Thursday, November 26, 2015

U is for Underwear. The ABC's of the Reign of Our Most Gracious Sovereign Elizabeth

In 2013 my mother and I traveled to our motherland - England - and we played tourist in London.
 
My mother on our trip to London in 2013 - after this Yeoman Warder told her he was an Atheist, Mom (devout Catholic)  told him she'd pray for him. That's the exact moment I snapped this picture. Check out his expression - lol!!!

In Westminster Abbey, we found ourselves in the small(ish) but extremely captivating museum tucked away in part of the undercroft that led to the monks dormitory.
Built in the eleventh century (!!!) by Edward the Confessor, the museum displays costumes and death masks of monarchs (which, come to think of it, would be a terrific name for a metal band.) 

There are wooden effigies wearing the costumes, and any sense of the creepy is entirely absent.
I can't say why.
Even knowing the death masks were fashioned from the actual dead faces of the rulers of England doesn't make them at all creepy.
Henry VII's death mask, according to Andrew Duncan's terrific book, Secret London, still contains little bits of his (Henry VII's, not Mr. Duncan's, lol) actual hair - trapped in the material when the death mask was pulled off

When I visited the Abbey Museum, the undies of Elizabeth I were on display.
Yes.
Her actual undies.
Not her knickers, but a "pair of bodys." 
A bodice, in other words. 
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/ed/68/10/ed6810e5964d467b48a337aaf69642a4.jpg 
'Surprised' hardly describes my reaction.

A docent behind one of the sales counters laughed merrily when I asked about the provenance of the 'bodys.'
"It was found when some restoration was done. Quite recently."
"And it *actually* belonged to the queen?" 
"Oh, yes. Made for her effigy, but still hers." And she smiled, then returned to what she'd been doing before I interrupted her.

While the generally accepted theory is that women in the sixteenth century didn't wear knickers, I find that difficult to believe.
Between the normal, monthly courses of woman, and the post-childbirth healing process, it seems (to me, anyway) unlikely that women allowed their body secretions to simply flow down their thighs. 
I believe there was some sort of cloth tied in place to prevent that from staining their clothing; my best guess is a sort of string-bikini-thong garment that tied at the hips.
"You go home and get your scanties, and I'll go home and get my panties, and away we'll go."
Regardless of whether or not Elizabeth I wore knickers or not, you too can see her 'pair of bodys' in 2018 when the new Jubilee Galleries are due to open.

Thank you,     
http://www.westminster-abbey.org/our-history/royals/elizabeth-i 
for information about the bodice of Elizabeth I.