Tudor Sumptuary Laws

King Henry VIII - Tudor Sumptuary Laws

Picture of King Henry VIII

 

Tudor Sumptuary Laws

  • Interesting Facts and information about Tudor Sumptuary Laws and Tudor Clothes
  • Tudor Life, fashion and dress
  • Tudor Clothes for the rich and poor people
  • Sumptuary Laws or Statutes of Apparel
  • The Reason for Tudor Sumptuary Laws or Statutes of Apparel
  • The History of English Sumptuary Laws
  • Sumptuary Laws or Statutes of Apparel

Tudor Sumptuary Laws

Tudor Sumptuary Laws or Statutes of Apparel
The Tudor Sumptuary Laws and regulations called Statutes of Apparel were passed to restrain or limit the expenditure of people in relation to their clothes, food, furniture, etc. The Sumptuary Laws forbade the use of certain articles of luxurious apparel and graded ranks and classes and the various articles of clothing prohibited to both. The Tudor Sumptuary Laws became known as the Statutes of Apparel. Tudor Sumptuary Laws dictated what color and type of clothing individuals were allowed to own and wear,  an easy and immediate way to identify rank and privilege. Examples of the Tudor Sumptuary Laws ensured that only Tudor Royalty were permitted to wear clothes trimmed with ermine. Lesser Nobles were only allowed to wear clothing trimmed with fox and otter and so on and so forth!

The Reason for Tudor Sumptuary Laws or Statutes of Apparel
The reason for Tudor Sumptuary Laws were to maintain maintaining control over the population. During the reign of King Henry VIII a new and wealthy Merchant Class arose. These wealthy men were looking above their station and could afford to buy the luxurious goods previously only possible for the rich Tudors. This new wealthy class of commoners needed to be kept separate from the Upper Classes of the rich Tudor Nobility. King Henry VIII therefore drafted a new series of laws concerning dress and personal adornment - he updated the existing English "Sumptuary Laws". His daughters Queen Mary I (Bloody Mary) and Queen Elizabeth I followed suit.

Definition of Sumptuary Laws
The word 'sumptuary' derives from the Latin word which means expenditure. Sumptuary Laws were imposed by rulers to curb the expenditure of the people. Sumptuary laws applied to food, drink, furniture, jewelry and clothes. The Sumptuary Laws were used to control behaviour and ensure that a specific class structure was maintained and recognised. The idea and concept of Sumptuary Laws dated back to the Roman era.

The History of English Sumptuary Laws
English Sumptuary Laws were well known by all of the English people, both rich and poor. The first English Sumptuary Laws or Acts of Apparel had been passed during the reign of Edward III provided the first national sumptuary legislation on record. Statutes were passed in the Parliaments of 1336, 1337, 1363, 1463 and 1483. The penalties for violating the English Sumptuary Laws could be harsh - fines, the loss of property, title and even life. The Middle Ages had been dominated by the Feudal system where everyone knew their place. Clothes provided an immediate way of distinguishing 'Who was Who' in the feudal pyramid of power! However, the Medieval Feudal system broke down and the ravages of the Black Death significantly reduced the population. People and labour became valuable and even the peasants, the poor people were paid. Opportunities to move to cities became viable for poor people. Trade started to flourish and the Merchant Class was born. Medieval clothes provided information about the status of the person wearing them. This was not just dictated by the wealth of the person, it also reflected their social standing. The new Merchants needed to be kept in their place.

Tudor Sumptuary Laws or Statutes of Apparel
In January 1510 the first parliament in the reign of King Henry VIII passed a Sumptuary Law called 'An Act against wearing of costly Apparel'. This law was closely based on the English Sumptuary Laws, or Acts of Apparel, that had been passed in England in 1463 and 1483.  The 1510 Sumptuary law was amended and added to in 1514, 1515 and 1553. Queen Mary 1 (Bloody Mary) passed a Sumptuary Law in 1554. Then on 15 June 1574 Queen Elizabeth I enforced even more Sumptuary Laws called the 'Statutes of Apparel'. The words Queen Elizabeth used in the Sumptuary Law or Statutes of Apparel proclamation include excess, superfluity, unnecessary foreign wares, extremity, vain devices, wasting, abuses, decay of the wealth of the realm, the rigor of her laws, reform, offenses, commandeth and punishment. These provide a quick insight into serious tone of the Tudor Sumptuary Laws or Statutes of Apparel.
 

Tudor Sumptuary Laws or Statutes of Apparel
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Tudor Sumptuary Laws or Statutes of Apparel

  • Interesting Facts and information about Tudor Sumptuary Laws and Tudor Clothes
  • Tudor Life, fashion and dress
  • Tudor Clothes for the rich and poor people
  • Tudor Sumptuary Laws or Statutes of Apparel
  • The Reason for Sumptuary Laws or Statutes of Apparel
  • The History of English Sumptuary Laws
  • Sumptuary Laws or Statutes of Apparel

Tudor Sumptuary Laws

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