Saturday, June 11, 2011

Medieval Head Dresses

With all the recent fanfare revolving around the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton, I would say the second most discussed thing about the wedding besides the fabulous dress was the hat worn by Princess Beatrice. It left many wondering why anyone would step out in public wearing a monstrosity like that (but at least the good Princess was kind enough to auction it off for charity after it garnered so much attention). After recently reading a few historical fiction novels in the medieval time period, the description of the various head dresses worn by the women of the time got me thinking, maybe Princess Beatrice's hat isn't so crazy after all. I hate to admit ignorance on a subject but even with the best descriptions I wasn't really sure exactly what the head dresses would really look like. Some of the head dresses I was reading about seemed to be a little um, unique. I didn't know how they'd stack up against present day head gear but I'll let you be the judge.

This is the much talked about hat worn by Princess Beatrice at the royal wedding.

This is actress Lea Seydoux as Isabella of Angouleme in the 2010 movie Robin Hood wearing a gold circlet. This is I think what I picture most for medieval royalty, with or without a veil.

These lovely head dresses are called hennins. The one of the left is a truncated hennin. There is also one similar to this that has a rounded top referred to as a beehive hennin. The one on the right is a conical hennin and the one on the bottom is a divided hennin. These were worn by women of the nobility.

Next up we have the goffered or nebule head dress. This one framed the face and was worn by women when hunting or hawking to keep the hair away from the face.

This one is called a Templar and was popularized by Edward III's wife Queen Philippa. The hair was double plaited on either side of the face and put in the head dress to give a square shape.

This one is called a cross tree head dress and was made popular during the reign of Henry IV.

Later on it became fashionable for the ends of the cross tree to be elevated to look like horns which evolved into the horned head dress.

The white band going underneath the chin on the two shown above is called a barbette. The circular piece on the top which was generally about 2 inches tall is called a fillet.

This the wimple, a head and neck covering which was worn by women of every class.

This is a snood-a net like hair covering which was often adorned with pearls of jewels.

This is Sophie Marceau as Princess Isabelle in Braveheart. Here she is wearing a Caul which is another type of jewelled netted hair covering worn in the middle ages.

This one goes back to the early medieval period and is called a head-rail. It was worn by anglo-saxon ladies.

Finally in the above 2 pictures we have the coif. The one on top is a version which was worn by men women and children in the 13th century. The bottom one is a jewelled coif which was worn by noblewomen of the period.

I'm thinking after some of these I would take Princess Beatrice's hat any day of the week :) Which one is your favorite?

And now for my sources because as much as I'd like to boast of having superior knowledge of medieval head dresses I actually found the definitions for them here:

And I found pictures for the nebule, templar, and cross tree head dress and when many of these head dresses were in use here at this awesome site (she actually recreates these head dresses!):


  1. Great post, Holly! I always have a hard time envisioning head dresses when they are described in novels. This post will definitely help.

    As for which one I like best, I'm not sure I'd like to wear any of them.

    PS - I always thought the head dress worn by Sophie Marceau in Brave heart you have pictured above reminded me of Princess Leia's hair from Star Wars.

  2. It reminded me of Princess Leia too! I don't know if I'd wear any of them either. Maybe just the plain gold circlet. On the other hand since I'm 4'11" some of these would definitely help me appear taller :)