Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I hate to apologize, but this needs be said: I'm sorry.

My historical writing spans several eras. While not a family saga per se, the stories follow two families (One Yorkist, one Lancastrian) that join in the first novel, diverge into the White Rose Trilogy and the Red Rose Trilogy, following different branches of the family, and join again at the end of the two series. As a result, I'm constantly second-guessing and double-checking myself on the details of each era. And therein lies the reason I need to apologize.

I never rely on a single source when doing research. Experience has taught me not all sources are trustworthy despite their credentials. My assertion that chausses are ringed armor is supported by Webster's College Dictionary (with etemolgy for obvious reasons) and Writer's Digest's Everyday Life in the Middle Ages, among others. However, while double checking another fact about masculine attire, I used a book just recently aquired, History of British Costume by James Robinson Planche. Within I read that 'They consist of hose or long stockings (the Norman chausses, in fact) tied by points,' (pg 230).


Okay, so one book could be wrong. I had another recent purchase titled A History of Costume, by Carl Kohler so pulled that one out. Although the passage is contained within descriptions for 14th century attire (my story is late 15th century), it gave me pause. On page 153 it states: This period saw a great improvement in the dress for the lower limbs, called les chausses.


Two sources, both credible, both at odds with previous sources. Now what?

Out comes book #3. (I did warn you I can be anal about facts in an earlier blog.)

On page 174, Medieval Costume in England and France by Mary G. Houston states: The shoes are very long and pointed, and the hose or chausses are jointed together at the top by a gusset back and front to form one complete garment which is attached by small laces tied at intervals to the garment above.

(Oh, and just for the record, all three books disagree on other garments, both on the time of their appearance and their names. Ain't nothin' easy.)

So that's three to two on the chausses. I lose.

So I most humbly apologize, and while within the context of my own work chausses will appear only in relation to armor--hose is more easily recognizable to readers for daily wear--I promise to desist from tossing books that have naked heroes jumping from their beds and pulling on their chausses.

However, I still reserve the right to wince.


Caroline said...

Oh my! I'm glad I write westerns. That sounds so frustrating. Good for you to be so true to the time period. That a great writer makes!

Eliza Knight said...

I feel your pain Gwynlyn! I've had this happen to me so many times...

I'm sure your readers appreciate you efoforst to be authentic :)

Lise said...

Your diligence in trying to pin this detail down, and your wealth of reference material just goes to show how nigh unto impossible some historical details can be not only to get correct, BUT to satisfy other authors and readers! The further back we go in history the more apt the contradictions are to be found when trying to be accurate.

You did an incredible job and showed that you are humble by admitting an utterly honest mistake.


Kris Kennedy said...

Well, I got some fabulous resources, so your error has made the world a better place. :-)

It's just impossible to get it all right, all the time. Especially when the sources can conflict, or seem to.

I personally find clothing research *extremely* difficult. I simply cannot picture things well.

Kudos for great research efforts, and we promise not to string you up by the laces that attach said chausses to the belt.


Gwynlyn MacKenzie said...

Aw, you guys. Thanks for being so understanding and supportive--and not hanging me!

Francesca Hawley said...

Carl Kohler's book isn't widely accepted as fact because of all the redraws he did based on artwork. The SCA goob in me groaned when you mentioned that one because every SCA person I've talked with say the maille leggings are called chausses. That may not be the ONLY name - but it is certainly one of them. I'll double check my sources, but so far they haven't steered me wrong.

Gwynlyn MacKenzie said...

Thanks, Francesca. I'm familiar with the SCA (Ren Faire Geek), but not a member so I didn't know this. I HATE being wrong so appreciate help in being right.