Henry VIII and Irish dress

[The English had sought by the Statute of Kilkenny (1366) to prevent the Old English in Ireland from becoming 'more Irish than the Irish themselves'. In 1537, the Irish Parliament passed yet another such law which reveals how the 'savage and wild Irish' dressed at this time.] The Act for the English Order, Habit and Language declared that the King's Majesty, Henry VIII believed,

... that there is nothing which doth more contain and keep his subjects of this his said land in a certain savage and wild kind and manner of living, than the diversity that is betwixt them in tongue, language, order and habit ... Wherefore be it enacted ... that no person or persons, the King's subjects within this land ... shall be shorn or shaven above the ears or use the wearing of hair upon their heads like unto long locks called 'glibs' or have or use any hair growing upon their upper lips ... or use or wear any shirt, smock, kerchief ...or linen cap coloured or dyed with saffron ... and that also no woman use or wear any skirt or coat tucked up or embroidered or garnished with silk, nor couched nor laid with ornaments after the Irish fashion and that no person or persons ... shall use or wear any mantles, coat or hood made after the Irish fashion.
Quoted in Constantia Maxwell, Irish history from contemporary sources (1509-1610), London, 1923, p.113.


  1. What kind of source is this?
  2. Discuss the value of this document as a historical source.
  3. What inferences may we draw from it about social conditions in Ireland in the sixteenth century?
  4. What inferences may we draw from it about English government policy in regard to Ireland in 1537?
  5. Describe the appearance of the 'wild Irish' man based on this source.
  6. Describe the appearance of the 'wild Irish' woman based on this source.
  7. How would you describe the attitude of the Irish Parliament and Henry VIII to the 'wild Irish' in 1537.
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