Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
published 2012 Part I chapter 3
Today the ambassador is wearing a startling hat. More like the sort that George Boleyn sports, than a hat for a grave councillor. ‘What do you think, Cremuel?’ He tilts it.
‘Very becoming. I must get one of those.
‘Allow me to present you …’ Chapuys removes it from his head with a flourish, then reconsiders. ‘No, it would not fit your big head. I shall have one made for you.’ He takes his arm. ‘Mon cher, your household is a delight as always. But may we talk apart?
‘Sir,’ Rafe says. ‘I have been wanting to ask. Is that your new hat?’
‘No,’ he says gravely. ‘It is the hat of the ambassador of Spain and the Empire. Would you like to try it on?’
[April 1536: Thomas Cromwell talking to Chapuys:] "If you want to cheer me up, get out that Christmas hat of yours. It was a pity you had to put it away for mourning. Easter would be none too soon to see it again.’
‘I think you are making jokes, Thomas, at the expense of my hat. I have heard that while it was in your custody it was derided, not only by your clerks but by your stable boys and dog-keepers.’
‘The reverse is true. There were many applications to try it on. I wish that we may see it at all major feasts of the church.’
‘Once again,’ Chapuys says, ‘your piety does you credit.’
observations: The relationship between Thomas Cromwell and Eustache Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador, is one of the joys of this book, and of its predecessor, Wolf Hall. In the first book, Cromwell notices that Chapuys is like an actor in his gestures:
When he thinks, he casts his eyes down, places two fingers to his forehead. When he sorrows, he sighs. When he is perplexed, he wags his chin, he half-smiles.
This time around, the hat comes close to doing the acting for him: when upset, Chapuys
slumps forward with his elbows on his knees. His hat sinks lower, till he removes it altogether and puts it on the table; not without a glance of regret.
Chapuys himself keeps a firm hold on his hat. Its tassels are damp and drooping, and the ambassador himself looks as if he might cry.
It’s as we always say in Clothes in Books: what you wear on your head is very important. See Hats, Hats, Hats for more thoughts on this, and links to other hat entries.
The picture is a German statue of a man throwing something, from roughly the right era, and certainly with the right kind of fanciful hat, which is never directly described in the book.