17th Century Italy

Italy! Being brought up in England has lead me to be rather ignorant of other people’s cultures and lands. During the 15th and 16th century Italy was fighting in a trilogy of wars called the Italian wars, you can just the creativity leaping off the page. The second Italian war (that’s what it’s called) was from 1499-1504. These wars were mostly part of a power struggle for Italy between most of Europe; France, Spain, England, even the Ottoman Empire. The second one of which was between Louis XII of France and Ferdinand II of Aragon, Louis trying to claim Naples after the first Italian war. However, in the end Ferdinand won a victory for Spain rejoining Naples and Sicily. Spanish victories against France didn’t end there as in 1551 Henry II of France declared war against Italy wishing to recapture it Charles I of Spain. This didn’t end well for the French. Spain claimed more land as part of the peace of Cateau-Cambrésis, a treaty signed in 1559. The French also failed to change the balance of power in Italy and was once faced with in the French Wars of Religion.

But enough about war, fashion is clearly why you are all here. Now don’t run away, style of clothing of something pivotal to describing historically accurate characters. It is this point it may not be obvious this is about writing well…thus is about writing. In the 16th century clothes were usually made of wool or linen, however the rich could afford cotton and silk. At the time underwear was not invented, which does make you wonder how women coped once a month. Also women had to always wear hats, even poorest women wore linen hats called coif. However richer woman would often embroid their hats and even don peacock or ostrich feathers to them. It was also considered fashionable to be paler, to prove you didn’t work outside. Many women went to extreme to achieve this dying their skin with white lead. Fashion was very important as it was the only way to distinguish between classes, with several laws put in place of what people could wear and not wear.

Another barely talked about part of history are women, partly because they couldn’t have as prominent roles as men. However, they had surprisingly more rights than expected for the 16th century. In the 16th century women were not allowed in the professions such as doctors or lawyers, however women were allowed to join some of the guilds. There were also many varieties of jobs women could take on. Women could be tailors, dyers, shoemakers, brewers, bakers and even midwives. A 16th century housewife was also supposed to have some knowledge of medicine and be able to treat her family’s illnesses. In a big house a house wife had to organize and supervise the servants. Also if her husband was away the woman usually ran the estate. In the 16th century girls did not go to school. But then again, most children in Tudor England did not go to school. However, girls from well off families were usually educated at home and were taught reading, writing, arithmetic and skills like sewing by their mothers. However, towards the end of the 16th century girls spent less time on academic subjects and more time on skills like music and embroidery.

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