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Henry VIII and his family jewels

The statue of Henry VIII on top of the main entrance gate to St Bartholomew’s Hospital in West Smithfield is apparently the only public statue of the Tudor king in London.

The statue of Henry VIII on top of the main entrance gate to St Bartholomew’s Hospital in West Smithfield is apparently the only public statue of the Tudor king in London. Its familiar frontal stance shows off his shapely calves and codpiece off to full advantage.

Henry VIII's statue

Henry VIII’s statue at St Bartholomew’s Hospital

 

What is a codpiece?

The word comes from Middle English with cod meaning scrotum and was originally required to provide a fashionable man of the Middle Ages with modesty as the short doublets failed to do so.

 

What is a Tudor codpiece?

“The codpiece was exaggerated in size, the bag was puffed and slashed, and even ornamented with jewelled pins.” Boucher

A Tudor codpiece is a padded and often boned piece of material attached to the front of the men’s hose to accentuate their manly features i.e. crotch area. The codpiece was an important feature in C15th and C16th clothing. String ties or buttons were generally used to attach the cod piece to the hose (trousers). Tudor codpieces were so well formed they were able to conceal weapons or jewels, hence the term ‘family jewels’.

During the reign of Elizabeth I, Henry VIII’s daughter, men’s fashions became softer and the size of codpieces significantly reduced as did their presence as they had completely disappeared by the end of her reign in 1603.

If you want to hear more then hear me on Robert Elm’s BBC London radio show

 

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