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. 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. 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. 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.
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." 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."
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. As the century progressed, the French hood became smaller and more curved, and was worn further back on the head.
The inventories of the jewels of Mary, Queen of Scots, include several pairs of jewelled "billaments" worn at the front of a hood (see below). They were described using a French word, bordure.
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.