royalty clothing

Cloaks, Crowns, and Gowns: Decoding Royalty Clothing

The Middle Ages, a time of knights and castles, monks and monasteries, was also an era of profound richness in terms of fashion, particularly royalty clothing. From the towering castles of Europe to the vibrant courts of Asia, the extravagant attire of royals reflected societal hierarchy, power, and affluence. Cloaks, crowns, and gowns served not just a functional purpose, but also as a showcase of status and power, each with intricate meanings woven into their designs. Imbued with symbolism, these items of royalty clothing were much more than mere fashion statements. They were the fabric of medieval society, reflecting the vibrant tapestry of cultural, political, and social norms of the time.

Cloaks: The Emblem of Nobility

Cloaks, as integral components of royalty clothing, were worn with pride and honor by the medieval elites. They shielded the royals from the harsh weather, but perhaps more importantly, cloaks served as an outward sign of nobility. Cloaks were an expression of individuality and were often adorned with unique symbols representing personal or familial significance.

Symbolism of the Cloak

In the grand courts and grandeur-filled events, the cloak was more than just a piece of fabric. It was a symbol of status and power. Each element of a royal cloak had a distinct significance. The fabric, whether it be velvet, silk, or fur-lined, hinted at the wealth of the wearer. A long cloak denoted high rank, as did an abundance of ornate decoration. Rich embroidery, often in gold or silver thread, featured heraldic symbols or motifs that signified the royal lineage or realm. The color too held meaning – purple and crimson were typically reserved for the highest echelons of royalty, symbolizing power and wealth.

Prominent Examples of Royal Cloaks

Perhaps the most recognizable and celebrated royal cloak belonged to Emperor Charles V. Made of crimson velvet, the cloak was embellished with the Golden Fleece, the highest chivalric order in Europe. This reflected not only Charles V’s power and dominance but also his knightly virtues and sense of duty.

Another remarkable example is the cloak of Queen Elizabeth I of England. Known for her love of fashion, her cloak was made from black velvet, lined with ermine fur, and heavily adorned with pearls and precious stones. This sartorial choice reflected her wealth, majesty, and the indomitable strength of her reign. Each pearl represented purity and virginity, an image that Elizabeth I cultivated throughout her rule.

These cloaks are vivid illustrations of how royalty clothing transcends simple aesthetics, embodying complex layers of personal and political identity in the Middle Ages.

Crowns: The Quintessential Symbol of Royalty

The crown – the ultimate mark of royalty, is an enduring symbol of authority, righteousness, and divine favor. From the lustrous gold and shimmering gemstones to the intricate design details, each aspect of the crown was laden with deep meaning and symbolism. Crowns were not merely opulent headpieces, they were declarations of divine right to rule and emblems of a kingdom’s honor and glory.

The Design and Material of Crowns

Medieval crowns were typically made from the purest gold, symbolizing the highest form of earthly power and authority. But a crown was far more than just a golden circlet; it was a canvas of royal and divine symbolism. The design details of crowns were painstakingly chosen to represent the virtues, power, and responsibilities of the wearer.

Gemstones, carefully selected for their symbolic meanings, were often set into the crown. Rubies, symbolizing wisdom and strength, were favored for their fiery red hue. Sapphires, with their heavenly blue color, represented virtues and were believed to bring divine favor. Diamonds, renowned for their hardness and brilliance, were seen as symbols of invincibility and perfection. Emeralds were often used to denote fertility and rebirth.

Crosses, signifying religious devotion and the divine right to rule, and fleur-de-lis, representing purity and the Holy Trinity, were common motifs incorporated into the design.

Iconic Crowns of the Medieval Age

Among the crowns of the Middle Ages, the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire stands as one of the most impressive. Designed in the 10th century, it was crafted from pure gold and encrusted with an array of sapphires, pearls, and other precious stones. Each of its elements was symbolically significant. The cross on top represented the emperor’s role as the defender of the Christian faith, while the octagonal shape symbolized renewal and resurrection.

St. Edward’s Crown, part of the English Crown Jewels, is another prime example of an iconic medieval crown. Made of solid gold, this magnificent piece is adorned with 444 precious and semi-precious stones. It is not just a display of wealth but a sacred symbol of the divine authority of the monarchy.

These crowns bear witness to the intersection of power, religion, and art in the crafting of medieval royalty clothing, highlighting the majesty and symbolic depth of royal regalia.

Gowns: The Canvas of Medieval Royalty

Gowns are the epitome of medieval female royalty clothing, demonstrating not only the wearer’s rank but also the aesthetic sensibilities of the era. Royal gowns of the Middle Ages were an exquisite fusion of elegance, luxury, and symbolism. They conveyed an air of dignity, grace, and grandeur, distinguishing their wearers in a crowd and marking them as individuals of influence and power.

Styling and Decoration of Gowns

The design of royal gowns in the Middle Ages was driven by an appreciation for dramatic silhouettes, luxurious materials, and meticulous ornamentation. The gowns often had a fitted bodice to accentuate the waist, with a full skirt that draped elegantly to the ground. The sleeves were typically long and sometimes trailed onto the floor, adding to the sense of grandeur and formality.

Fabrics used were of the highest quality and included silk, velvet, and brocade, reflecting the opulence of the royal courts. The color of the gowns also carried symbolic significance; bright, rich colors like crimson, royal blue, and emerald green were often chosen as they indicated wealth and status.

Ornamentation was key in royal gowns and they were often heavily decorated with intricate embroidery, precious gemstone embellishments, and gold or silver threads. Such detailed adornment further elevated the richness of the gowns and underlined the status of the wearer.

Memorable Royal Gowns

Among the many memorable royal gowns of the Middle Ages, the wedding gown of Anne of Brittany stands out. The French queen’s wedding dress was crafted from white silk – a rarity at the time, displaying an aura of purity and innocence. It was intricately embroidered with ermine tails, a symbol of her royal status, and embellished with pearls, symbolizing her virtue and beauty.

Another noteworthy gown belonged to Eleanor of Aquitaine, queen of France and later England. Her gowns, known for their heavy brocade fabric and gold threadwork, were renowned throughout Europe. One of her most famous gowns was a red velvet piece adorned with gold embroidery and pearls, demonstrating her status as one of the most powerful women of her time.

These gowns, steeped in beauty and symbolism, offer a window into the opulence and intricacies of royalty clothing in the Middle Ages. They underscore the splendor of royal courts, where fashion was much more than a means of self-expression; it was a statement of power and status.

Medieval Royal Footwear: More Than Just Walking Shoes

In medieval times, footwear was more than just a basic necessity; it was an integral part of the social fabric, distinctly demarcating class and status. For royalty, shoes were an extension of their persona, a showcase of wealth and influence. They were made with the finest materials and adorned with opulent decorations, making them pieces of art in their own right.

Function and Fashion of Royal Footwear

While the primary purpose of shoes is protection and comfort, royal footwear in the medieval era was also about making a fashion statement. They were designed to reflect the rank and wealth of the wearer and often used as a canvas to exhibit craftsmanship and artistry.

Most royal footwear was crafted from high-quality materials such as leather, velvet, or silk, setting them apart from the common folk whose shoes were typically made of more mundane materials. Royals also wore boots, which offered more protection and were suitable for outdoor activities, such as hunting, a favored pastime of medieval nobility.

Decoration played a crucial role in royal footwear. The shoes and boots were often embroidered with silver or gold thread, adorned with precious gems, or embellished with intricate designs, underlining their exclusivity.

Notable Royal Footwear Examples

One of the most renowned examples of medieval royal footwear belonged to King Edward I of England, known as Longshanks. His ‘poulaines’, shoes with an exaggerated pointed tip, became synonymous with his reign. The length and upward curve of the point denoted nobility and were indicative of the wearer’s status.

Queen Eleanor of Castile, Edward I’s queen, was also known for her fashionable footwear. Her shoes, typically made of rich velvet or silk, were often intricately decorated. One of her most famous pairs was a set of slip-on shoes adorned with pearls and gemstones, making them a reflection of her refined taste and royal status.

These instances of royal footwear illustrate the opulence and the intricate artistry that were hallmarks of medieval royalty clothing. They underscore that every aspect of royal attire, right down to the shoes, was an expression of status, power, and prestige.

Accessories: Adding the Royal Touch

Accessories in the Middle Ages played a crucial role in completing the look of royalty. They served as symbols of power and wealth, often being as significant, if not more, than the clothing itself. These were not merely decorative items; they were badges of honor, communicating the wearer’s rank and status. From gloves and belts to jewelry, these accessories were crafted from the finest materials and were a testament to the artistry of the era.

The Importance of Royal Accessories

In medieval times, accessories held symbolic significance and added an extra layer of meaning to the wearer’s attire. Items such as gloves, belts, brooches, and jewelry weren’t just ornamental; they were tokens of status, wealth, and power.

Gloves, for instance, signified purity and protection and were often worn by royalty during ceremonies. Belts, crafted from leather or fabric and studded with precious gems, were not just utilitarian but also demonstrated the wearer’s standing and wealth.

Jewelry, such as necklaces, rings, and brooches, played a crucial role in displaying wealth and status. They were usually made of gold or silver and encrusted with gemstones like rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and pearls.

Spotlight on Noteworthy Royal Accessories

Among the many fascinating royal accessories of the Middle Ages, King Louis IX of France’s royal gloves are particularly memorable. Crafted from the softest leather, they were encrusted with pearls and gemstones, exemplifying the fine craftsmanship of the time. These gloves were not just a testament to the king’s wealth but also represented his piety and devotion.

Queen Philippa of Hainault’s jewel-studded belt is another notable accessory. The belt, made of gold and adorned with an array of precious stones, was a visual representation of her royal status and refined taste. It was more than just a means to cinch her gown; it was a symbol of her power and authority.

These examples shed light on the important role accessories played in medieval royalty clothing, adding depth to their outfits and giving them a unique identity.

Royal Children’s Clothing: Miniature Grandeur

When it comes to children’s clothing in medieval times, royal children were no exception to the display of wealth and status that was synonymous with the attire of their parents. Their outfits, often scaled-down versions of adult clothing, were just as opulent and detailed, reflecting the importance of royal lineage and inheritance.

Style and Significance of Children’s Royalty Clothing

From a very young age, the children of royals were dressed in miniature versions of adult clothes, symbolizing their status and preparing them for their future roles. These garments were designed with the same luxurious fabrics and ornamentation used in adult royalty clothing, including velvets, silks, and furs, as well as jewels and intricate embroidery.

Gowns, cloaks, tunics, and doublets were common, with styling reflecting the reigning fashion of the time. Boys often wore scaled-down versions of their father’s attire, while girls were dressed in smaller versions of their mother’s gowns. This early introduction to the world of royal fashion served not just a practical purpose but also underscored their lineage and the responsibilities they would assume in the future.

Famous Examples of Children’s Royalty Clothing

One of the notable examples of children’s royal clothing is the christening gown of King Henry VI of England. The gown, made of white silk, was lavishly adorned with pearls and featured intricate embroidery. This garment, although meant for a baby, was designed to reflect his future role as king.

Another significant example is the wardrobe of Edward, the Black Prince. Even as a young boy, he was dressed in clothing that mirrored the armor of his father, King Edward III. This included a miniaturized version of a knight’s tunic and a cloak, both of which were made from fine fabrics and decorated with the royal arms.


The exploration of royalty clothing from the Middle Ages offers a fascinating glimpse into a time when attire was not just about fashion but a tangible reflection of power, status, and identity. From the symbolism-laden cloaks, crowns, and gowns to the opulent accessories and meticulously designed children’s clothing, each garment served as a testament to the wearer’s rank and role within society. This rich tapestry of royal attire underscores the grandeur of medieval times, shedding light on the intricacies of societal hierarchy and the significance of fashion as a language of power.