to mention cyfraith hywel dda, but it seems our Welsh experts are away in the Maldives just now, or watching Bradley Wiggins . . .

Cyfraith hywel dda (the Laws of Hywel the Good) is just about the only illustrated Welsh document we have from the 13th/14th centuries. The exact date is in dispute, but the likelihood is it doesn't really make much difference as far as clothing styles are concerned. These laws were established much earlier (Hywel dda ap Cadell died in about 950) but were finally set out in this document which is illustrated with the entire range of Welsh social classes from manorial servant to king. The colours used (mainly green) should be treated with a degree of suspicion but some cotes are parti-coloured and all are belted with what may be cord rather than leather. The style of the drawings is naive but in general terms we can say that Welsh clothing at that time included a simple tunic/cote, belted at the waist; hair was long for men and women; women wore simple long dresses and footwear may have been worn or not (shoes are not indicated in any of the drawings).

Back in the 12th century Gerald of Wales wrote detailed descriptions of the appearance of Welsh people, including the son of a Prince who dressed in a simple tunic, went bare-legged and wore no shoes - just like every other level of Welsh society. Shoes were occasionally worn, made from rawhide. Shields at that time were very distinctive - round, unlike anything used in England. The heads and chins of men were often shaved, leaving only moustaches; women wore very distinctive long, white veils with folds made to stand up like a crown (again this sounds very distinctive and unlike anything seen in England at that time).

My feeling is that a Welshman approaching the gates of Shrewsbury would be known mainly by his language or his heavily accented English rather than by his clothing.

These are all from cyfraith hywel dda:

welsh king.jpg
Welsh king
welsh king.jpg (24.19 KiB) Viewed 6499 times


welsh woman.jpg
Welsh woman with bowl
welsh woman.jpg (21.25 KiB) Viewed 6499 times


welsh groom and blacksmith.jpg
Welsh groom and blacksmith


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Re: Welsh costume in the 14th century

Postby Henri De Ceredigion » Thu Aug 02, 2012 11:05 am

I agree, in fact I would be so bold as to say "It was the same as English people wore in the 14th century". As for not getting it right, I would like to think that this is more or less accurate

Last edited by Henri De Ceredigion on Thu Aug 02, 2012 4:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Fox
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Re: Welsh costume in the 14th century

Postby Fox » Thu Aug 02, 2012 11:15 am

So presumably Welsh people were recognised by accent and language?



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Re: Welsh costume in the 14th century

Postby Henri De Ceredigion » Thu Aug 02, 2012 4:50 pm

Language, almost certainly, it was the poets of Wales (especially those in Ceredigion) who kept the language alive.



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Re: Welsh costume in the 14th century

Postby Charles » Mon Aug 06, 2012 3:53 pm

The Laws pictures are probably 13th century but thanks for reminding me of them. I have a booklet that contains all the images from the Laws.

As for the language and accent I really don't know. I guess maybe we will never know for sure. Of course if stopped and questioned then it is likely, unless a person was deliberately entering an Anglo-Norman area for covert reasons, accents or the inability of speak English or French would be the way to tell if everyone dressed more or less the same. Guess we will have to go with that unless anyone as better ideas.

Thanks and best wishes,
Charles



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Re: Welsh costume in the 14th century

Postby House of De Clifford » Fri Dec 28, 2012 3:17 am

I can only add that in general, the quality of cloth used and the condition may also be an indicator. Prior to Edward I conquest, the real power base lay with the march lords, old Norman families and those who traded in luxury goods. Post conquest, most welsh were not permitted to trade within established markets within wales..keeping the economy firmly in English hands.. especially when considering the mass migration of English workers and tradesmen and their families during ths late 13/ early 14 centuries into Wales. Even as a free tenant, most Welsh men could find themselves being abused by new legal processes, ensuring that they were kept in their place.. the phrase "barefoot rascalls" springs to mind.
Dave.


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Re: Welsh costume in the 14th century

Postby Grymm » Sat Jan 05, 2013 10:33 pm

A bit early but Chapter House liber A circa 1295 has these two as Welsh Soldiers

Image

From a couple of years later a 'modernised' description of Welsh in Edward I's service

'in the very depth of winter they were running around barelegged. They wore a robe of red. They could not have been warm ... I never saw them wearing armour' and goes on to mention that linen was their cloth of choice.

Barbour talking about the Welsh at Bannockburn 'where'er they gied men might them ken, for they well near all naked were, or linen clothes had but mare.'

The 14thC descriptions of Welsh contingents at Crecy mention 'livery' short coats (courtepy) of green and white for the Prince's Welsh and Cheshire and Arundel's Welsh are in red and white.

The 'long knife' figures high in a few chronicles notibly Froissart where he mentions them being used to dispatch downed French donkey wallopers and another mentions that they were hung at the back of the belt giving the appearance of a tail!

Think there are some 15thC Welsh from Glendower's/Glyndŵr's rebellion done by yorkist toady John Rous


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Re: Welsh costume in the 14th century

Postby SaraSF » Wed Jun 19, 2013 3:14 pm

Just thought I'd drop in since I've come across a fantastic resource on Welsh 'fashion' (and, whether there was indeed such a thing), clothing, cloth, accessories in the Middle Ages. I am trying to learn more about this topic as part of my work, and have to say I have been completely gobsmacked by the sheer amount and variety of documentary evidence.

You can download the thesis on Clothing and Accessories here - for readers of Welsh only at the moment. One more reason to learn our beautiful language!

http://cadair.aber.ac.uk/dspace/handle/2160/499

It runs into the 100s of pages so I have strongly resisted the urge to translate it in my own time, though I do feel an English version could bust a few myths as perpetuated by the 'Hollow Crown' above. @fox - those are some pretty savage-looking Noble Savages! I'm going to be generous and assume they ran out of money and settled for a bag of synthetic pelts and some nostril-paint.

Another thesis, this time on references to weapons in the Hergerdd tradition (12-13thC), can be found here and, as above, is written in Welsh.

http://cadair.aber.ac.uk/dspace/handle/2160/4646 - I haven't read it yet but those who have tell me it's very thorough.

For those not lucky enough to be able to read Welsh, I thought i might be worth flagging up two web-based projects in development; one bringing together references to 'material culture' and architecture in the works of Guto'r Glyn - 15thC (http://www.gutorglyn.net/gutorglyn/index/ - launching end of 2013) and one exploring the works of our finest describer-of-clothes/gadabout/genius, Dafydd ap Gwilym - 14thC (http://www.dafyddapgwilym.net/index_eng.php).

Anyway, just thought I'd share - do let me know if you end up making something inspired by Welsh poetry, I would love to see interpretations of these things in the meatworld!




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