Would French hoods have been made of gauze?

One question that I have been asked about the BBC version of Wolf Hall is whether the headdresses worn by Anne and her ladies are accurate. In particular, whether they would really have been made of such light, gauzy fabric with very narrow hoods?

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Anne Boleyn in the BBC’s production of Wolf Hall
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Jane Seymour in the BBC’s adaptation of Wolf Hall
Ben Miles (Thomas Cromwell) and Lydia Leonard (Anne Boleyn) in Wolf Hall
Wolf Hall stage production

It has taken me a while to get round to looking into this and I have to say that, given how well most of this production was researched, I am not entirely sure where they have got this idea from. They are not the only ones to go with this interpretation. The stage production of Wolf Hall also seems to use a lightweight fabric in headdresses, although it is more substantial. It is possible that they have been inspired by contemporary portraits where the French hoods (with their distinctive horseshoe shape set far back on the head) appear less bulky than the gable hoods favoured by Catherine of Aragon and the English hoods worn by Jane Seymour.

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However, accounts and inventories relating to Princess Mary, Catherine Parr and Jane Seymour all refer to velvet French hoods, which would likely have been more substantial than those seen in the images above. Furthermore, whilst costume makers seem to like producing colour coordinated headdresses, the veils would invariably have been black – this can be seen in portraits. The final problem I have with the BBC version of the hoods is that the hair is visible through it and, when Anne is executed, they take her hood off to replace it with a white cap. In reality, a linen cap would have been worn under the headdress to protect it from the oils in the wearer’s hair – portraits sometimes show the edge of this cap peeking out. Whilst, the stage production shows this white edging, they make the error (also popular with the makers of the The Tudors) of showing Anne with her hair loose and visible over her shoulders.

Period dramas are often known for their stunning costumes but in this case their take on the French hoods slightly miss the mark.

Lady Rochford – malicious or misunderstood?

In my post on Anne Boleyn’s family, I commented that I was interested to see how they were going to depict Jane, Lady Rochford’s involvement in Anne’s fall. In the end, they showed her talking to Cromwell after flirtatious chatter between Anne, Mark Smeaton, Francis Weston, Henry Norris and William Brereton gets out of hand. She then goes on to claim that her husband has committed adultery with his sister. Cromwell makes reference to Anne’s other ladies having talked after her arrest but we don’t see them. This is a departure from the book where Cromwell is shown talking to Elizabeth, countess of Worcester and Margaret Shelton before he talks to Jane Rochford.

Lady Rochford intrigues me as a character because of the contrast between her depiction in popular culture and the lack of evidence we really have about her. So, what do we know about her?  Continue reading “Lady Rochford – malicious or misunderstood?”

Wolf Hall Explained – Why did the Duke of Norfolk try his own niece?

One of the striking points of the trials of Anne and George Boleyn was the presence of the uncle, Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk, on his raised seat presiding over them. Surely it could be construed as a conflict of interest? And did Norfolk want to be trying his relatives? Continue reading “Wolf Hall Explained – Why did the Duke of Norfolk try his own niece?”

Wolf Hall Explained – Where was Mary Boleyn?

Fans of Philippa Gregory may have found themselves wondering where Mary Boleyn was as his sister was falling from favour and ultimately meeting her fate at the hands of the executioner. After all, in The Other Boleyn Girl book, Mary is at court when Anne is arrested and her daughter is taken to the Tower as a companion to Anne. In the 2008 film, Mary rides back to court to plead with Henry for her sister’s life and then sees Anne, promising to look after her daughter, Elizabeth. In contrast, Mary Boleyn disappeared from sight after episode 3 of Wolf Hall. Continue reading “Wolf Hall Explained – Where was Mary Boleyn?”

Wolf Hall explained – Why no defence lawyers?

I have watched the final episode of Wolf Hall twice now and both times it has moved me to tears. I am familiar with numerous instances of executions ordered by Henry VIII to the extent that I had become matter of fact about them, feeling little emotion. Peter Kosminsky changed that with his powerful depiction of the interrogations, trials and executions that humanized this stories for me.

The episode also raised several questions for me that I wanted to explore and explain. In this first post looking at Anne’s fall, I want to ask whey there were no defence lawyers in sight? Continue reading “Wolf Hall explained – Why no defence lawyers?”

The Ambassador, the Minister and the King

In episode 5 of Wolf Hall, we saw Eustace Chapuys at Court, being tricked into bowing to Anne Boleyn before being yelled at by Henry VIII, after which Cromwell also found himself on the receiving end of Henry’s anger. So, what exactly was it all about?

To answer this, we need to delve into the international politics of the period…. Continue reading “The Ambassador, the Minister and the King”

Why did the Pole and Courtenay families matter?

In the 4th episode of Wolf Hall, Thomas Cromwell was shown discovering that Henry Pole, Lord Montagu, and Henry Courtenay, marquis of Exeter, amongst the visitors to Elizabeth Barton (the nun who has been prophesying that Henry will not be King if he divorces Katherine of Aragon and marries Anne Boleyn). He is then shown questioning Margaret Pole, countess of Salisbury and Gertrude, marchioness of Exeter. But why were the Pole and Courtenay families important? And why did it matter if they were meeting with the woman predicting doom for Henry and England? Continue reading “Why did the Pole and Courtenay families matter?”

Wolf Hall Explained – Anne’s Family

In episode 3 of Wolf Hall, Cromwell was summoned to a crisis gathering of Anne’s family to deal with Henry Percy’s claim that he and Anne had been contracted to one another (in Tudor England, promises of marriage were seen as binding contracts and would mean that Anne was not free to marry Henry VIII). But who exactly were all the people standing around? Continue reading “Wolf Hall Explained – Anne’s Family”

Wolf Hall Explained – Was Thomas Cromwell a hit with the ladies?

In the second episode of Wolf Hall, Thomas Cromwell found himself on the receiving end of a reasonable amount of female attention (for a drama that is marketing itself as a serious political interpretation not the sex fest that is The Tudors). First up was Mary Boleyn, perhaps better known in popular culture as the heroine of Philippa Gregory’s novel The Other Boleyn Girl. She made her interest in Cromwell clear, although her motivation appeared to have been that it would piss of her relatives who had little interest in her since she had been cast off as Henry VIII’s mistress. Whilst Cromwell turned Mary down he did give into Joan, one of the women in his household. Joan was in fact his dead wife’s sister and her husband worked for Cromwell. So, did he really have women throwing themselves at him? Continue reading “Wolf Hall Explained – Was Thomas Cromwell a hit with the ladies?”

Wolf Hall Explained – Richard and Rafe

The storyline of Wolf Hall jumps us around between the ‘present’ and Thomas Cromwell’s flashbacks. When he is in the present, he is often accompanied by two young men – Rafe (Ralph) Sadler (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Richard (Joss Porter). But who exactly are they? Continue reading “Wolf Hall Explained – Richard and Rafe”