A fool in fur-lined cloaks

European court account books yield rich details concerning the kind of clothes provided to fools and jesters. They also provide insights into the apparently generous provision commonly made for them, raising serious doubts concerning the occasional notion that jesters were poorly treated.

Clothes listed in the accounts are not of the iconic cap-and-bells type, for which there is only patchy evidence beyond its being a highly recognisable and widely deployed visual device. Nevertheless, we occasionally read of cloth that was ‘marbré’ or ‘royé’, that is, of different colours, or striped, giving at least a nod to the motley or parti-coloured costumes we associate with European jesters.

More such details to follow. Here is a specific item from the French accounts of the mid-14th century.

‘To Master Johan, the King’s fool, to line the gown of his Easter livery with fur; for the two long tunics and the cloak, four strips of fine white lambsfur at 40 sous each; and for the hood, two hoods of white Arragon at 20 sous each; and for two dozen trimmings for the said gown, at 8 sous each, totalling 19 pounds and 12 sous.’

‘Maistre Jehan, le fol du Roy, pour fourrer sa robe de sa livrée de Pasques; pour les deux surcoz et la cloche, quatre pennes d’aigneaux blanches fines, pièce 40 s. p.; et pour le chaperon, deux chaperons d’Arragon blans, pièce 20 s. p.; et pour deux douzaines de létices a pourfiler ladicte robe, 8 s.p. pour létice, valent tout 19 l. 12 s. par.’

See an example from the English court accounts of Henry VII, regarding payments made to people who entertained him, whether on a professional or occasional basis.  


Source: Compte de l’Argenterie d’Etienne de la Fontaine (1 July 1351- 4 February 1352), in Douet d’Arcq, Louis (ed.), Comptes de l’Argenterie des Rois de France au XIVe Siècle(Paris: Renouard, 1851), p. 160; see also pp. 149-50.

Source: Compte de l'Argenterie d'Etienne de la Fontaine (1st July 1351- 4th February 1352)

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