Tudor Era Collars for SCA Royalty

Tudor-Era Collars, in-period and modern application

(Note: this three-page summary is available in expanded form)


Rozi Galea



The Tudor Period is generally considered to be the time between 1485 and 1603.  The House of Tudor produced five English monarchs who ruled during this period (although the era of Elizabeth’s reign is also considered its own period by many).

  • Henry VII (1485 to 1509)
  • Henry VIII (1509 to 1547)
  • Edward VI (1547 to 1553)
  • Lady Jane Grey (1553) – Nominal queen for nine days in failed bid to prevent accession of Mary I. Not a member of the House of Tudor
  • Mary I (1553 to 1558)
  • Elizabeth I (1558 to 1603)




“Collars” as defined here refer to articles of jewelry meant to be worn typically about the shoulders.  They were essentially chains made of large plaques, frequently with a single pendant, although examples with multiple pendants are also known.  Collars were fairly common in the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries.  Their nature can be roughly divided into three types:

  • Collars of honor and/or of a particular order
  • Collars of livery, denoting allegiance
  • Familial collars, depicting elements of the family’s badge


The timeline below indicates a few collars of interest alongside the Tudor timeline. The four subperiods in the “Tudor” time period indicate the four monarchs, with the first two being Henry VII and Henry VIII.  Their Highnesses picked Henry VII & early Henry VIII as the time period and theme for their reign.




Examples of Livery Collars


Collars of Esses (or SS) were common, with examples dating at least from 1371 to a portrait of Sir Thomas More painted by Hans Holbein the Younger in 1527.  Some examples are potentially even newer than this, although their date of fabrication is uncertain.  These collars were comprised of a single repeating plaque of the letter “S”, with no background for the “S”s, resulting in considerable open space in each plaque.  There are extant examples of these collars in silver, with one example containing a different link set for the pendant.  Note that the Collars of Esses began as a livery collar, although later they were adopted as a badge of the house of Lancaster.


Yorkist Collars are comprised of repeating plaques of a sun and a rose.  Typically, the plaques were created without open spaces, and some minimal enameling or gem application may be employed.  Pendants are frequently present, with different pendants for different personal affiliations.  Examples of these collars exist dating from 1415 to 1503 although there is some debate as to whether the collars predating 1461 are truly “Yorkist”.  They are represented on both women and men.


Examples of Collars of Honor


Collars of the Order of the Garter, worn seemingly exclusively by men, have alternating plaques of knots and a garter surrounding a rose, and a pendant of St. George slaying the dragon.  The knots are cast using open space, while the garter/rose plaque, which contains no open space, may have up to three different enamel colors.   Examples are readily found from the early 14th to the late 15th centuries.


Collars of the Order of the Golden Fleece usually have alternating flints & steels and sparks, and the pendant is a golden fleece.  The flints are frequently represented by a gemstone in the middle of sparks, and the flints can be fairly ornate.  Little open space is employed in the plaques, although ornate linkage methods may be employed.  Examples of this collar show a lot of variability in the chain component, though far less so in the pendant.  A portrait of Charles the Bold from 1460 shows only flints, while another of Christian II, King of Denmark by Jan Gossaert c. 1523 shows no chain at all, only a ribbon, holding the pendant.  The order was founded in 1430, with examples dating beyond the Tudor period.


Collars of the Order of Saint Michael usually have alternating knots and cockleshells, with a pendant depicting the Archangel Michael stabbing the serpent.  The order was founded in 1469, with examples dating beyond the Tudor period.  The shell can be depicted in deep relief.  The knots are as those in the Collar of the Order of the Garter.



Collars can indeed have been worn by either men or women, with little difference in size, level of ornament, or style.  Collars of the Tudor period tend only to have two repeating plaques at most.  Collars of the period of interest tend to have little open space (with the notable exception of the knot plaque found in the Order Collars of the Garter and Saint Michael).  Enameling is present, as is the occasional use of gemstone cabochons.






Example of Collar of Esses



Yorkist Collar: Example of a couple wearing similar collars

Sir John Donne and Lady Elizabeth Donne in the center panel of The Donne Triptych by Hans Memling, c. 1475

This noble couple wore matching collars of roses and sunbursts, although hers rides higher on the body.



Collar of the Order of the Garter

From a Portrait of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, Painted 1539-1540



Collars Chosen by Their Highnesses


Their Highnesses elected to have collars created that are a blend of Collars of Esses and Collars of the Order of the Garter.  This is temporally correct and appropriate for our game.





Each collar would have an enameled plaque inspired by the Collars of the Order of the Garter, and a linking plaque inspired by the Collars of Esses.  The linking plaques would be of letters from the Lombardic Script, which most closely resembles the style of the “S” in the eponymous collar..  As linking plaques, they would not be enameled, but they would have open space.  In order not to be too busy, they would be plain, without adornments on the thicker portions of the letters.  Her main plaque, once again in order not too be too busy, and also in order to “read” well from a distance as most of the populace would regard their Sovereigns, would be a single white rose.  In keeping with the style of the Collars of the Order of the Garter, it would have a round background  (Note that, for symmetry with His collar, the background on Her rose was enameled red in the final version).  His main plaque would include a garter (enameled white as in our symbol for knighthood), surrounding not a rose (which was now borrowed for her collar) but a silver hound rampant on a red field.  The saying along the garter was requested to stay true to “Honor, Courage, Smashy Smashy”.  The translation chosen for this is as follows:

Virtus        à manliness, excellence, character, worth, courage.

Fortitudo   à physical strength, courage, moral bravery.

                                    Quasso      à  to shake violently, shake to pieces, break

With regards to the latter, in order to keep it true to the spirit of “Smashy” instead of “Smash”, it needed to be diminutized.  In many Latin-based languages, the “o” ending is diminutized by changing it to a “u”.  Therefore, Quasso became Quassu.  The second “quassu” in the final piece starts just before the overlap, so only parts of the first two letters are seen.


Note that in either collar, a pendant denoting the EastKingdom (A 5-pointed crown surrounded by a laurel wreath) would be appropriate.  This pendant may be enameled.


Final Collars, details:



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