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
Definition of Sumptuary Laws
The word 'sumptuary'
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
The idea and concept of Sumptuary Laws dated back to the Roman
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.
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
Each section of this Tudors website addresses all topics and provides interesting facts and information about Tudor Sumptuary Laws. The Sitemap provides full details of all of the information and
facts provided about the fascinating subject of the Tudors!