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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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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-mus1.htm
Last modified: 11 December 2004.