Queen Elizabeth I's Royal Proclamation Against Excess Apparel

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Among many eras, some are easily recognized for their fashion trends and clothing worn at the time. This is the case for the Elizabethan era, known for its elaborate outfits that men and women wore to court and elite social functions.

However, during the late 1500s, Queen Elizabeth I passed a series of strict laws relating to dress codes in which enduringly had an impact on the British population. These needless sumptuary laws were put in place because of the Queen’s character. She, of course, had the majority of strength during the time and was responsible for allocating different roles, creating a hierarchy of power. In consequence, the royal proclamations were not put in place for the better of the Elizabethan society and the violation of these laws caused severe and undesirable approaches.

The Queen’s Intentions

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To begin, the laws revolving around clothing in the Elizabethan era were put in place for the wrong reasons, mainly because of the Queen’s ideology of her country. At this time, England was importing great quantities of luxury fabrics, and the Queen expressed concern that her subjects were spending too much money on unnecessary foreign wares. She claimed the laws would help regulate the use of imported materials, which would thus make people buy more locally sourced exotic goods from the merchants.

The means to do this was for the wealth to stay in England so that more money could be made for the country. Although this theory was true, as the merchants gained a reputation, they were capable of drastically increasing the prices of the clothes they would sell, signifying that it was all to benefit their kingdom. Since very few people would be able to afford their goods, the merchants would not be able to sell as much, which would, therefore, result in an overall loss of profit.

Furthermore, another reason for these laws to take place was for the regulation of consumption. The Queen’s approach was to ensure that people across the social spectrum dressed according to their rank and class. While the Queen started to put these laws in place, she was insulted by the commoners for wearing clothes previously only worn by the noble. Consequently, she forced the laws upon the English citizens. Nevertheless, the desire to be superior should not have had an influence on politics at the time or force everyone else to dress conceding their level of life.

Also, the Queen was a pietist, arguing about the fact that her laws were to reduce people from overspending on luxury while she chose to show herself to her subjects with richly embroidered and bejewelled clothes. Her wardrobe was boundless and she readily received gifts of attire. By Elizabeth's acts, only royalty could wear the colour purple and only the highest nobility could wear the colour red. Hence, her laws against excess apparel were abusive to her power. In summary, sumptuary laws were mainly created so people could recognize Queen Elizabeth I’s supremacy. Nonetheless, there were distinctive consequences to her actions.

Crime and punishment

Moreover, the punishments for the violation of the Queen’s fashion proclamations did not fit the crime. These harsh sentences attest to how seriously the Elizabethan society took the threat of clothing requirements. For example, the penalties for violating sumptuary laws consisted of fines, the loss of properties, title and even life in upmost cases. Commoners were almost always more likely to face life, comparing to the rich and the more wealthy were often only fined. Otherwise, some of the upper class at the level of the Queen were exempted from following the laws against excess apparel, making it biased for the rest of the population. These laws should have only been in place for fair and proper usage, not as a means to discriminate against the poor.

Equally important, there are many occurrences of sentences that were far more extreme than the crime committed upon inappropriate apparel. For instance, small crimes such as the violation of the Queen’s sumptuary laws would result in barbarous and merciless punishments, and may at times end in death. “A defender’s chance in receiving an acquittal in court were extremely slim. Trials were designed in the favour of the prosecutors and defendants accused any of these crimes were not even allowed legal counsel”, the laws at the time stated (“Elizabethan Crime and Punishment” 2). As a result, the Elizabethan era faced issues relating to crime, punishment and law order. In brief, the laws reinforced prejudice and were far more extreme than the violation.

In conclusion, sumptuary laws were the Queen’s most excessive royal proclamation because the country of England had no advantage for them being in place and they arguably caused disturbing discipline practices. They were only used so that the Queen could be markedly superior to her subject. Thus, the reason for the Queen to fulfill these laws did not affect the better of her kingdom. In today’s world, fashion is not as restricted as it once was in the Elizabethan era and both men and women can dress as they envy as a way to express themselves.

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Queen Elizabeth I’s Royal Proclamation Against Excess Apparel. (2021, April 19). WritingBros. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/queen-elizabeth-is-royal-proclamation-against-excess-apparel/
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Queen Elizabeth I’s Royal Proclamation Against Excess Apparel [Internet]. WritingBros. 2021 Apr 19 [cited 2024 Jun 16]. Available from: https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/queen-elizabeth-is-royal-proclamation-against-excess-apparel/
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