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Black Cotton Tunic
Medieval Men In Black
Black symbolised both power and secrecy in the medieval world. The emblem of the Holy Roman Empire of Germany was a black eagle. The black knight in the poetry of the Middle Ages was an enigmatic figure, hiding his identity, usually wrapped in secrecy.
In the early middle ages black was not favoured by the nobility, but in the 14th century, the status of black began to change. High-quality black dyes began to arrive on the market, allowing garments of a deep, rich black. Magistrates and government officials began to wear black robes, as a sign of the importance and seriousness of their positions. The famous bright scarlet cloaks from Venice and the peacock blue fabrics from Florence were restricted to the nobility. The wealthy bankers and merchants of northern Italy responded by changing to black robes and gowns, made with the most expensive fabrics. The change to the more austere but elegant black was quickly picked up by the kings and nobility. It began in northern Italy, where the Duke of Milan and the Count of Savoy and the rulers of Mantua, Ferrara, Rimini and Urbino began to dress in black. It then spread to France, led by Louis I, Duke of Orleans. It then moved to England at the end of the reign of King Richard II (1377–1399), where all the court began to wear black. In 1419–20, black became the colour of the powerful Duke of Burgundy.