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The Queen of Sicily’s Paris Shopping List, 1277
By Sarah-Grace Heller, Ohio State University
Paper given at the Dress and Textiles IV: Speaking of (and with) Clothing and Textiles session, 48th International Congress on Medieval Studies (2013)
Sarah-Grace Heller examines a letter sent by Charles I of Anjou, King of Sicily to one of his agents in Paris, where he provides a detailed order of textiles and clothing that he needed to have purchased.
Margaret of Burgundy, the daughter of the Count of Nevers, had married Charles of Anjou in 1268 and became the Queen consort of Sicily. Although the couple predominately ruled from Naples, Charles was living in Rome in February of 1277 when he sent a letter to one of his agents in Paris, providing him a list of goods to be bought in and around the city, which would then be shipped to Italy for use in Charles and Margaret’s court, and in many cases as gifts for their supporters and guests.
The items include:
– a thousand aunes of linen, which is the modern equivalent of 1195 yards
– 10 dozen linens, which were probably meant to be household linens and cloths
– 40 green serges that would be used for pillow covers and bedding
– 2 dozen carpets, half green and half red, which could be used for royal interior decorating
– 60 sets of linen robes
– 4 pounds of tying laces, and 2 further pounds for sewing and edging
– 60 table cloths
– 20 dozen wiping cloths, which were used by people after a meal
– 5 dozen lacing needles
– 1 pelt and 2 pairs of strong hose
– 1 piece of fine linen for making coifs
– in regards to woolen fabrics, they ordered 4 vermillion scarlets, 2 peacock blue, 6 green and 6 dark blue
– 6 pairs of gloves lined with fur, 12 dozen unlined gloves for men and 6 dozen unlined gloves for women
– 3 dozen gold-plated silver belt buckles
– 2 dozen white silver belt buckles
– 6 gold brooches
– 1/2 poind of ‘orsende’, which Heller believes to be a type of gold edging
– 36 small knives
– 36 pieces of linen kerchiefs
– 1 piece of wimple fabric cloth
– 3 dozen large floral (or white coifs for the Queen
– 4 dozen full coifs for the Queen
– 5 dozen silk kerchiefs
– 4 pieces of cloth for wimples that will wrap around 5 times for the Queen
– 4 pieces of cloth for wimples that will wrap around 4 times for the Queen
– 1 crown
– 10000 good pins from Lagna
– 2 dozen pearl hair ornaments for gifts
– 5 dozen working caps in several colors
– 2 dozen peal chaplets
– 5 dozen hars from Poissy (“v dozenesde chapiaus de poisson”), which was a place close to Paris
Sarah-Grace Heller offers some insights into this list of textiles, noting that the King and Queen of Naples sought items from Paris for both fashion and comfort. Evidently, they believed the French city could provide the right supplies and right sizes for their needs, rather than more local areas, such as Italian towns like Florence or Rome. Meanwhile, with only one reference to silk goods, and none to shoes, one expects that the royal couple were getting those materials from elsewhere.
Sarah-Grace Heller, who teaches at Ohio State University, is the author of Fashion in Medieval France. She is now working on her next book, which will be entitled an Illustrated History of Medieval Fashion.