A lady, probably of the Cromwell family, wearing a French hood. Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1540

The French hood is a type of woman's headgear that was popular in Western Europe in the 16th century.

The French hood is characterized by a rounded shape, contrasted with the angular "English" or gable hood. It is worn over a coif, and has a black veil attached to the back, which fully covers the hair.[1] Unlike the more conservative gable hood, it displays the front part of the hair.


The origins of the French hood can be seen in portraits of Anne of Brittany in the early 1500s. Although popularly associated with Anne Boleyn, it was probably introduced to the English court by Mary Tudor, Queen of France, who is depicted wearing one in a wedding portrait from around 1516.[2] Catherine of Aragon bought a French hood for her daughter Mary in March 1520.[3] However, English women at the time mostly wore the gable hood, and so it did not achieve much popularity in England until the 1530s and 1540s. According the Chronicle of the Grey Friars, the French hood and the jewelled gold billament became popular when Anne of Cleves came to England in 1540.[4] Most examples from this period can be seen in depictions of women who were in service to one of Henry VIII's wives, implying that it was primarily a court fashion.[5]

In September 1537, Lady Lisle, a Tudor noblewoman whose correspondence is widely documented, requested from the merchant William le Gras: "many hats, such as the ladies wear in France, for now the ladies here follow the French fashion."[6] Despite its growth in popularity, the then-Queen Jane Seymour apparently forbade her ladies from wearing the French hood. John Husee informed Lady Lisle that her daughter, an attendant to the Queen, was required to instead wear a "bonnet and frontlet of velvet", lamenting that it "became her nothing so well as the French hood."[6] As the century progressed, the French hood became smaller and more curved, and was worn further back on the head.

Habilments or billaments

The front of hood could be decorated with a jewelled band, in England called a "habilment or "billement", (see below). In the early 1540s, Henry VIII passed a sumptuary law restricting the usage of "any Frenche hood or bonnet of velvett with any habiliment, paste, or egg [edge] of gold, pearl, or stone" to the wives of men with at least one horse.[5]

Mary I of England gave gold billaments to some of her gentlewomen to wear at her coronation in 1553.[7] The inventories of the jewels of Mary, Queen of Scots, include several pairs of jewelled "billiments" worn at the front of a hood.[8] They were described using a French word, bordure.[9] Sources written in Scots call these accessories "garnishings".[10]


The various elements of the French hood are as follows:

As there are no known extant French hoods in existence, the precise details of its construction remain a mystery. It is often interpreted as featuring a stiff, protruding crescent, but statues from the period indicate it laid flat on the wearer's head.[2]


See also


  1. ^ Alison Weir, Henry VIII: The King and His Court. Ballantine Books, 2002. ISBN 0-345-43708-X.
  2. ^ a b Lubomirska, Irina. "The French Hood – What it is and what it is not" (PDF). French Renaissance Costume. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  3. ^ Maria Hayward, Dress at the Court of Henry VIII (Maney, 2007), p. 172.
  4. ^ John Gough Nichols, Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London (London: Camden Society, 1852), p. 43
  5. ^ a b Hayward, Maria (2009). Rich Apparel : Clothing and the Law in Henry VIII's England. Farnham, England: Ashgate Pub. Co. ISBN 0754640965.
  6. ^ a b "Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 12 Part 2, June-December 1537". British History Online. pp. 245–262. Retrieved 27 May 2017.
  7. ^ Henry King, 'Ancient Wills, 3', Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society, 3 (Colchester, 1865), p. 187: British Library Harley 7376 ff. 29v, 32r.
  8. ^ Joseph Robertson, Inventaires (Edinburgh, 1863), p. 77.
  9. ^ Marjorie Meiss-Even, 'Autour du petit chaperon noir: Les mots de la coiffe féminine française au milieu du XVIe siècle', Colloque Vêtements & Textiles, Elaborer un vocabulaire historique du vêtement et des textiles dans le cadre d'un réseau interdisciplinaire, Dijon, 20-21 octobre 2011
  10. ^ Letters to King James the Sixth from the Queen, Prince Henry, Prince Charles etc (Edinburgh, 1835), p. lxxv-lxxvi: 'Garnising', DOST/DSL
  11. ^ M. Channing Linthicum, Costume in the Drama of Shakespeare and his Contemporaries (Oxford, 1936), p. 237.
  12. ^ Maria Hayward, Dress at the Court of Henry VIII (Maney, 2007), p. 433: C. B. Mount, 'Billament', Notes & Queries, 6th Series XII (12 September 1885), p. 205.
  13. ^ Janet Arnold, 'Sweet England's Jewels', Princely Majesty (London: V&A, 1980), p. 35: M. Channing Linthicum, Costume in the Drama of Shakespeare and his Contemporaries (Oxford, 1936), p. 234.
  14. ^ W. Gilchrist Clark, 'Unpublished Documents relating to the Arrest of William Sharington', Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, 27 (1894), pp. 168–169
  15. ^ E. Estcourt, 'Warrant of Queen Mary', Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London, 3 (London, 1864), pp. 103, 105.
  16. ^ M. Channing Linthicum, Costume in the Drama of Shakespeare and his Contemporaries (Oxford, 1936), p. 235.

Further reading