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The Great Wardrobe Accounts of Henry VII and Henry VIII.

Hayward, Maria (2012) The Great Wardrobe Accounts of Henry VII and Henry VIII., London, GB, London Record Society, 335pp. (London Record Society).

Record type: Book


The buildings of the Great Wardrobe are identifiable on the Agas map of 1561-70. They were located within the ward of Baynard's Castle and the parish of St Andrew's by the castle. The plot fronted onto Carter Lane, to the north, St Andrew's to the south, Puddle Dock hill to the west and Addle Hill to the east. The Great Wardrobe was attached to the royal household and a substantial number of the accounts and warrants subsidiary to the accounts have survived. Most of the accounts are in Latin but by Henry VII’s reign, the first accounts in English appear. The format of the accounts also changed under the first Tudor as the clerks started to record information about who received livery by the name of the recipient rather than listing the suppliers of cloth and furs.

The early history of the Great Wardrobe was presented by T. F. Tout in the fourth volume of his definitive work Chapters in the Administrative History of Medieval England, (Manchester, 1928). Tout noted that the fourteenth century Great Wardrobe had five key functions: acquiring raw materials, converting the fabric and fur into clothes, storing of raw materials, distributing the completed garments and accounting for the money received and spent by the keeper. Much less has been written on the Great Wardrobe under the first two Tudor king’s and this volume will demonstrate that the basic function of the Great Wardrobe in the sixteenth century remained unchanged. However, the book will also offer far more.

The Great Wardrobe employed a range of craftsmen who lived and worked in the city. The holders of the key posts, such as the king’s tailor and the king’s skinner, were often leading members of their respective livery companies and they were at the centre of a network of other tailors, embroiderers, skinners and tapestry weavers who were employed on a more adhoc basis. The accounts will be used to explore the range of garments were available in Tudor London and the spectrum of techniques that the king’s artificers used to create clothes for the king and his household. They record the charges made for making different garments. The accounts also make it clear that while bespoke clothes were the norm for the king, some ready-made items such as footwear, hats and hose were bought for some members of the household such as the officers of the hunts. The evidence from the accounts will be set in context using material from other sources such as the Book of Rates.

The Great Wardrobe bought fabric, furs, passementerie and accessories from a network of suppliers. London was the focal point for this group of suppliers and most of them were Londoners. In addition there was a small group of Italian merchants who supplied a small range of very expensive silks. The accounts provide a view of the range of textiles that were for sale in London, in terms of weave, quality, cost and colour.

For those studying the court, the Great Wardrobe accounts provide insights into who received livery from the king, as members of the king’s court, his household and elements of his government. Many of these individuals lived in London or at Westminster and royal pageantry ensured that they would have been seen wearing their livery in and around London. Finally, the Great Wardrobe also derived part of its income from the land and property that it owned in and around the streets where the Wardrobe was based.

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Published date: 2012
Keywords: Great Wardrobe, wardrobe accounts, London, merchants, makers, Henry VII, Henry VIII


Local EPrints ID: 79949
PURE UUID: 726c9d97-1a1e-40db-a9b8-d5a09153d04a

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 22 Mar 2010
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 23:15

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