A to Z of Elizabethan Times

F is for

Fashion

There were two places where the latest fashions for both men and women could be seen, Elizabeth’s court and the sermons at St Paul’s Cross. The court was an amazing sight, where courtiers vied with each other to show off the latest fashion. The clothes and jewellery were sumptuous and highly extravagant. At a time when five pounds was the yearly wage for a house servant, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the Queen’s favourite, spent five thousand pounds a year on clothes alone!

The average person could not attend court, but they could go to the sermons at St Paul’s where they could check on the fashions worn by the ladies of the Lord Mayor, aldermen and the great nobles and merchants who sat in the galleries. It was not only Londoners who came, but tourists from the country and abroad.

Food

The Elizabethans consumed large quantities of meat of all sorts. One observer wrote, “we eat more meat at one meal than the Spaniard or Italian do in a month.” Today, we are so used to shopping at supermarkets, that it seems strange to shop every day as it was in these times. The pattern of meals was somewhat different. Breakfast, if taken at all, might consist of some weak beer and bread and butter, if available. Elizabethans ate two cooked meals a day. This was set out in Harrison’s book of manners as nobles, gentlemen and merchants sat down to dinner between eleven o’clock and noon and supped about six in the evening. Working people dined about noon and supped about seven or eight in the evening. As for the poor, they generally dine and sup when they may – if at all!

Gentlemen and merchants when entertaining might have four to six dishes on the table at once, but only half that when it was only the family. on more formal occasions, several meat and/or fish dishes with the right sauces would be served at one course. When people had eaten their fill of these they were replaced by another set of dishes. These would be followed by sweet pies and fruit. However, there was not the clear division between meat and sweet, as each course might include both.

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