Always wear your silk pyjamas!

Always wear your silk pyjamas!
Always wear your silk pyjamas!

On the night of the 22nd July 1338 the king of England, Edward III and his queen, Philippa of Hainault, suffered the indignity of being seen in their night attire by the townspeople of Antwerp. They would not, of course, have been wearing pyjamas as in the fourteenth century both men and women wore long nightgowns as well as nightcaps or else slept naked.

Royalty went to great efforts to create an aura of majesty and, when on display, were clothed sumptuously in velvets and silks, their garments trimmed with the most expensive of furs and studded with gold and jewels, so the scene that night in Antwerp would have been immensely shocking. But on the other hand perhaps everyone, apart from the unfortunate royal couple and their household, found the sight of a half-naked king and queen, quite hilarious and a cause for much sniggering.

One person who would not have been laughing or sniggering was the wealthy townsman, Sirkyn Fordul, who had offered his house to the king of England for his night's lodging. Not only had his house burned down but he would have had to face the wrath of the duke of Brabant (Antwerp was in Brabant) for the insult to an honoured guest.

But the scene in Antwerp was not perhaps quite as shocking as the one in Pontoise in June 1313 when the then king of England, Edward II, who was stark naked at the time, carried his equally naked queen from a burning silken pavilion. The couple had been in bed when fire broke out in their wardrobe and the king, wisely, did not wait to put on any clothes. The chronicler/poet, Geoffrey of Paris, who reported the episode said the king, having ensured that his young wife was safe, bravely returned to the flames to rescue others, still wearing nothing (toute nue).

Yes, it was hot what with those flames, and yes, it was the middle of a French summer, but married couples in those days did not usually sleep naked. The Church frowned on the practice as it did on many other aspects of what went on under the marital sheets. So perhaps in respect of the rescuing of his wife we can say of Edward II (as Geoffrey of Paris did) - "love made him do it".

In 1302 Edward I and his second wife, Marguerite of France, were said to have narrowly escaped death when the royal apartments at Winchester burned down but regrettably we have no information as to their state of undress.

Sources: Philippa of Hainault and her Times by B C Hardy
Isabella of France, The Rebel Queen by Kathryn Warner
Wikipedia entry for Winchester Castle