Apr 22

First ‘Englishman’ to use a Handkerchief?

MY COMPENDIUM OF FASCINATING HISTORICAL IRRELEVANCIES – 2 Robin Lamplough Richard II Who would you describe as “the historian’s historian”? My money would be on the late Barbara W. Tuchman, who first achieved professional recognition with The Zimmerman Telegram in 1958 and won a first of two Pulitzer Prizes for The Guns of August (1962). But apart from her impeccable investigation and her inimitable prose, she unearths unlikely gems of no particular significance yet of remarkable interest.  One of these offers an answer to the question posed as the title of this note: the first ‘Englishman’ to use a handkerchief.  This information comes from her examination of Europe in the 14th century, A Distant Mirror (1978). Writing of the son of the Black Prince and the last of the Plantagenets (hence the quotation marks around Englishman)Richard 11, she reports that this arrogant and unhappy ruler’s household rolls contain the entry “little pieces [of cloth] made for giving to the lord King for carrying in his hand to wipe and clean his nose.” (p. 444). It is likely, one imagines, that Richard was not in fact an innovator in the true sense of the word, but was following a custom learned at the French court.  But there is no escaping the puzzlement, or perhaps incredulity, in the mind of the scrivener whose task it was to make an inventory of the royal linen cupboard. One wonders who started the custom of wearing one of those ‘little pieces’ in the breast pocket of his jacket?

1 comment

  1. ~Ed

    An intriguing Historical “snippet”

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