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Nicolas, Nicholas Harris, Esq. Privy Purse Expenses of Elizabeth of York: Wardrobe Accounts of Edward the Fourth. With a Memoir of Elizabeth of York, and Notes. London, William Pickering, 1830.

This book is somebody’s historiography thesis waiting to happen. Let’s just talk about the contents of the book for a minute. It was published in 1830. It contains a wonderful, non-self-examinatory anti-Richard III biography of Elysabeth of York. It contains references to other antiquarian works which must have been current at the time, and reading it sort of gives me this feeling like I’m some kind of Regency heroine who just knows that these recently recovered antiquarian papers will help me prove that my wicked uncle has just murdered my two young brothers and now aspires to my hand in marriage, if only I could get the male antiquarian establishment, in the person of a maddeningly handsome Earl, to recognize that some young ladies of quality are actually intellectually capable of analyzing stuff like this. 

Now let’s talk about the book as an object. I had no idea when I was taking this book out of the library that it was nearly 200 years old. It’s bound in green pasteboard, like every other book that was acquired for a University collection in the 1970s (I’m kind of guessing at the era here, but suffice it to say that it’s definitely not bound in gold tooled leather). When I took it out the librarian told me I was the first person to ever take it out. The paper has this curious ridged, old-fashioned look to it, but it’s not yellowing or falling apart like I might expect a 200-year-old book to be. The inside front cover declares it to be a “Gift of the Bulwer Collection”. There’s nothing like a reprint date, or a “Preface to the 1830 Edition” dated 1949, or anything, so I am assuming at this point that it was donated as part of the Bulwer Collection in the 70s, rebound, put on a shelf, and forgotten until I stumbled across it. I spoke to a representative of the UVic library (Mistress Linnet Kestrel) and she said that nobody at the library remembered anything special about the Bulwer collection, but that donations of books usually come with a tax receipt and a bookplate acknowledging the donation. She said that the binding was probably a rebinding for durability or repair, done when the book was taken into the UVic collection, or when the original binding was damaged.  

If you were super interested, you could look at the whole text online, courtesy of the Richard III Society of America, but they don't seem to know much more about the book than I do, or if they do, they're not sharing.

The title is pretty self-explanatory. It’s the privy purse expenses for Elysabeth of York for the years 1502-1503. For those of you not up on your English history, Elysabeth of York was the Queen of Henry VII, the eventual victor of the Wars of the Roses and father of Henry VIII. This book also contains some wardrobe accounts of Edward IV, but I didn’t study those in any great detail because they were 20 years earlier than the time period I am researching and dealt almost exclusively with men’s clothes. After the privy purse expenses and the wardrobe accounts there is an annotated index. Here I’ve reproduced the entries in the privy purse expenses and the related index notes for articles of women’s clothing. There are also mentions of men’s clothing, cloth for bedclothes and furnishings, which I didn’t reproduce because they were somewhat tangential to what I am trying to research, and expenditures for whole cloth, which I didn’t reproduce because I was unsure what uses were intended for the cloth. The notes make frequent reference to an 1828 volume, Dresses and Habits, by Strutt, which I may try to locate. I’m mainly treating the notes with a generous pinch of salt, because current ideas about historical research are different than they were in the early 19th century, and you get a whole bunch of historiographical issues, but that’s someone else’s thesis. I just want to know what they wore.

The Privy Purse Expenses

This is a work in progress. For each category of clothes I am summarizing the colors, materials, and any details of construction given. I am also including the relevant Privy Purse Expense entries for each category. If there was commentary provided by Nicolas, or if I have something I think is intelligent to say about a particular term, it’s included at the end. I hesitate to call my list of terms a glossary, because I think that implies some certainty about the definition of the terms which I don’t feel applies in this situation. Once I’ve done some more research, I intend to include more information from other sources on methods of construction I think might be appropriate. Depending on my access to technology, I also hope to post some pictures of dresses from this time period.


Gowns in the Privy Purse Expenses were made of velvet, satin, damask, and cloth of gold. The item on November 26 for “all the Queen’s lined gowns” suggests that some gowns were not lined. For lined gowns, buckram and canvas are mentioned as lining fabrics. It is also possible to read the entry on August 2 for the gown with wide sleeves as being lined with sarcenet.  Colors mentioned are crimson, black, russet, purple, and blue. Black is the most popular color. Some gowns are also furred, as per the entry on November 26 for “the Queen’s furred gowns”. The only gown specified as furred is furred with pawmpelion.

Several gowns are described in ways that suggest something about their construction. On June 14, 1502, one gown is to be constructed of 6 yards of velvet and one yard of buckram. Steps mentioned for the construction of another gown are “upper bodying”, sleeving, and lining. This gown also incorporated canvas. On November 26, 1502, the Queen’s riding gown requires 13 yards of satin and an ell quarter of canvas and 6 yards di of buckram for a lining (I don’t know what the abbreviation di means, but I suspect it means half, so 6 ½ yards). The gown is to have an edge and cuffs of velvet and fentes of sarcenet (The entry says, “a nayle of sarcenet”. I think this means “an ell of sarcenet”, but I could be wrong). One gown is specifically mentioned on August 2 as having wide sleeves.

April 19, 1502, page 7
  • for mending of a crymsyn velvet gowne
  • for mending of a gowne of blake velvet
May 29, 1502, page 16
  • for a gowne of russet velvet with a purfle of cloth of gold of damaske
  • for a gowne of purple velvet with a purfle of cloth of gold
June 14, 1502, page 22 - 23
  • for vj yerdes of blake velvet for a gowne for the Quene
  • for a yerd of blake bokeram for the same gowne
  • for upper bodying sleving and lynyng for a gowne of blake velvet for the Quene of Scottes
  • for canvas to the same
  • for making of a gowne of blake sateyn for my lady Mary
  • for lynyng of a gowne for Maistres Zouche
  • for mending of twoo gownes for Johanne Popyncote
June 21, 1502, page 25
  • for for xv yerdes di of blake dammaske for a gowne for the Quene
July 23, 1502, page 33 - 34
  • for a gowne of cloth of gold furred with pawmpilyon
  • for the making of a gowne of crymsyn sattayn
August 2, 1502, page 35
  • for lynyng of a gowne of blake velvet for the Quenes grace with wyde slevys with black sarsenet with an egge of blake sattayn
  • for mending of divers gownes and kirtelles of the Quenes
November 26, 1502, page 68
  • for a gowne of blewe velvet for the Quene
  • all the Quenes lined gownys
  • the Quenes furred gownys
  • for xvij yerdes of blake velvet for a gowne for the Quene
  • for xiij yerdes of blake satten delivered to Johnson for a riding gowne for the Quene
  • for a yerde di quarter of blake velvet for an edge and cuffes for the same gowne
  • for vij yerdes di of blake bokeram for lynyng of the same gowne
  • for a nayle of sarcenet for fentes for the same gowne
  • for an elle quarter of canvas for lynyng of the same gowne
February 12, 1503, page 93
  • for mending of viij gownes of divers coloures belonging to the Quenes grace from Mydsomer to Cristmas


Kirtles in the Privy Purse Expenses were made of damask, satin, fustian, and linen. The two colors mentioned are black and green. The most complete description of a kirtle occurs in the entry for August 6, 1502, on page 38. Three different materials go into the making of this kirtle: fustian, lining, and linen. It seems fairly evident that the lining would be a separate layer, but there is no evidence as to whether the fustian and the linen are also each their own separate layer. I could argue it both ways, because there is an extant kirtle from about 80 years later (Patterns of Fashion, 109) which has one type of fabric mounted on the other at the front where it will show, but neither fustian nor linen is a particularly fancy fabric that you would want to mount on another piece of fabric to make it look like you had more of it.

April 19, 1502, page 7
  • payed for the hemmyng of a kertelle of the Quenes of damaske
May 2, 1502, page 9
  • seven yerdes of grene satten of Bruges for a kertell for my Lady Anne 
June 14, 1502, page 22
  • for hemmyng of a kirtelle of the Quene of Scottes
  • for hemmyng of a kertell for my Lady Mary
  • for making of a kirtell for Brigette Crowmer
  • for hemmyng of a kirtelle of the same Bridgettes
August 6, 1502, page 38
  • for vj yerdes of fustian
  • for lynyng and lynnyn cloth to the same
  • for making of the same kirtell
October 28, 1502, page 54
  • for making and lynyng of a kirtelle
February 12, 1503, page 93
  • for lynyng and hemmyng of a kyrtelle of blake sattyn for the Quenes grace


Materials mentioned for trimming are tinsel satin, satin, velvet, cloth of gold, and fur. The velvet, satin and tinsel satin are black. Two types of fur are specifically mentioned, pawmpelion and shanks. I believe that the entry on January 12, 1503 for the “performing” of a previously mentioned gown with shanks means that the “furring” previously mentioned is to be done with the shanks. Two gowns have a purfle of cloth of gold. Places where trimming is applied are the cuffs, the collar, the fent, and the edge.

May 2, 1502, page 9
  • a yerd quart’ di quart’ of blake tynselle saten of the riche making for an edge of a gowne of blake velvet for the Quene
  • a yerd quarter di quarter of blake saten for an edge of a gowne of crymsyn velvet
May 29, 1502, page 16
  • for a gowne of russet velvet with a purfle of cloth of gold of damaske
  • for a gowne of purple velvet with a purfle of cloth of gold
July 23, 1502, page 33 - 34
  • for a gowne of cloth of gold furred with pawmpilyon
August 2, 1502, page 35
  • for lynyng of a gowne of blake velvet for the Quenes grace with wyde slevys with black sarsenet with an egge of blake sattayn
November 26, 1502, page 68
  • for xiij yerdes of blake satten delivered to Johnson for a riding gowne for the Quene
  • for a yerde di quarter of blake velvet for an edge and cuffes for the same gowne
  • for vij yerdes di of blake bokeram for lynyng of the same gowne
  • for a nayle of sarcenet for fentes for the same gowne
January 12, 1503, page 89
  • to John Hayward skinner for furring of a gown of crymsyn velvet for the Quene of Scottes and for two skynnes of pampelyon for the cuffes of the same gowne
  • for half a furre of shankes for the perfourmyng of the same gown
  • for iiij tavelyns of shankes for the coler and fent of the said gowne



May 2, 1502, page 9
  • for xij yards sarcenet of eight divers colours for girdelles for the Quene
October 3, 1502, page 51
  • for laces rybandes and sarcenet for gurdelles for the Quene
December 25, 1502, page 84
  • to Richard Weston for certain harnesses of gyrdelles by him bought for the Quene beyond the see


May 25, 1502, page 14
November 3, 1502, page 54
  • for six yerdes of sarcenet for tippettes for the Quene
November 26, 1502, page 68
February 7, 1503, page 92
  • for certain frontlettes bonettes and othere stuff of hure occupacon  


Comments on some terms:

Bonnets Nicolas' note on bonnets, page 179:

“Bonnets, as is shewn by Strutt, were used as well by men as by women. They were commonly made of cloth, and were sometimes ornamented with jewels, feathers, gold buttons, &c. Thus we find bonnets bought for the use of the queen and for the use of her nephew, Lord Henry Courtenay; and in the Privy Purse Expenses of Henry VIII. bonnets are mentioned, as being bought for his majesty, p. 15. See also BONNETS, in the Index to the Wardrobe Accounts of Edward IV. In a curious letter from Edward IV. when Earl of March, and his brother, the Earl of Rutland, to their father, after thanking his “noblesse and good fadurhood” for the green gowns he had sent them, they request him that they might have “summe fine bonetts sende un to us by the next seure messigere, for necessite so requireth.” - Ellis’s Original Letters, First Series, I. 10.”
The note on Bonnets in the index of the wardrobe accounts, which this note refers to, only refers right back to this note (!).

Cloth of Gold Examples of types of cloth of gold and cloth of silver occur on page 134 of this book as part of the Wardrobe Accounts of Edward IV: “Clothe of golde aswell blac of colour as of the colours white and grene velvet upon velvet tisshue cloth of golde and other clothe of gold aswell of the grounde of velvet as of satyn grounde som broched with golde, CC lxx yerdes and iij quarters. Clothe of sylver: purpull xiiij yerdes and di’ quart’; blue upon satyn grounde broched iij yerdes di’.”

Edge Edge is such a wonderfully precise term, isn't it? You could conclude that edge means the hem of the gown, since other sorts of edges are covered by cuffs, collars, and fents. However, if you go by Nicolas' assumption that fents are the part over the bosom, you might reason that fent is the same thing as collar, in which case you would have no basis for your assumption that the edge could only mean the hem.

Fentes The note on page 195 explains fentes thus: “ “Fente of a gowne - fente.” - Palsgrave’s Esclarcissement de la langue Francoyse. This word is translated by cleft, rift, slit, &c., by Cotgrave. “Fente d’une chemise” is the bosom, and as this entry relates to fur for the collar and fent of a gown, it probably meant the part over the bosom.”  I searched the internet for references to this word, but there were no English language references to it (and I wasn't at all certain that the French language sites that did reference it were using it in the same sense).

Frontlet Nicolas' note on frontlets, page 197:

“A frontlet is described by Nares as a forehead-band, worn to make the forehead smooth. Among the effects of Henry the Eighth in the list in the Harleian MS., 1419, are, “Frontellets of crimson satten, embraudetered with perles.” - Strutt’s Horda, iii. 80. And in the Regulations made by Margaret, Countess of Richmond, for the mourning of women of rank in 1492, Countesses and Duchesses were allowed “one barbe, one frontelett, and two or four kerchiefs.” - Strutt’s Dresses and Habits, ii. 325. An entry of “four old frontlets of dyvers colours of velvet,” occurs in the Churchwardens’ Accounts of St. Mary Hill, London, in 1524, printed in Nichols’s Illustrations of Ancient Times, p. 125. Though, as it seems, generally made of cloth, silk, or velvet, as in the entry in p. 92, where, together with bonnets, &c., they formed part of a silk-woman’s bill, is is evident from p. 68, that they were also made of gold. By statute 17 Edw. IV., the wives, and daughters unmarried, of persons having possessions of the yearly value of 10l. and upwards, were permitted to “use and wear frontlettes of blak velvet, or of any other cloth of silk of the colour of blak.” - Rot. Parl., vi. 189. Among the entries in the Privy Purse Expenses of Henry the Seventh, is a payment in 1492, of 3l. 13s. 4d. “To the Queen’s grace for frontlets” - and on another occasion, of exactly the same sum for “frontlets of gold.” - Add. MS. 7099. In the Privy Purse Expenses of the Princess, afterwards Queen, Mary, is “Payed for a frountlet loste in a wager to my Lady Margaret, iiij li.,” which must, from the price, have been of gold.”

Girdle Nicolas' note on girdles, page 198:

“Numerous notices relative to the use of girdles occur on the Rolls of Parliament. See Rot. Parl. vi. 278, 279, 281, 282; iii. 296, 506, 542, 593; and iv. 73. By statute 3 Edw. IV., no person was permitted to wear a girdle harnessed with gold or silver in any part over gilt, who had not yearly possessions of the value of 40l.; but the wives of Squires of the Household, Yeomen of the Crown, and Squires and Gentlemen, and of Mayors, Aldermen, and Bailiffs, might wear gilt girdles and kerchiefs, of the price of a plyte of 5s., v. 505.”

Kirtle Kirtle is an all-purpose word for a garment, kind of like “gown” or “shirt” that in any one time period designates a fairly specific style of garment, but over the years what exactly is meant by the term shifts. I have previously made a kirtle I think would be appropriate ca 1570.

Pawmpelion The note on p 214 explains pawmpelion thus:

“This word occurs in the same sense in the Privy Purse Expenses of Henry VIII. in 1532. “For xxv dousing skynns of fine pawmpelion, lx li;” and in the account book of Lord Burghley, among the apparel bought for Anne of Cleves, was “A gown of black wrought vellett, furred with pawpillon, viij li.” The price of those skins in 1503 and 1530 was nearly the same. The word does not occur in any glossary, and the Editor conjectures, from the name, that they were skins brought from Pampellone, a town in the department of Tarn, twelve miles from Alby, but Mr. Gage suggests that Pampeluna fur is meant.”
The only reference to pawmpelion on line was a link to the online version of this text.

Purfle The note on pp 217-218 explains a purfle as

“A kind of border, hem, or rather, trimming of gowns. Palsgrave, in 1530, translates “Purfyll a hemme of a gowne” by “bort.” In the 37th Edw. III. Esquires and gentles below the rank of knights who had not lands of the value of 100l. a-year, and their wives, daughters, and children were forbidden to wear “ascun revers ou purfil.” - Rot. Parl. ii. 278, 281. Chaucer, speaking of the Monk, says, “I saw his sleves purfiled at the hond,/With gris and that the finest of the lond.” Eleanor Lady Walsyngham bequeathed her daughter “a purfle of sable” in 1506. Purfle, in p. 83, is used as a verb, and there means to embroider, crule being twisted yarn. In the inventory of the effects of Sir John Fastolfe is “j gowne of blewe felwett upon felwet longe furrid with martyrs and perfold of the same, slevys single.” - Archaeologia, xxi. 252."
I made some further investigations into the word purfle. Online dictionaries defined purfling as an embroidered or couched border, a border of furs, or a border of gold studs (searching on the term purfle also brought up several porn sites and I'm sure I don't want to know why).. Purfling is also a heraldic term. The Webster Dictionary of 1913 describes purfling as " To decorate with a wrought or flowered border; to embroider; to ornament with metallic threads; as, to purfle with blue and white. P. Plowman. A goodly lady clad in scarlet red, Purfled with gold and pearl of rich assay. Spenser. 2. (Her.) To ornament with a bordure of emines, furs, and the like; also, with gold studs or mountings."  Purfle is defined as "1. A hem, border., or trimming, as of embroidered work. 2. (Her.) A border of any heraldic fur." The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition, 2000 describes purfling as " To finish or decorate the border or edge of. " and "An ornamental border or edging." Finally, the Hutchinson Dictionary of Difficult Words describes purfle as "ornament edges of, especially with embroidery; n. such edge or trimming. purfling, n." There was also a reference to purfling in Pimbley's Dictionary of Heraldry:
  • Purfle - (pur'-f'l) To ornament with a bordure of ermines, etc. 
  • Purfled - (pur'-feld) Trimmed or garnished. Applied to the studs and rims of armor, being gold; as, "a leg in armor purfled or." 
  • Purflew - (pur'-flu) A border of fur shaped exactly like vair. When of one row only, it is called purflewed; when of two, counter-purflewed; when of three, vair.

Shanks The note on p 256 defines shanks as "Skins of the legs of animals".

Tippets It is with grave misgivings that I list tippets under headgear, because I have always been under the impression that tippets are dangly things attached to your sleeves above the elbow. However, Nicolas states on page 227 that

“ “The tippet appears to have been a part of dress something resembling the partelet, and worn about the neck. It varied in size and form; for it was sometimes large and long like a mantle, at other times, it was narrow and scarcely covered the top of the shoulders. Like the partelet, it was used by men as well as by women.” - Strutt’s Dresses and Habits, ii., p. 368. “The partelet,” to which Strutt compares the tippet, “answered the purpose,” he says, “of the gorget which he describes on the authority of John de Reun, a French poet of the thirteenth century, as an article which was wrapped two or three times round the neck, and then fastened with a great quantity of pins, which raised it on either side of the face so as to resemble two horns, whist it was so closely attached to the chin as to look as if it was nailed to it.” “The partelets,” he continues, “came into fashion towards the fifteenth century, and were common to both sexes. Those belonging to women were made of various stuffs of the most valuable and delicate kind. Sometimes they are described as being without sleeves, whence it may be inferred that they sometimes had them.” “The tippet worn by ladies at the time of mourning, was quite another thing: it was a long narrow stripe of cloth attached to the hood or to the sleeves of the wearer.” - Ibid., pp. 167, 368. Tippets were likewise worn round the head. “With his tippet ybounde about his hed,/ And she came after in a gite of red.” - Reve’s Tale, l.3951. which agrees with the following ordinance which is cited by Strutt, p. 323. “Be it remembered that none may weare hoodes, under the degree of an esquire of the King’s household, but only tippets of a quarter of a yard in breadth, except in time of need, and then they may wear hoodes.” Occleve, in his censure on the dress of his times, and of the “foule waste of cloth,” says that a yard of broad cloth was expended in one man’s tippet. - Ibid., p. 254. A part of the costume of a priest was also called a tippet; Palsgrave translates “Typpet for a preest” by “cornette,” and William Water, vicar of New Church, mentions in his will in 1508, his “velvet tippet.” In Do Moleon’s “Voyages Liturgiques,” a canon of St. John’s, of Lyons, is represented habited in his fur tippet. Pl. iv.”
There are other problems with this definition, such as the fact that Nicolas' favorite source, Strutt, also refers to a tippet as being like a partlet and a gorget, both things you wear around your neck. Some of his sources, like the Reeve's Tale, though, seem to back up the idea that a tippet is worn around the head. Obviously more research is required.

"Upper Bodying" I think that “upper bodying” refers to lining the upper body of the gown with a stiffer fabric. The entries about the Queen of Scots’ gown on June 14 mention canvas for the gown that is to be “upper bodied”. Some day I hope I will be able to dig up some more sources that will support my theory.

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