What Did Medieval Kings Wear?

Elaborate furs, velvet hats, brocaded silk and other luxurious fabrics in rich colors such as purple and red are just a few of the trends that dominated royal garb of the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages span nearly a thousand years of history, and the prevailing clothing styles were as varied as they have been between the 11th century and now.

The clothing of kings has always been primarily about outwardly displaying wealth. The wealthier a king could make himself seem to allies and enemies, the more feared and respected he was. Early in the Middle Ages, Roman influence still heavily affected the styles of kings. Hunting, however, soon became a reflection of the size of one’s kingdom. A lot of animals to hunt meant that a king had a lot of land. Accordingly, kings began wearing furs. Furs served the additional purpose of being functional in colder weather. Other animals also provided ornate embellishments to the clothing of medieval kings. Feathers were particularly common and popular.

In general, kings wore loose clothing, such as floor-length robes. The fact that kings could wear loose clothing meant that they could afford to dress for comfort rather than for function. Velvet hats became a symbol of wealth around the middle of the Middle Ages. As trade routes began to open up to Asia toward the latter half of the Middle Ages, kings began wearing exotic fabrics such as silk as an exhibition of their wealth. In terms of color, red was a common symbol of wealth, and purple was considered especially regal since purple dye could only be derived from a rare type of snail.