Tudor Gable Headdress: A Portfolio of Images

No gown is complete without the appropriate accessories, and for the early 16th century English woman those accessories would include some form of head covering. The following is a collection of images depicting the gable headdress, with an emphasis on the version that was popular from the 1520-40s.

The images are in no particular order, though they are roughly chronological. Sources are listed below. Most of the original drawings and paintings are by Hans Holbein the Younger of whom Langdon says:
"The examination of intellectual or ideological stance or status was not much sought after by the subjects of most of the English court and society portrayals Holbein undertook. That was more the domain of his German merchants and scientists. The pragmatic accuracy of 'warts and all' delineation was what fascinated the English clients most, and such interest in detail can be traced back to the national traits in medieval manuscript illumination, where natural forms rather than abstract or geo-metrical patterns abound. Sometimes, the sitters were happy enough with Holbein's preparatory chalk drawing, and finished paintings did not ensue. . . . The native perplexity over perspective and foreshortening, which partly explains why the miniature became so favoured in later Tudor times (since it precludes much of either), must have made Holbein's mastery of both appear astounding."

For images of men's and other women's bonnets (excluding French Hoods), see Tudor Bonnets: Men and Women: A Portfolio of Images.
For images that depict complete gowns to be worn with these headdresses, see Tudor Dress: A Portfolio of Images.
For step-by-step instructions for constructing a headdress like these, see Tudor Gable Headdress Illustrated: Step by Step Directions

Catherine of Aragon in middle age, c. 1525 
 (Williams, p. 53) 

Queen Catherine wears the gable headdress with lappets turned up. Note the length of the front jewelled portion. In its early form this extended below the chin. In later years it was at chin length or higher. Note also that the black drape in the back hangs down. In later hoods one or both "tails" were turned up and pinned to the top of the bonnet.

Sketch, c. 1540, 
(Williams, p. 203)
Includes a rare view of the back of this headdress which raises some interesting questions: the back appears to contain structural elements, that is, it appears to be a stiffened box. The veil does not appear to be cast over the back of the headdress, but affixed or sewn to it in some way.
Lady Guildford,  c. 1527
(Batschmann, p. 167)
This preliminary sketch for the formal portrait, below, shows Lady Guildford in a less stylized manner. 
Lady Guildford,  1527
(Langdon, p. 72)
In this case, the over lappet does not show its lining. Also the peak at the back of the hat suggests that the back as well as the front, contained stiffened elements.
The Lady Ratclif
(Dvorák,, pl. 26)
Portrait of an English Lady, c. 1527, Holbein 
(Rowlands, p. 75) 
Elizabeth Dauncey, 1526-28, Holbein
(Hearn, p. 146)

"Elizabeth, second daughter of Sir Thomas More, born 1506; married William, son of Sir John Dauncey, Knight of the Body to Henry VIII, 1525. The Lady Berkeley, wrongly named in the inscription, was Sir John Savage's daughter who, in 1533, married Thomas, Lord Berkeley, and died in I564, aged 58. The two ladies were therefore the same age, which may to some extent explain the confusion between them." (Parker, p. 36)

Detail of Margaret Roper from 1593 version of Holbein painting. 
(Rupp, Plate 45)

As this is a copy of the lost Holbein painting, the details may not be trustworthy. Nevertheless, the geometric pattern of the overlappets, and general color scheme of browns/black, is similar to the other examples.

Margaret, Marchioness of Dorset, Holbein. 
(Starkey, p. 103) 

Elizabeth I's godmother, the sketch was proabably done at the time of her christening.

(Dvorák,, pl. 27)
(Dvorák,, pl. 31)
(Dvorák,, pl. 55)
Lady Elyot, Holbein, 1532-3.
(Langdon, pl. 34)

"The starchy headdress Lady Eliot wears seems to have been of a design baffling even to Holbein (he had had trouble depicting Lady Guildford's in 1527), probably because of the way in which it prevents that definition of the back of the head which allows the face to jut into the picture space convincingly." (Langdon)

Jane Seymour, 1537

The preliminary sketch for the famous painting, below.

Jane Seymour, 1537
(Langdon, p. 90) 
Frances, Countess of Surrey, c. 1535
(Parker, pl. 18)
Jane, Lady Lister
(Parker, pl. 20)
Joan, Lady Meutas
(Parker, pl. 21)
Elizabeth, Lady Vaux
(Parker, pl. 25)
Lady, Unknown
(Parker, pl. 27)

Parker states that the original drawing has been retouched, particularly in the veil area.

Elizabeth, Lady Rich
(Parker, pl. 55)
Margaret, Lady Butts
(Parker, pl. 67)


1. Bätschmann, Oskar, Oskar and Pascal Griener [translation by Cecilia Hurley and Pascal Griener], Hans Holbein. Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, 1997.
2. Dvorák, Frantisek. Hans Holbein le jeune. Paris : Éditions Cercle d'Art, 1977.
3. Hearn, Karen, Ed. Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England, 1530 1630. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1996.
4. Langdon, Helen. Holbein. London: Phaidon Press, 1993.
5. Parker, Karl Theodore. The drawings of Hans Holbein in the collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle. Oxford & London, Phaidon Press, 1945.
6. Rupp, Gordon. Thomas More: The King's Good Servant. London: Collins, 1978.
7. Starkey, David, Ed. Henry VIII: A European Court in England. New York: Cross River Press, 1991.
8. Williams, Neville. Henry VIII and his Court. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1971

SCA working pages. compiled 1998.