Chatelaines and Brooches

We all know about the Chatelain(e) as an SCA officer who helps newcomers, but the medieval root of this name has more to do with accessorizing than acclimating. Aoife's Links this week explores the "jewelry-and-keychain variety" of chatelaine.

Greetings, my Faithful Readers!

This week's Links subject is Chatelaines (the jewelry-and-keychain variety) and brooches. Imagine what sort of confusion you'd find if you were using a search engine and entered the words "medieval" and "chatelaine". I'm sure you'll all be relieved to know that the future of the SCA is secure in that wonderful office we call Chatelaine; however, this links list is about medieval jewelry, not newcomers. Specifically, the type of jewelry that holds your clothes together, that carries your needle case, mini-snips, etc. and the sort you pin to your shirt for decoration. Surprisingly, in doing this research I learned that the pin chatelaine dates to Roman times, and that nearly every one of us medieval females who claim to run a house should have one of simpler or more complex design, depending upon the date of our personae. Apparently, earlier on men also wore them (sometimes to carry a dagger as well as keys), and a chatelaine was a perfect wedding present, the token of a man's trust in his new wife.

If you enjoy these Links, please pass them along where they will be appreciated.



A Visual and Historical Perspective on "Purses"and "Evening Bags" the Ever Adaptable Fashion Accessory
by Rita Vainius
(Site Excerpt) Though this purse made by Martina Weber, is not old, it is typical of the type used by the lady of the house many centuries ago. From left to right, it includes a silk Bargello needle holder, a replica of a pewter needle case, a dololly (an accessory to pull the last piece of thread through stitches on the back. Also part of the dololly is a heart pin with a wire loop), a pair of scissors in a pewter case, a silver butterfly pincushion attached to a square brooch, a silver and red velvet charm, an Austrian wear-at-the-belt purse made of metal and an "Emery" strawberry made of red felt containing powder for sharpening and cleaning needles and pins.

Prym-Dritz notions: Elizabeth's Vintage Notions Chatelaine and additions

Roman Chatelaine Brooch--extant article

First Massachusetts Cavalry
(See section abut Chatelaines. Site Excerpt) From the old feudal system and on into the early 20th century, the chatelaine, French for "mistress of the castle," was the most important accessory the lady of the house could carry with her in her daily life. The first use of a chatelaine can be traced to Roman times when keys hanging from the waist were a symbol of authority. Jailers often wore keys attached to the girdle of a stout leather belt. The chatelaine was actually first used by the man of the house to carry various tools, from a dagger to keys for the larder where precious meat was stored. In medieval times, a chatelaine became a common wedding present from the husband to his new bride containing the keys to her new home. Early chatelaines were made of steel, and later of finely cast silver or forged brass, and sometimes embellished with fine gemstones. They were suspended by a top chain from a notch or ring in a lady's belt or apron and had several pendant chains ending with hook or clip fasteners, called fittings, to hold the necessary accessories.

Medieval Brooches ...(very long URL)
Photos of extant articles for sale

Medieval Brooch project (Polymer Clay)
Adobe Acrobat required to read
While this site is copy-protected, the project is a credible replica or the original, which is shown.

Bristol City Council: Medieval Ring Brooch

British Museum: Fuller Brooch
British Museum Shop: Medieval-style brooch, a bargain at £10.00

Kingston Down (Liverpool) Medieval Brooch

Knockcast brooch, National Museum of Ireland
(scroll down to view)
(Site Excerpt) This brooch may be seen as a more modest example of the larger and more ornate pseudo-penannular brooches of this period and like them, it did not function as a locking device. The broad ring areas of both brooch types seem to have been intended as fields for decoration rather than the functional role of the zoomorphic penannular brooches of the seventh century.

Tara Brooch
(Site Excerpt) Although given the name the Tara Brooch, this Irish national treasure was not found at Tara, but was found at Bettystown, County Meath. The discovery at Bettystown resulted from the collapsing of cliffs due to wave erosion. A jeweler who studied the brooch is credited with the misnomer. Given the exquisite nature of the brooch it is not surprising that it was thought to come from Tara, since Tara was the official residence of the High kings of ancient Ireland.

If you wish to correspond with Aoife directly, please send mail to: mtnlion at ptd dot net.