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  • Writer's pictureTammy Lowe

Interesting Fact of the Day...

If you don't know the crazy and forbidden history of lace, keep reading! I learned about it while visiting Bruges.

Lace was invented in Venetian convents in the early 1500’s.

It took almost a century, but France eventually figured out how to make it too. Eventually, all lace designs had to be personally approved by King Louis XIV. The result was a finer, more beautiful lace.

With the promise of higher wages, many Italian lace-makers were lured to France. So many that the Senate stepped in and said, “Hey….if you’ve moved to France to make lace, return to Italy at once. If not, we’re going to put your closest next of kin in prison. If you still don’t come back, we’re going to send someone to kill you. We won't let your kin out of jail until you're dead so there’s no use running.”

Meanwhile, over in England, Katherine of Aragon (Henry VIII’s first wife), was upset that English lace wasn’t nearly as lovely as the lace from Flanders. So, a law was passed prohibiting the importation of foreign lace. They did manage to get some Flemish lace-makers to settle in England, however, the flax for the thread wasn’t as fine so the result was still a poorer quality.

Photo taken by Blahedo at the museum of the Ursuline Convent in Quebec City in March 2003.

Throughout Europe, lace was so popular it became a threat to society. Houses were robbed of it. The parliament in France issued a decree saying, "Hear ye, hear ye...nobody is allowed to wear lace anymore…no matter your rank."

Other countries followed suit, but were never able to enforce it. It only made lace even more desirable. It wasn’t just Italy, France, Flanders, and England. Lace mania also occurred in Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, and Germany.

Being a lace-maker was such a lucrative profession for a woman that she could make enough money to become self-sufficient. She didn’t need a man to provide for her. So, the church got involved as well and said, “Lace is immoral and should not be worn!”

The Lace Maker by Caspar Netscher, 1662

By 1752, in an attempt to stop French lace from being smuggled into England, even more laws were passed. Expensive lace was confiscated from shops and luggage and burnt in public as a warning. They were so desperate to control the lace that when the body of the Duke of Devonshire was returned from France, customs officials not only checked the coffin, they poked his body to see if it was stuffed with French laces.

This frenzy went on for several centuries until the invention of the lace machine came along and forever changed the industry. But not our love of it.

And there's your interesting fact of the day.


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