Christian IV’s robe

Christian 4th was wearing old, well-worn clothes on July 1, 1644 on board his ship The Trinity just before the battle of Kolberger Heath. At 67, he was an old man, and at war with Sweden. It is exceptional that the clothes he wore that day are preserved.

The King was badly injured when a Swedish cannonball hit a cannon on his ship which exploded. Not even the splendid robes from his own coronation almost 50 years before had been saved, but he made sure that this doublet was preserved: it was a symbolic documentation of his strength and courage. The doublet’s cut and signs of wear show that it was at least 10-20 years old when he last wore it. Under the doublet he wore one or more shirts, perhaps a kind of breastcloth to protect from the wind, and knee-length breeches and stockings. On his feet he had velvet mules, not shoes or boots as one might expect. He also wore a silk cap with lace, a lace collar and lace cuffs: even at war the King needed to be suitably dressed.

The doublet is made of a patterned black and purple velvet. A little animal hides in the pattern of small plants – a baby dragon or a seahorse? The doublet is buttoned down the front with small, handsewn buttons of gold thread. Narrow gold and silver braids are added at the seams for decoration. His white lace collar – called a falling band – and cuffs were loosely attached to his shirt, so they were easily removed for washing and starching.