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Fashions of the Tudor Court - The French Hood
The Early French Hood
The French hood originated in the land which gave it its name - France - in the late 15th century. There were similarities between the early French Hood and the Round Hood (worn by the Spanish Queen Joanna of Castile - remembered by history as Joanna the Mad - and her contemporaries, including her youngest sister, Katherine of Aragon, who later became a notable wearer of the Gable Hood).
An early French Hood, which is recognisable with later versions, was worn by Queen Anne of Brittany (d. 1514). Resting on her hair is a piece of gauze called a goffering. On top of this was a cap, of which there is a visible portion, whilst the rest was hidden by the hood itself. The semi-circular hood of the English Gable and the hood of the French were similar - aside from the fact taht the front edge was slightly curved in the French Hood. This front edge is slightly concave, and like the Gable, had jewels on the front. This hood is sewn so that it forms a tube which hangs down the back.
The French Hood had developed by the time of Queen Claude of France (d. 1524), who was herself the daughter of Queen Anne of Brittany. Again there would be the piece of gauze which sits on the hair, on top of which again would be a cap, fitting closely to the head. The hood would be fitted on top of the cap. The front edge of the hood was fixed with a wire, and covered with material or gold. This edge would form a curve similar to that of a crescent moon. The front edge would come down before and below the ears - sloping backward near the forehead, so more hair would be visible. The back part of the hood was the same as worn by Queen Anne of Brittany - like a tube and allowed to hand down the back.
The French Hood at the Tudor Court
History and books have generally credited Queen Anne Boleyn - the second wife of King Henry VIII - with introducing the French Hood to the English Court. However, a portrait of Henry's sister Mary, Queen of France, Duchess of Suffolk, with her second husband Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk shows her wearing the French Hood. This portrait was completed c.1516. This means that it was in fact Mary who introduced the French Hood to court, and not Anne. It may be that whilst Mary introduced it, Anne herself was the person who popularised it as a fashionable choice after she caught the eye of the King.
The hood worn by Queen Anne Boleyn had already changed slightly from the one worn by Queen Claude. The front reminds one of a horse-shoe, and is edged by pearls on both the top and bottom. The goffering is still there, and the hood (that is, the tube that hangs down the back) is still the same.
After the 1530s, the French Hood had become a popular choice for ladies of the court and the old-fashioned Gable Hood found itself relegated to the older ladies, and the less fashionable.
By the 1540s, the style of the French Hood had once again developed - this time more noticeably. The wearer of this style is Queen Catherine Howard (fifth wife of King Henry VIII, and cousin of the second wife). The cap itself is pushed back behind the temples, but curves forward so that it comes before the ears. There is probably a strap attached beneath the chin to hold the hood in place. The piece of goffering is just visible as a thin strip sitting on the hair. The wire in the top of the hood is masked by jewels.
The French Hood as worn by Lady Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I of England) in 1546, has developed slightly from the hood worn by Queen Catherine. The red part of the hood is in fact a false piece and separate from the real hood. The front edge sweeps backward, curving at eye level, and is edged with pearls. The back edge sweeps forwards and ends at chin level. The goffering is still there, and the hood is given an effect known as the coronet because of the way in which the jewels are mounted on top of the red piece.
The hood worn by Queen Mary I after her accession was very similar to the French Hood worn through the reign of her predecessor, Edward VI. The "coronet" is different from the hood worn by Lady Elizabeth - it is more flat, wider, and appears rigid, before it curves down and finishes just behind the ears. It is now impossible to see if there is a goffering in place, and the black material on the front lies almost flat on the head. The material (probably velvet) also curves at the side and comes forwards above and before the ears, and is almost level with the forehead. What had been the red false piece in the Lady Elizabeth's hood is now white, and is shaped differently than Elizabeth's. The tube is fixed to the back of the jewelled edge, and hangs down the back as before.
The French Hood continued to be worn occasionally during the reign of Elizabeth I, though as new, more elaborate headdresses came into fashion, the Hood that had once reigned supreme in England for over thirty years came into decline, and was gone by the end of the reign. It had already vanished in the land of its birth by the time Henry III sat on the throne of France.