The Great Wardrobe Accounts of Henry VII and Henry VIII

Edited by Maria Hayward

By the late fifteenth century the Great Wardrobe, the section of the royal household that supplied the king and his household with clothing and furnishings, was well established in the London parish of St Andrew by the Wardrobe (many of the suppliers of fabric to the Great Wardrobe and many of the individuals who worked for it lived and worked in the city).
This volume provides an edition and calendar of the accounts for 1498-99 and 1510-11, as well as the section of the 1544 account relating to Henry VIII’s campaign in France. In addition there are two appendices listing the recipients of livery in the extant Great Wardrobe accounts and warrants and an extensive glossary. The Introduction to the edited texts discusses the patterns of supply to the Great Wardrobe and assesses the significance of a small but influential group of Italian merchants who traded alongside the Londoners.

Professor Maria Hayward teaches in the Department of History, University of Southampton.

Available to purchase from Boydell and Brewer

Review from Arquebusier, the journal of the Pike and Shot Society

The Great Wardrobe was the section of the royal household responsible for supplying the king and his household with clothing and furnishings. This volume reprints three sets of accounts from the early Tudor period: 1498-99, 1510-11 and – of particular interest to members – that section of the 1544 accounts which relate to Henry VIII’s invasion of France.
The 1544 accounts detail the clothing issued to the royal household and other troops for the campaign. Entries are grouped according to the function performed on campaign; as an example this is the entry for 334 demy lances:

For each of them a coat of red kersey full of cuts welted with yellow satin and tuffed out with yellow sarsenet; to each coat, four yards of kersey, one and a half yards of satin for welting the coats, a yard of yellow sarsenet for lining the cuts and three and a half yards of black buckram for the lining.

Each entry then details where the required cloth was obtained – either from existing stock held in store with no cost attached, or purchased from a named merchant, in which case the purchase price is given. There is a separate entry for the cost of tailoring the material into coats. The quality of cloth used depended on the social rank of the individual to whom it was to be issued: thus petty captains received coats of crimson and yellow velvet whilst lowly demy hakes had to make do with woollen kersey. Each coat had crosses and embroidered Tudor roses sown on then, the supply of which form separate entries in the accounts and again rank determined the quality of material used.
All the coats issued were in the livery of red and yellow rather than the expected Tudor livery of green and white. However this would be in line with an apparent change to the king’s official livery in June 1526.
The description of the functions and numbers of those supplied with clothing is also of interest: 18 petty captains; 18 standard bearers; 140 men-at-arms; 110 demy lances, gentlemen etc.; 334 demy lances; 487 of the stand guard and the foot guard; 403 javelins; 374 northern men and demy hakes. There are also issues of clothing to various non-combatants of the royal household including heralds, grooms, clerks, musicians and ‘10 singing children’. It suggests that the king’s retinue were divided into 18 companies, some of horse and some of foot. It does not tell us how many were in each company but an average of the combatants would be 82 per company.
The last entry in the accounts is not for clothing but for the production of banners and standards. Most of these were variations of the royal arms or the cross of St. George, but some were illustrated with the Holy Trinity or the Virgin Mary – an example of how Henry VIII’s Protestantism was rather skin deep.
The other accounts in this volume mostly relate to the issuing of civilian clothing, but there are still some interesting military snippets to be found here and there. These include banners for Thomas Darcy, captain of Berwick (8th March 1502); clothing for ‘Gyot, a spear’ (30th June 1510); 22 coats of red cloth for the soldiers of Calais (22nd July 1522) with a further 27 coats issued 4 days later.
The editor, Maria Haywood, is the leading expert on Tudor clothing, having published numerous books and articles on the subject, thus making her the ideal editor for these papers. This volume is an invaluable aid to helping us understand the visual appearance of the soldiers of Henry VIII’s last great military adventure and on that basis it is heartily recommended.

Neil Rennoldson