|Katherine Seymour, Countess of Hertford, with her son Edward, c.1563|
Muckinder is a wonderful word for what was basically a cloth to clean children’s faces and hands. Recent costume historians have described it variously, it appears in several of Cunnington’s works
(1965), (1970), and (1972), as well as in Anne
Buck’s work on children’s clothes (1996) and most recently in
the Tudor Child. (Huggett, 2013) According to the online Oxford English
Dictionary it appears from around 1420 as a mokedour or mokedore, when it seems
to indicate simply a handkerchief. The spelling had changed by the early
sixteenth century when it becomes more closely associated with children, as in,
“mockendar for chyldre.” (Palsgrave, J., Lesclarcissement, 1530)
In Peter Erondell’s The French Garden
(St. Clare Byrne, 1949) there is a dialogue in the form of a mother speaking to the
nurse of a still partially swaddled child. It goes through undressing and
dressing the child. After his biggin (cap), band (collar), petticoat, coat,
sleeves, and bib are put on the nurse is enjoined, “Let him have his gathered
apron with strings, and hang a muckinder to it.”
Huggett and Mikhaila (2013) analysing images of children suggest that boys had muckinders more commonly than girls, probably because the girls continued to wear aprons. Boys ceased to wear aprons by about the age of about three, but still needed something to clean their face and hands. “One must wipe his mouth with a Muckinder.”
An early depiction of one of these cloths hanging from a boy’s belt appears in the 1504 St Paul’s altarpiece at Augsburg. This is by Hans Holbein the Elder, and the bottom right hand corner of the left portion of the triptych shows two boys, believed to be Holbien’s sons, one of whom clearly has a muckinder hanging from his belt.
A later example shown above right is seen in Katherine Seymour, Countess of Hertford, the younger sister of Lady Jane Grey, with her son Edward. As Edward was born in 1561 the painting is dated to c.1563. The muckinder is again hung from his waist and is of white linen with a border across the bottom, and some form of edging which is difficult to see. The decoration is most likely blackwork, compare it to this handkerchief of 1600-1620 in the Glasgow Museums collection, but woven towels of this period also have borders, as in this example in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Muckinders continue to be worn in this way until the mid seventeenth century. There is a portrait of William, Lord Petrie at the age of 6, with a lace edged muckinder hanging from his waist, unfortunately I cannot find an online image of it, but in appears, in black and white, in Buck (1996)
Buck, A. 1996. Clothes and the child. Carlton : Ruth Bean, 1996.Cunnington, C. W. and P. 1970. Handbook of English Costume in the 16th century. London : Faber, 1970.
—. 1972. Handbook of English costume in the seventeenth century. 3rd ed. London : Faber, 1972.Cunnington, P and Buck, A. 1965. Children's costume in England 1300-1900. London : Black, 1965.
Huggett, J. and Mikhaila, N. 2013. The Tudor Child. Lightwater : Fat Goose, 2013.Middleton, Thomas. 1607. A trick to catch the old one. 1607.
St. Clare Byrne, M. ed. 1949. The Elizabethan Home Discovered in Two Dialogues by Claudius Hollyband and Peter Erondell. . London : Methuen, 1949.