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Musterdevillers

Pronounced /ˌmʌstəˈdɛv(ə)lə(r)z/Help with pronunciation

Among the arrangements made by the council of the city of York to welcome Richard III on 4 August 1483 were detailed instructions on what to wear. In modern spelling, it ended “All others of whatever occupation, dressed in blue, violet and musterdevillers, shall meet our sovereign lord on foot at St James’ church.”

Musterdevillers was a type of mixed grey woollen cloth, a fabric that was common in that century and the next. Though by Richard III’s visit the cloth was being woven in many towns in England, it is said to have originated in the place in Normandy now called Montivilliers; its usual English name (in wildly varying spellings at this period) is a version of the way that town’s name was spelled in medieval times.

The cloth was prized and it often appeared in wills of the period, as in that of John Estcourt in 1427: “To Juliana Bolle my gown of musterdevillers and to Sir Thomas Drury my fellow canon the fur of the same gown.” (Did the two legatees solemnly get together with scissors to separate the two?)

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 11 Dec. 2004

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Last modified: 11 December 2004.