Livery rolls were so name because they recorded the various material issued out from the great wardrobe (from the Latin liberāre – to free). Early examples from the reign of Edward I were relatively simple documents recording the issue of robes to the king, queen, their children and other members of the royal household. An example is TNA, E101/367/17 (1304/05) which consists of just six membranes of vellum and records the cloth and furs issued for robes for the royal family at a variety of feasts including Christmas and Pentecost. Later in the account is recorded all of the materials issued for making robes for the various boys in the king’s keeping. In the left hand margin is recorded the type of cloth issued, which would have helped the clerks to keep track of how much material they had in stock.
Domino Regis ad robam suam cont[ra] festum natal[is] d[omi]ni
The reverse of the manuscript recorded a total of all the materials issued in the account. This would help the clerks of the great wardrobe justify how much money they had spent and enable them to keep an eye on their stock. The cloths have been divided into totals according to type of cloth e.g. scarlet; color’; nig’ essaia’; rad’ and pann’ Angl’ (English Cloth). Furs were similarly listed according to type e.g. miniver and grover. Each fur entry then records the size of the furs issued. For example (in E101/367/17, m. 1 dorse), miniver is divided into coop[er]tor’; pen’; covrchef’; fur’; and caput’.
Later examples of livery rolls were much more extravagant and comprehensive. For example, E101/391/15 (1347-50) from the reign of Edward III is made up of twenty-six large membranes of fine vellum. Such is the quantity of goods recorded in this account that it is subdivided into a number of sections representing the destinations of the cloth and furs issued from the great wardrobe. The first section is dedicated to material issued to the royal tailors. First, to John de Marrey’s, the king’s tailor. Next to John of Cologne, the king’s armourer. Next to William of London, tailor of Queen Philippa of Hainault (1314-69). Then to William Galleys, tailor of Isabella of France (1295-1358) the king’s mother. Then to William de Stratton, tailor of Edward the Black Prince (1330-76). Then to Thomas de London, tailor of Prince Lionel (1338-68).Then to Thomas de Walton, tailor of Prince John of Gaunt (1340-99). Then to Richard de Zevele, tailor to Prince Edmund (1341-1402). Then to John of Bromley, tailor to Princess Isabella (1332-c.79). Then to William of Lyneham, tailor to Princess Joan (c.1334-48). Then William de Mertock, tailor to Princess Mary (1344-61). Then to Robert Pynel, tailor of Lady Elizabeth de Burgh (1295-1360) – Edward III’s cousin, being the daughter of Joan of Acre (1272-1307) daughter of Edward I. Then to Thomas of Glamorgan, tailor to Princess Margaret (1346-61).
The next section records items issued to Thomas de Baddeby for the wedding trousseau of Princess Joan for her planned marriage in Spain. Which included lavish furnishings for her chapel and several dresses for her wedding day. You can learn more about this here. The remainder of the account records gifts of materials issued to numerous individuals by the great wardrobe on behalf of the king – often for making robes. These included knights, chaplains, the king’s confessor, scholars at Cambridge University, and a host of royal servants.
Some of the most interesting entries in the account are in the section recording the issue of materials to John of Cologne, the king’s armourer. Not only did the armourer make items of protective and decorative military clothing and accessories for the king such as harnesses, aketon, and doublets, but also oversaw a great deal of embroidery. This fact is not surprising when we consider that the armourer was traditionally responsible for making flags which would have necessitate a great deal of embroidery. Indeed, the account records flags of various shapes and sizes including standards, streamers, pennons, and smaller pennoncellus. These were embroidered with a number of insignia including leopards, garters and the arms of St George.
This manuscript is particularly important because it contains the first recorded references to the Order of the Garter – to this day England’s highest order of Chivalry. The account records that Edward III had a number of items decorated with the garter badge including flags, a bed and various items of clothing. The entries for some of these items are transcribed below:
TNA, E101/391/15, m. 8
Et ad faciendu[m] ij stremar’ de worsted’ uno ut’ de armis q[ua]rtellat[is] et alt[er]o de arm[is] q[ua]rtellat[is] cu[m] yma/ginen s[anc]ti Laurencij in capite op[er]ato de j pala alba pouderat’ cu[m] garteriis bluet’ Et af fac[iendum] ij stremar’ curt’ de armis reg[is] q[ua]rtell[atis] Et ad fac[iendum] ij syndon’ / de eisd[e]m arm[is] r[egis]
vij lb’candelar[um] cere
iij lb. de – cotoun’
You can read more of this account in Medieval Dress and Textiles in Britain: A Multilingual Sourcebook, ed. by L. M. Sylvester, M. C. Chambers and G. R. Owen-Crocker (Woodbridge, 2014), pp. 114-25.
To learn more about the Order of the Garter click here.