Sunday 12 January 2014

Clothing in the accounts of the Marquis of Hertford 1641-1642

William Seymour (1588-1660)

The accounts

The private purse accounts of the Marquis of Hertford from Michaelmas (29th September) 1641 to Michaelmas 1642, were published back in the 1940s (1). No analysis of the clothing items was made, apart from the comment that they constituted £210 3s 10d from a total bill of £1,167 15s 0d. Of the total amount over half, nearly £600, was disbursed in personal allowances, and a further £200 in gift and gratuities.  Teasing out the accounts shows that there were about 130 items that are clothing related and, although there are some references to the accounts in the Cunningtons’ handbook (2), no full examination has been made.

The family

William Seymour (1588 –1660), was Earl of Hertford, and was created Marquis of the same in June 1641. He was appointed governor to the Prince of Wales in August 1641, just before the accounts start. He became 2nd Duke of Somerset at the restoration. His second wife was Frances Devereux (1599 – 1674), who he married in 1617, this made him Essex’s brother-in-law, although they were on opposite sides in the Civil War.  He took the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York to join their father at York in the April of 1642, and appears to have had his son Robert with him, as Robert is given in the accounts five pounds “for his private occasions when he went to Yorke.”

The family was closely related to both the Tudor and Stuart dynasties. When his son Henry was sent to the Tower of London in April 1651 for his involvement in the western association, William remarked that the Tower was “a place entailed upon our famylie, for wee have now helde it five generations.” William had been held in the Tower himself after his marriage to his first wife, Arabella Stuart, a first cousin to King James. William’s father, Edward Seymour (1561–1612) had been born in the Tower when William’s grandfather, also Edward Seymour (1539?–1621), had married the Queen Elizabeth’s cousin Katherine Grey. His father, another Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (c.1500–1552), had been executed on Tower Hill. (3)

Van Dyck 1637 - Five children of Charles I
The household consisted of William and Frances and their seven children. Two of the children are actually young adults and three are teenagers, so only two are really children. They are referred to throughout collectively as the young lords and the young ladies, and individually by name. Their ages, garnered from a selection of sources and not necessarily correct as there is a lot uncertainty about birth years (4) , should have been much as follows: Lady Frances – 22, Lord William -20 (he died sometime during the year), Lord Robert -19 (he succeeded to his brother’s title of Lord Beauchamp), Lord Henry – 15, Lady Mary – 13, Lord John – 8, and Lady Jane – 4. (4) The famous painting by Van Dyck of King Charles I's five children was painted in 1637, and the two eldest, Prince Charles, aged 7 and Princess Mary, aged 5, correspond with the sort of thing Lord John and Lady Jane would have been wearing.

Clothing and textiles in the accounts – overview and providers

The majority of the items bought are for the children and not for their parents, though some items are marked for “my Lord”, presumably William himself. Also a considerable amount of cloth is bought without being listed for anyone in particular. It may be  that other clothes came from other accounts and this should not be taken as all the clothing for the family. Some providers are named, but not all. There are some references just to “the shoemaker”, but three shoemakers are mentioned by name: Reeves, Harris and Strangwaies. Some of the gloves and stockings are provided by the aptly named Elizabeth (Bess) Gauntlett. Frauncis Bolton and Robert Hill provide bone (bobbin) lace. Mr Gosse makes suits for Lady Francis and Lady Mary, and Clement Smith and Mr Hill (possibly the Robert Hill mentioned before) provide them both with bodies. Mr. Patie receives 17s 11d for “washing my lord's linen at Windsor”, the only indication of laundry being when Hertford was away from his own estates.

Underwear and other linens – smocks, shirts, drawers, aprons, etc.

Large quantities of holland are purchased and earmarked for underwear. The holland ranges from 5s to 12s the ell although “fine holland to make handkerchiefs” is listed at 9s 6d an ell. All the holland is listed by the ell, a measure that in England was 45 inches. (5) Lady Francis and Lady Mary receive 22½ ells of holland for smocks at 6s the ell, while the two youngest children Lord John and Lady Jean receive 14¼ ells of Holland at 5s the ell for shirts and smocks, cushion clothes and socks. More holland is bought for aprons, handkerchiefs and for “my Lord” there are 10 ells of holland to make 6 pairs of drawers, and a further 6 ells of more expensive holland to make 3 waistcoats. Pepys speaks of lying around “in my drawers and stockings and wastecoate till five of the clock.” (6) The drawers may have been like the later 17th century ones worn by the funeral effigy of Charles II. (7)

At least some of the shirts were trimmed with lace, 10 ells of bonelace at 7s the ell  is purchased for 6 half shirts for Lord Henry, and a further 3¼ yards of lace at 10s per yard is bought for shirts and boothose for Lord Robert. Again 3¼ yards of lace costing a total of 42s 3d, is purchased to make him [Lord Robert] shirts and boothose, and Lord Henry receives 4 yards of bonelace for three pair of boothose at a total cost of 28s 9d. It would appear that each boothose was 24 inches around at the top. We do not know, as it is not specified, what material the boothose was made from. A pair of surviving boothose, from the 1640s in the Victoria and Albert Museum, are actually knitted and show the extreme size the tops could reach.

Further holland, a total of 12¾ ells, is purchased for aprons for the young ladies, and another 2s 1d is spent on “tape for apron strings.” Another item of underwear is also listed for the young ladies, they received 17 yards of white flannel at 20d the yard to make under petticoats. The total cost of this is given as 33s 4d (this is wrong it should be 28s 4d.)

Handkerchiefs and neckerchiefs

Handkerchiefs may not necessarily have been handkerchiefs; they could have been worn around the neck. There is a discussion in the examination of a plain linen square now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, which quotes the Verney accounts and the possible distinction inherent in, “5 handkerchers...2 pocket handkerchers.” (8)  The 2½ ells of “fine holland to make handkerchiefs” purchased for “my Lord” may well have been handkerchiefs, and handkerchief buttons were also purchased for him. Buttoned handkerchiefs were in fashion. Lady Francis’s “tiffiny gorgett handkercher and cuffs” at 10s is however more likely to be for her neck. Tiffany is a thin, transparent silk. (9) Both Lady Francis and Lady Mary receive more: 3 yards tiffany for handkerchers at 2s 8d the yard, and 1¼ yard for cuffs at 3s 3d with 3 ounces of thread to make this work 3s.” Matched sets of this type rarely survive though they can be seen in portraits such as Rembrandt’s 1639 portrait of Maria Trip. There is a linen set dating from 1630-50 in the Victoria and Albert Museum, the lace of which Jenny Tiramani considers is English. (10) Such handkerchiefs were starched, 4 “laced round hancherchers” for Lady Francis and Lady Mary cost 8s, a further 4s was paid for starching them.

Caps and hoods, masks and chin clouts
Hollar's 1643 winter - wearing hood, mask & chin clout

More holland is bought for caps. For Lady Mary there are 2 holland caps costing 8s, and for Lady Jane 8 holland caps, “and for holland and making at 4s the piece - 32s” The young ladies also received a hood each with no material listed, but costing 2s 4d each. Lady Jane got 2 white sarcenet hoods at 3s 6d each, and Lady Francis 2 black taffeta hoods also at 3s 6d each. Wenceslaus Hollar often engraved women wearing such hoods. Their father and brothers on the other hand got caps. “My Lord” received a satin cap costing 5s and a leather cap costing 2s. Lord Beauchamp received a cap, material unspecified at 4s 6d, and a leather cap costing 2s 6d, whilst his youngest brother Lord John had 2 black satin caps at 13s. These would appear to be plain caps which tend not to survive, unlike the elaborately embroidered caps which can be found in the collections of many museums, as in this example in the Victoria and Albert Museum.  The ladies also receive masks the young ladies costing 1s 6d each, such masks were commonly worn by ladies to protect their faces from sun or weather. An example that survives is listed in the Portable Antiquities Scheme database. Chin clouts, these are cloths worn to cover the chin when out of doors, are also purchased for the sum of 5s 2d.  


Gloves are one of the standout points of the accounts. Surviving gloves from the period tend to have elaborately embroidered gauntlets, such as those in the collection of the Worshipful Company of Glovers, but the gloves in the accounts are bought in large numbers, and may well have been plain, as worn in this painting.  There are eight orders for gloves, the largest order is for “5 dozen & 10 (that is 70) paire of gloves £2 9s 8d”, which works out at just under 8½d each. This price accords well with the gloves appearing in the 1642 inventory of William Mackerrell, a chapman, who had 99 pairs of gloves in stock worth less than £1 10s 0d. (11) There is a further order in the accounts for 43 pairs at £2 4s 0d. The larger order is for “the young ladies” and the smaller for the “young ladies and Lord John.” Two dozen are ordered for 22s, and a further five orders do not mention the quantities involved.  This means that at the very least 150 pairs of gloves were ordered over the course of a year for the seven children.  There is no indication of what material they are made from, the inclination is to say they must be leather, but knitted gloves are certainly around at this time, as in this example in the Museum of London.  Patterns taken from a pair of surviving linen gloves and a pair of surviving leather gloves show that the style and construction are very similar. (8)           


Boothose have already been mentioned, but both linen and worsted stockings also appear in the accounts. For Lord John 4 pair of linen stockings cost 10s and 2 pair of worsted 3s 6d. A pair of linen stockings from this period survives, they are in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and have a very subtle silk decoration at the ankle and back seam. A single pair of stockings for Lord Robert cost 5s 6d. Surprisingly no stockings were bought for the young ladies, so their provision may have come from another account, or out of the monies they received personally.


Boots and shoes

There are eleven orders for shoes and boots, again the numbers are rarely mentioned but Lady Francis received in one order 12 pairs of shoes for 34s 8d and her sister Lady Mary 11 pairs of shoes for 25s 4d. The young lords receive boots rather than shoes, and their father is seen receiving boots on three occasions, two pair of boots for 35s, a pair of boots and a pair of shoes for 25s, and five pairs of boots for £6. Lord Harry received a pair of waxed boots for 18s 6d. With the accounts for boot hose it is to be assumed that at least some of these boots where of the “bucket top” variety, as seen here being worn by William’s brother in law, the Earl of Essex. The total may seem to be high but the LeStrange accounts for the period 1610-1625 for a slightly smaller, slightly less wealthy family show an average of 23 pairs of boots and shoes being purchased each year. (11)

Pairs of bodies

A pair of bodies is an item which later, in the eighteenth century, is referred to as stays, and in the nineteenth century as a corset. Such garments rarely survive. Janet Arnold wrote about, and took a pattern from, the 1603 pair that are on Queen Elizabeth I’s effigy in Westminster Abbey (13), and the pink silk pair in the Victoria and Albert Museum, that date from 1660-1680, are examined in North and Tiramani (10). Three pairs of bodies are purchased in the Hertford accounts. Those bought on two occasions for Lady Francis cost £3 each, one pair coming from Mr. Hill. The pair bought for her youngest sister Lady Jane, who was only four, cost 5s 6d and came from Clement Smith. Jane’s bodies were probably lighter and less boned, more like the “little fustian bodies” that Elizabeth Hatton wrote in 1670 that her children wore (14) , though Lady Anne Clifford remarks of a three year old girl that “the 28th was the first time the child put on a pair of whalebone bodies.” (15) Bodies are not bought just for the ladies, Lord Beauchamp also has a pair of bodies costing £5, though what precisely was meant by this we don’t know.

Main garments

Mr Gosse is paid for making garments for the three young ladies, in each case he is paid for providing the canvas stiffening silk, and for making. The purchase of fabric appears separately.  For Lady Francis there are two outfits, a “suit of black wrought satin”, and a “serged boys suite.” Lady Francis is obviously still growing as Mr Gosse is also paid 5s 6d  “for taby to make longer the pincke coloured petticoat and for silke.” Lady Mary also receives two suits, one of which is of wrought satin. The charges for the two older girls range from 28s 6d to 30s, while their younger sister, Lady Jane, gets two “coats” at 15s 8d each. The making of the outfits is listed immediately after the purchase of a considerable amount of fabric. The colours mentioned are black, grey, sage and scarlet, and the prices range from 5s the yard for narrow taffeta to 32s the yard for superfine black, Italian gray and ratteen (ratiné). There is serge in both sage coloured (12 yards) and scarlet “bowdye” (3⅜ yards) which was presumably used for Lady Francis’s boy’s suit. For her other outfit there is 16 yards of black wrought satin at 14s the yard. What the other fabrics, which include velvet, sarcenet, plush and taffeta, were used for we do not know.

There are only two mentions of major clothing items for the young lords. Clem Smith is paid for making a suit of Lord John. Lord Robert receives “a cordevant waiscott” that is a cordovan leather waistcoat, costing 15s. The only other clothes mentioned are not for the family. Two clerks of the spicery received 9¾ yards of black satin at 15s 6d the yard for three doublets.         

Ribbons and bonelace

Quite a lot of ribbon and bone lace is purchased without any indication what it is used for. Taffeta ribbon costs between 2d and 6d the yard, satin ribbon is 10d the yard, while gold and silver ribbon is 3s the yard. Bobbin lace is more expensive, running from 2s to 15s the yard. Some cheap edging laces were attached to a letter from Elizabeth Isham (1609-1654) to her father, these cost only between 2d and 10d a yard, but were very simple. (16)

Bosse 1636 Gallerie du Palais Royale
The sort of items bought in these accounts are typical of a rich family of the time. It gives a snapshot, but does not contain all of the clothing that would have been purchased, though it does include most of the accessories. In London such items could be purchased at the Royal Exchange, and in Paris at the Palais Royal. Bosse’s image of the Gallerie du Palais Royale gives an inkling of what was available, and many items equating to those appearing in these accounts can be seen. Time to play I –spy.


1. Morgan, F. C. Private purse accounts of the Marquis of Hertford, Michaelmas 1641-2. Antiquaries Journal. 1945, Vol. 25, 12-42.

2. Cunnington, C. W. and P. Handbook of English costume in the seventeenth century. 3rd ed. London : Faber, 1972.

3. Smith, David L. Seymour, William, first marquess of Hertford and second duke of Somerset (1587–1660). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, []. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2009.

4. Sources include the Dictionary of National Biography, and Debrett’s Peerage.

5. Oxford English Dictionary. ell. OED Online. [Online] Oxford University Press, 2014. [Cited: 06 January 2014.]

6. Pepys, S. Diary 16th June 1664. [Online] [Cited: 8th January 2014.]

7. Cunnington, C. W. and P. The history of underclothes. London : Michael Joseph, 1951.

8. North, S. and Tiramani, J eds. Seventeenth century women's dress patterns, book 1. London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 2011.

9. Oxford English Dictionary. tiffany. OED Online. [Online] 09 January 2014.

10. North, S. and Tiramani, J. eds. Seventeenth century women's dress patterns, book 2. London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 2012.

11. Spufford, M. The great reclothing of rural England: petty chapmen and their wares in the seventeenth century. London : Hambledon Press, 1984.

12. Whittle, J and Griffiths, E. Consumption and gender in the early seventeenth century household: the world of Alice Le Strange. . Oxford : O.U.P., 2012.

13. Arnold, J. The "pair of straight bodies" and "a pair of drawers" dating from 1603 which clothe the effigy of Queen Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey. Costume. 2007, Vol. 41, 1-10.

14. Buck, A. Clothes and the child. Carlton : Ruth Bean, 1996.

15. Cunnington, P and Buck, A. Children's costume in England 1300-1900. London : Black, 1978.

16. Levey, Santina. Lace: a history. London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983.

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