Dressing a 13th Century Historical Romance Heroine

You may not know this but I love fashion especially historical costume. I studied fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology so it is natural that I blend my two passions together: Writing and fashion.

In my medieval Highlander Romance, The Laird’s Right, my heroine Portia de Mowbray is an English woman who finds herself kidnapped by Laird Alec Cameron. Portia may be surrounded by Highlanders but she sticks to her English styled garments. The Laird's Right Cover A Medieval Scottish Romance

During the medieval times, the style is different from our modern day style but both function and fashion play an important part. After all, that is what clothing must do.

For Portia, she would be wearing numerous items both under and outer garments. First off, our tough Portia would have worn hose and garters with fancy buckles to hold them up (after all there was no elastic) and a chemise with long sleeves and a high neckline. The chemise would have been constructed of linen. And she would not be donning any underwear. No panties or bra for Portia.

Now Portia would slip her côte over her head. The côte was a wide garment. It was wide at the shoulder and narrowed at the wrist. It’s the image we all have the medieval princess that is plastered around us. The natural waist was usually belted. Portia would have worn two layers one made of a linen then a wool or silk one even a velvet one to show off her status.

She’s not finished getting dressed yet.

Of course, Portia isn’t walking away yet because she needs shoes. In the 1250s, her shoes would be a soft shoe with more of a pointed toe that could have been embroidered in a floral motif or scrolls. Anything that she thought was fashionable or like. Back then, there was no right or left foot shoe so it would look odd to our eyes. Also it would have been constructed of leather.

Now she would choose some accessories. A belt for her côte, one made of silver or gold even with jewels, depending on what she might afford. Portia could put on a brooch or a jeweled collar or pendant to add a little flash. She might have taken gloves and her drawstring purse and dirk that may have jewels on the hilt.

Now with Portia dressed, she must do something with her hair. Perhaps, she has better skills than me or her maid does better than Portia. Her long blonde hair would be parted in the center and plaited. She might have her braids twisted into a bun since she is a widow. Her head would be covered with a coif, wimple or barbette even a gold or silver chaplet to give her that romantic look.

So, Portia is ready to face the day but if it was a chilly one, she would have had a cloak, which would have been a long mantle trailing on the ground and fastened in the front with a brooch. That too would have reflected her status and her fashion choices. It would have been wool or velvet. It could have been trimmed in fur and even fur-lined.

Maciejowski_Bible_Woman
The most basic of what Portia may have looked it once dressed. Though, with more flair as she has a bit more coin.

 

To your modern eyes and sensibilities, would you don these garments? Sounds pretty comfortable to me.

 

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Historical Couples: Edward I and Eleanor of Castile

Edward_I_of_England_-_Illustration_from_Cassell's_History_of_England_-_Century_Edition_-_published_circa_1902When I first saw Braveheart, I got hooked on Scotland. Naturally, I had to learn the true history. As I read about the War for Scottish Independence and the time before the death of Alexander III and his granddaughter, the Maid of Norway, stories started swirling about my head. That history led me to write my Highlander romance novels, The Marriage Alliance, Claiming the Highlander and The Laird’s Right.

During my learning spree, I discovered Edward I of England and his wife Eleanor of Castile. History remembers Edward as a king that changed the English government and legislation, conqueror of Wales and as the Hammer of the Scots. There were many facets to this couple that as we look back with modern eyes is not very nice or to be truthful—he was a right bastard—sometimes.

As a husband, history remembers him differently.

On November 1, 1254, Edward married Eleanor of Castile in the monastery of Las Huelgas in Burgos, Spain. Their marriage much like others royal ones was a political alliance. Eleanor was better educated than most medieval queens and was considered a keen businesswoman.

But when they first married, they were nothing more than teenagers and Eleanor soon became pregnant. Sadly, her daughter was stillborn. However, she went on to survive sixteen pregnancies.

This royal couple was rarely apart. She even accompanied him on military campaigns. When Edward went on Crusade, Eleanor went with him and gave birth to her daughter known as Joan of Acre. A tale about that time shows their love. Edward was injured they say with a poison dagger and that Eleanor sucked out the poison. Sadly that tale is false but it shows how their contemporaries viewed their relationship. In fact, Edward was not known to have had extramarital affairs and fathered no children out of wedlock.

In November 1290, Eleanor was traveling to Lincoln when she became ill. Seven miles from Lincoln, they halted at Harby, Nottinghamshire and took up residence a house nearby. Word of the Queen’s illness reached Edward. He rushed to her side. Three days later, with Edward at Eleanor’s side, she died.  It was the 28th of November and Eleanor was 49. They were married for 36 years.

For most of way back to return to London, Edward accompanied his wife’s body to Westminster Abbey.  Edward ordered memorial crosses to be erected at each site that was an overnight stop between Lincoln and Westminster. They were known as Eleanor’s Crosses. Only three survive. The best is located in Geddington, England.

220px-Old_Charing_Cross

In a letter from Edward, he wrote about his wife, “whom living we dearly cherished and whom dead we cannot cease to love.”

Edward remarried nine years later because his sons were young and could die. The son Edward, the youngest of Eleanor’s children and the first to hold the title Prince of Wales, was about six years old and survived to become Edward II. His second wife gave birth to a daughter who they named Eleanor.

 

 

 

Love is…the story continues after all

man and woman holding each others hand wrapped with string lights
Photo by Anastasiya Lobanovskaya on Pexels.com

I write romance novels like The Marriage Alliance  because I love a happy ending. I don’t know if I can blame Disney for that but whatever. Life has enough hardships and sadness that I refuse to spend my time writing something depressing.

As a reader, I too love a happily ever after. Perhaps, it’s silly but I believe in love. As a reader and writer, I love an epilogue. I want to see the characters that I have spent my time with to have their happy ending.

The epilogue for me as a writer is showing that all the struggles and fighting have been worth something that is special and continues to grow—that love never dies.

You see for me I know that love never dies. When I was a fifteen-year-old girl, I met the love of my life. At twenty, I lost him. He died and these twenty plus years, I still love him. I know that if he were still alive, we would be married and probably I would have some kids. That had been our plan. So, my happy ending didn’t come. And you might be saying then how can you still believe?

Easily. Because it wasn’t our love that ended. His life did. In all those years, we were together and the times we were apart our love continued. Our love still lives.

That is our epilogue.

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