A day in Cess's life as...

The West Front of Montacute House
The yew walk of Montacute House
Heiress of the Earl of Montacute

The door opens and her two maids enter. One banks up the fire to warm the room and opens the wooden shutters (all the windows in Montacute House have glass in them) while the other pours warm water into a bowl beside which she places soap perfumed with lavender and rosemary. On the floor they lay a ‘foot sheet’, like a bath mat, for Cess to stand on while she washes, to protect the rush mats and polished wooden floor. After she has washed, the maids spend at least half an hour deciding with Cess which underskirt, kirtle, bodice, forepart, sleeves and gown she will chose and then fetch the clothes from chests and presses in the room, all sealed carefully against moths and filled with the same bags of herbs Cess herself used to make but these are of fine linen and closed with silk ribbons. They dress Cess in a clean linen smock with a ruffle at the neck, knitted stockings of fine wool, a warm wool petticoat, a pair of bodies (stiffened with linen bands and some whalebone but not as rigid she would wear on formal occasions), a farthingale stiffened with ropes rather than willow bents (to give a softer line), a silk kirtle, elaborately embroidered forepart and matching sleeves and soft, leather shoes. They then sit her beside the fire and comb out her hair carefully, checking for lice, then braid it elaborately at the back of her head before covering it with a jewelled caul like a hair net. Cess refuses any make up but allows the maids to put some rings and necklaces on her.

Breakfast is brought to her chamber – a warm caudle drink (with milk, eggs and sweetened with sugar or honey) and manchet bread (the finest ‘white’ bread available, although it was still almost as brown as our brown bread is today) with butter and jam. Her fine clothes are covered with a large napkin while she eats. After breakfast she goes to the stables where Lord Edward’s groom is ...

Click here to learn what Cess's day is like as a
poultry girl