Tudor Bonnets, Men and Women: A Portfolio of Images

Most women of the early sixteenth century Tudor court wore the gable headdress in its many forms, and later wore the French Hood. However there are several images of women in other forms of head wear. These drawings show hats similar to those worn by men of the period, except they are worn over a fitted and wired or stiffened linen undercap.

In addition to the feathered hat made famous by portraits of Henry VIII, men also wore several variations of hat, or 'bonnet' as they were called by those who wore them. I've included a sampling of these from drawings by Hans Holbein.

For images that depict women's gowns from this period see Tudor Dress: A Portfolio of Images.

For images that depict women wearing the gable headdress, see Tudor Gable Headdress: A Portfolio of Images.

Women's Bonnets:
Image of Margaret Giggs Margaret Giggs (mislabeled Mother Jak)
(Parker, pl. 8)

This drawing is probably a preliminary sketch for the painting of Thomas More's family done during Holbein's first visit to England, 1526-28.

"Margaret Giggs, a kinswoman and adopted daughter of Sir Thomas More, born 1508; educated in More's household by Dr. John Clement, afterwards Court Physician; married Clement, about 1530; present at More's execution, 1535; succoured the imprisoned Carthusians; went into exile and died at Mechlin, 1570." (Parker, p. 37)

Similar to the hat worn by the woman in the portrait "Lady with a Squirrel."

Image of an unknown Tudor lady A Lady: Unknown
(Dvorák,, pl. 28)

Probably drawn during Holbein's first visit, 1526-28.

Similar to the hat worn by the later portrait of an unknown woman.
Image of unknown Lady
Mary, Duchess of Richmond and Somerset
(Parker, pl. 16)

"Mary Howard, daughter of Thomas, third Duke of Norfolk and sister of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, born 1519; married Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, natural son of Henry VIII by Elizabeth Blount, in or after 1533; died 1557."
(Henry Fitzroy died in 1536.)
Although the image is in poor condition it is interesting as it it contains not only a bonnet with a feather like that worn by Katherine Parr, but has additional sketching at the bottom that Parker and others believe might be the design for the hat to be "powdered over with the initials R (Richmond) and MH (Mary Howard)."  (Parker, p. 40)
The drawing may have been done at or about the time of their marriage in 1533.
A Lady: Unknown
(Dvorák,, pl. 29)

This and the following drawings were probably done during Holbein's second stay in England, 1532 until his untimely death there by plague in 1543.

Portrait of an English Woman
(The Bristish Museum: Compass)

(Other images available at the Compass database, British Museum)

Image of an Unknown Tudor Lady
A Lady: Unknown
(Parker, pl. 48)

The hat appears to have a brim. The undercap appears to have a tie under the chin.
Image of an unknown Tudor Lady
A Lady: Unknown
(Parker, pl. 49)

The hat appears to have a brim. The undercap appears to have a tie under the chin. Note the similarity to the cap worn by the picture labeled "Anna Bollein, Queen" below.
A Lady: Unknown
(Parker pl. 63)

Labeled "Anna Bollein, Queen," the attribution is considered incorrect by Parker. However, it has received renewed affirmation by Ives in a recent article. (see below)

Men's Bonnets:

This is a sampling of the bonnets worn by men. They include several distinct construction styles. None of these, and none of the other images in the Windsor collection of drawings by Holbein, show a horizontal seam in the crown.

Image of John More, son of Thomas More
John More, son of Thomas More
(Parker, pl. 6)

Preliminary drawing for More family portrait. 1526-28.
"...only son of Thomas More, born 1508; married Anne Cresacre, 1529; imprisoned about 1535, but later released; died before 1559." (Parker, p. 36)

John More's bonnet appears to be of felted wool with the crown shaped like a beret and a split or two piece brim.
Image of William Warham
William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury
(Parker, pl. 12)

The Archbishop wears the felted, shaped hat with ear flaps and a peaked front.
Image of Sir Thomas Elyot
Sir Thomas Elyot
(Parker, pl. 15)

"...diplomatist, humanist and author of A Boke called the Governour (1531), born before 1490; Clerk of Assize, 1511-28; Clerk of the Privy Council, 1523-30; knighted, 1530; twice Ambassador to Charles V, 1531/2, 1535; died 1546." (Parker, p. 40)

Sir Thomas wears a variation of the ear-flap bonnet, this time with the flaps folded up and tied across the top.

This and following images were probably drawn during Holbein's second stay in England, 1532-1543.
Image of Thomas, Lord Vaux
Thomas, Lord Vaux
(Parker, pl. 24)

"...second Baron Vaux of Harrowden, poet, born 1510; succeeded to the title 1523; traveled to France in 1527 and 1532, with Wolsey and Henry VIII respectively; Captain of the Isle of Jersey till 1536; died 1556." (Parker, p. 42) Husband of Elizabeth, Lady Vaux.

The crown of Lord Vaux's bonnet is almost as large as the brim.
Image of Nicholas Bourbon the Elder
Nicholas Bourbon the Elder
(Parker, pl. 37)

"Nicholas Bourbon or Borbonius, court preceptor and poetaster, born at Troyes in 1503; died after 1550. He repeatedly addressed verses to Holbein..." He came to England "in 1535 to pay homage to Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn...in gratitude for help received from them while under persecution in France." (Parker, p. 46)

Shaped bonnet with no brim.
Image of William Parr
William Parr, Marquess of Northampton
(Parker, pl. 57)

"...brother of Queen Catherine Parr, born 1513; knighted about 1538; created Baron Parr, 1538/39; Knight of the Garter, 1543; created Earl of Essex, 1543; created Marquess of Northampton, 1546/7; ...died 1571."

The Marquess wears the most familiar, though not necessarily the most popular, Tudor bonnet, with a jeweled brim and feather.
Image of William Fitzwilliam
William Fitzwilliam, Earl of Southampton
(Parker, pl. 66)

"...born (?) 1490; knighted 1513; Comptroller of the Royal Household and Knight of the Garter, 1526; Lord Privy Seal, 1533; Lord High Admiral, 1536-1540, Earl of Southampton, 1537; died 1542." (Parker, p. 54)

The Earl's bonnet may pose the answer to the design questions surrounding the familiar jeweled bonnet. Many of these appear to have a split in the brim. Could they be constructed like this one, with both portions of the brim turned up?
Image of Sir William Sharington
Sir William Sharington
(Parker, pl. 75)

"...born about 1495; Page of the King's Robes; Vice-Treasurer of the Mint at Bristol, 1546; Knight of the Bath, 1546/47; perpetrated extensive frauds and joined the plots of Thomas Seymour; arrested 1548/49, but received pardon; Sheriff of Wiltshire, 1552. died 1553." (Parker, p. 56)

Sir William's bonnet is notable for it's large soft crown and smaller brim.

Some numbers: in the 80 drawings attributed by Holbein from the Windsor collection (see Parker, below), 47 depict men and 33 depict women. The styles of bonnet are divided as follows:

no hat
modified gable
no brim
"men's" type bonnet
split brim
fur cap
up brim w/feather
beret (no brim)
ear flap
flaps tied up
French hood
one brim
Modified French hood



1. British Museum, Compass Database, visitied on 22-Oct-2003. http://www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk/compass/
2. Dvorák, Frantisek. Hans Holbein le jeune. Paris : Éditions Cercle d'Art, 1977.
3. Ives, E.W. "The Queen and the Painters: Anne Boleyn, Holbein and Tudor Royal Portraits." Apollo 140, no. 389, 1994.
4. Parker, Karl Theodore. The drawings of Hans Holbein in the collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle. Oxford & London, Phaidon Press, 1945.

SCA working pages.