14 July 2016

Manuscript challenge: A poor woman's veil - Part 1: Research

As some of you may be aware, I've been aiming steadily down the social classes as my reenactment progresses. I aimed to make a lower class outfit for a while (see my Manuscript Challenge posts) and, whilst the dress is still a work in progress due to various real-life commitments, the veil has been finished for quite some time. Here's a little reminder of my inspiration piece:

Haine (Hate), Felonie and Vilanie.
Roman de la Rose, c. 1365, France.
University of Chicago Library, MS 1380, f. 2r. Source.

I chose Felonie, the central figure, mostly because I already had a dress planned in that colour. However, the veil is interesting in and of itself. Here it is in a bit more detail:

Felonie, Roman de la Rose.
UC MS 1380, f. 2r.
c. 1365, France. Source.
Unfortunately, this part of the image is not terribly well preserved. However, there are plenty of other images of this style of headdress, both in other Roman de la Rose manuscripts and in general, from the 13th Century right through until the 15th Century. A brief selection in chronological order (there are plenty more examples of this veil in both the manuscripts shown and in others):

Haine, Roman de la Rose.BNF Fr. 1559, f. 2r.
13th Century, France. Source.

Ruth, Maciejowski Bible.
Pierpoint Morgan Library, M 638, f. 17v.
c. 1240s, France. Source.

Covoitise, Roman de la Rose.
BNF Fr. 1569, f. 2r.
13th Century, France. Source.
Haine, Roman de la Rose.
Fondation Martin Bodmer, Bodmer 79, f. 1v.
1308, France. Source.

Haine, Roman de la Rose.
BNF Fr. 1558, f. 2r.
First third of 14th Century, France. Source.
Haine, Roman de la Rose.
BNF Fr. 802, f. 2r.
First half of 14th Century, France. Source.

Reaping, Luttrell Psalter.
BL MS. 42130, f. 172v.
1320-40, Lincolnshire, N. England. Source.

Vielleice, Roman de la Rose.
Walters, W.143, f. 3v.
Mid-14th Century, France. Source.
Elizabeth, The Hours of Yolande of Flanders.
BL Yates Thompson MS 27, f. 44av.
1353-63, Paris, France. Source.

Haine, Roman de la Rose.
Selden Supra 57, f. 2r.

1348, France. Source.

Haine, Roman de la Rose.
Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal 5226, f. 2r.
14th Century, France. Source.
Haine, Roman de la Rose.
Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal 5210, f. 1v.
End of 14th C, France. Source.
Avarice, Roman de la Rose.
BL Yates Thompson 21, f. 165r.
c. 1380, France. Source.
Female servant at birthing chamber.
L'Estoire de Griseldis myz par personnages.
BNF Fr. 2230, f. unknown (unpaginated).
c. 1395, France.
Haine, Roman de la Rose.
BNF Fr. 12595, f. 2r.
15th Century, France. Source.
Envie, Roman de la Rose.
Bodleian Library, Douce MS 332, f. 4r.
15th Century, France. Source.
Felonie, Roman de la Rose.
BNF Fr. 805, f. 2r. 

15th C, France. Source.
Old Woman.
ONB Cod. 3044, f. 111r / image 227.
c. 1475, Germany. Source (click on the 'Codex' link).

As I discussed previously, the Roman de la Rose manuscripts are a great resource because, in their negative allegories, they consistently show lower class women. We can even compare these women's dress to those of somewhat more prosperous women (Avarice, Covetousness and Envy are often drawn as more prosperous than Hate, Felony, Villainy and Tritesce (Sorrow/Misery)) and to very wealthy women (such as the allegories of Beauty, Chastity and Generosity).

What is very striking is that this style of veil, with its wrapped band around the forehead and (often) the knot at one temple, is that it is only ever seen on lower class women. What is also very striking is it's sheer ubiquity. This (and its variants) is one of the most common, if not the most common, headdress of this class of women for over 200 years (!). However, I've never seen it reproduced in reenactment and I've only seen it reproduced three times in medieval costuming online.

Thus, I wanted to reproduce this headdress - not only for my manuscript challenge but also to improve my kit and more accurately represent the typical lower class woman from 1350-70 Wales.


  1. Oh, this is my absolute favourite headdress, as I don't portray a particularly wealthy woman. And it's so comfortable to wear when working outdoors as it doesn't fly about or get in the way. :-)

    1. Yes, it really is a very practical headdress - no pins needed, quick to put on and take off, easy to wear and doesn't get in your face. ^_^

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  3. That lower class women wear this veil makes sense to me, because from the miniatures it looks as though it's secured quickly by tying, instead of laboriously with pins, and that quickness and economy of materials would recommend it, I think, to a woman of few economic resources.

    1. Exactly! It's very quick and easy to wear.