Thursday, 18 September 2014

Becoming Lord Constantine

Ever since my realization back in June that what I really wanted to do was mid-16th-century English gentleman, I've been thinking away on how to kit myself out appropriately. This process has turned out to be rather more involved than anticipated.

One of the features of the way the SCA does things is the persona. Basically, this means creating a character who might have existed before 1600-ish, complete with name, clothing, kit, and activities. For some people it'll just be a name, and then they'll wear all sorts of clothing from different regions and periods of history. For others, there will be an elaborate backstory with family members, years of personal history, all kinds of things. Kind of like creating a Dungeons and Dragons character - the process is as elaborate as you want it to be.

Historically I've always been a "run around in whatever I fancy" sort of person, since up until now I've not felt drawn to a particular region or period. But now that I've discovered archery and the assorted stuff that goes with, I'm starting to get into the idea that actually, I'd really like to explore this one thing in depth instead of dabbling.

Coming up with a new name was first on the agenda. I wanted to use the given name "Constantine", as the name I normally use is "Constanza". I figured having two names that sounded as similar as possible would reduce confusion. Fortunately, there was a chap named Constantine living in London in 1582. I know this because Boss Herald helpfully wrote an article about the names in three sixteenth century London subsidy rolls. I had no real preference about a byname, so I made the arbitrary decision to go with something archery-related. Happily, "Fletcher" appears in the same article, this time in 1541 as well as 1582. I've submitted the name Constantine Fletcher along with an heraldic badge to be associated with it (Or, semy of strawberries proper). With any luck those will both be registered in the coming months and be all mine!

The next issue, still on-going, is figuring out what to wear. I'd already decided to make two complete outfits, one plain-ish for shooting in and one fancy for going to Court. And I wanted some extra shirts as well, because we have a 10-day event every summer and I don't fancy wearing the same two shirts for the whole thing.

The obvious place to look was portraits of men from the 1540s. With the assistance of Tyger Friend, I've started compiling as many portraits as I can find onto a Pinterest board. I'm using this to get a sense of colour, shape, and composition of outfit. This, combined with access to Before the Mast and Weapons of Warre has given me a pretty good idea of what garments I ought to make. What these resources haven't told me is how many of each garment I ought to have. That's where the wills come in.

See, during the course of my names research, I've spent a fair amount of time looking through extant wills. I'd heretofore been looking for names, of course, but it's impossible not to notice the clothing and personal effects mentioned in these documents. It occurred to me that compiling a spreadsheet of garments and jewelry mentioned in wills would be an excellent way to estimate the approximate size of a man's (or woman's) wardrobe. I've limited my search to the 1540s, since that's the period of history I'm looking at. I have access to a lot of print resources, since I work for a university library, but I'm also looking through a lot of material that's available online. Once I've put together enough data, I'll start working up a list of all the stuff I need to make.

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