16th century cloaks: Lord Seton’s red golden ‘mante’


Adrian Vanson, George, 5th Lord of Seton © Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh / NG 2274

George Seton was born in 1531 in Tranent, East Lothian. The Latin inscription from the wall of the Seton Collegiate Church in the Lothians states, that George had been living in France as a boy. After his father’s death in 1549, he returned to Scotland to become 5th Lord Seton. Soon afterwards, he was appointed by the Scottish Parliament to return to France and negotiate, and later ratify, the marriage contract between the Scottish Queen, who lived in France, and the eldest son of king Henry II of France.

On this portrait, Scottish nobleman Seton displays the magnificent clothes he wore at the wedding of Mary Queen of Scots with the French Dauphin Francis in April 1558 in the Paris Louvre. However, Seton’s portrait was painted twenty years after the actual event. His baton is that of the Master of the Queen’s household, a position he held in 1561, after Mary Stuart’s return to Scotland and second marriage to Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Today, Seton’s portrait hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh. It’s maker, Flemish artist Adrian Vanson or Adrien van Son, was the Scottish court painter from around 1580. There are six records of his artworks in the National Galleries of Scotland.

On the solemn occasion of the Scottish Queen’s wedding in France in 1558, George Seton is wearing a very fine ‘mante’ or cloak, in the Scottish royal colours of red and gold. The cloak, an essential part of Scottish clothing in the 16th century, can be seen here in much cruder form, worn by a Highland warrior, as shown in Francis Deserps‘ book on contemporary costumes, published in 1567:


François Deserps, Le capitaine sauuage. © Bnf, Paris

On the Deserps engraving, the Scottish Highland captain wears long hair and a beard. He clasps a sheathed longsword, a curved and unstrung bow and a bunch of arrows under his right armpit. There also seem to be a sort of bag with pending ornaments (?) under his arm. Over his left shoulder hangs a thick cover, probably made of wool or animal skin, a cloak or ‘mante’, from the Latin word mantum signifying ‘(short) cloak’ (cf. the word ‘Mantel’ in German). The ‘mante’ was used as a sleeping cover and might have preceded the use of the Scottish kilt for the same purpose, a century later. Lord Seton’s ‘mante’ is very elaborate and quite similar to the French Court dress of the 1550’s, except the very high collar. On one of his official portraits, King Henry II of France wears a short coat without collar. The cloak was a fashion element most probably inspired by the Italian fashion of the 15th century.


François Clouet (workshop of), Portrait of king Henry II of France. Louvre. © RMN-Grand Palais / Hervé Lewandowski

On the Adrian Vanson painting, George Seton’s cap is similar to the white plume bonnet the French king is wearing, but Seton’s ‘feather’ seems to be made of red cloth with embroidered precious stones. The upstanding high collar had become fashionable around 1570, as shows the following picture of a French master of fencing:

Livre : "Traité sur l'épée" par Henry de Saint-Didier, Paris, 1573

Portrait of Henry of Saint-Didier, 1573 © RMN-Grand Palais (Renaissance museum at Ecouen) / Stéphane Maréchalle

Is it possible that the Adrian Van Son painting was commissioned around 1570, when Seton had fled to the Low Countries in attempt to raise an army in support of Queen Mary? Was it he who brought Adrian Vanson to the Scottish Court after his submission to king James VI of Scotland in 1573, and thus enabled the Flemish artist to become a Court painter?

George Seton died in 1586, a year before Queen Mary Stuart, who’s marriage he had witnessed so long ago, was finally decapitated.

15 Commentaires

  1. Just a query – is this George not the 7th Lord Seton? I’ve been writing about George 5th Lord Seton who was married to Joanna Hepburn & who died at Flodden 1513. Matters may be confused by the fact that the 5th Lord Seton is sometimes referred to as the 3rd Lord Seton because he was the 3rd Lord Seton with the name of George!!!

    1. It is the 5th Lord, and this George Seton was married to Isabel Hamilton 🙂 Please click the link to the National Portrait Gallery Scotland and check here http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Seton-23. The worst ones are the Hamiltons: there are so many!

      1. Methinks the National Gallery have got it wrong!! Says on the transcript in the church “Near the south side of this chapel are deposited the bodies, once the habitation of the souls, of George Seton and Isabel Hamilton; souls truly noble, and worthy of everlasting remembrance. George, of this name the 5th, honourably possessed » So he was the 5th George and the 7th Lord Seton perhaps!! His father was George (4th George & 6th Lord who was the son of Jean(Joanna) Hepburn and George (3rd George and 5th Lord Seton!!) Sorry to be a pedant!

  2. OopsI must have replied through email that’s why all that stuff came up! Please delete! anyway it’s a fabulous portrait and Seton Collegiate Church is a hidden gem.

  3. Historic Scotland says: « following the death of the widow of the 3rd Lord in 1558 » http://tinyurl.com/psrz2as. Here, the 3rd Lord Seton died at Flodden: http://genealogy.stewart-clan.com/getperson.php?personID=I20101

  4. It looks like we need a 16th century Seton family specialist. Archive research, anyone?!

  5. I researched Seton photographs : the 16th century Coat of arms contains three crescents, king Henry II of France’s symbols http://scotfot.smugmug.com/Scottish-gravestones-and/East-Lothian/Seton-Collegiate-Church-East/i-5q9CQdr

    1. This is driving me nuts! How about this! where oor George is the 7th!! I’m going to nip along to Seton asap & find out!! http://www2.thesetonfamily.com:8080/history/History_of_the_Setons.htm

  6. Gods, this is madness – and here he comes again with the Hamiltons, the inevitable Duke of Châtellerault !

    1. There’s a big gap between the 3rd & the 6th in that History of the Setons! Perhaps that’s why in my family tree, I simply stated that Janet/Jean/Joanna Hepburn married Lord George Seton!! Scottish genealogy is a nightmare – I’ve come across so many contradictions that make your head birl! Since this chap has Hepburn blood I’d like to put him my next novel with MQS!!

  7. A bit of sleuthing has uncovered this in Richard Maitland’s History of the Setons p. 52 which he dedicates to: « Your Lordship now being the eleventh Lord Seton, the seventh George Lord Seton, and the fourth Earl of Winton ». http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=zfAHAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA69&lpg=PA69&dq=house+of+seton&source=bl&ots=w4Y7SQ2Kf9&sig=lDWSe05ZfWvFbAZqnpRDURbLnpk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=pRP6U8_QB8njaPG8gSg&ved=0CI4BEOgBMAk4Cg#v=onepage&q=house%20of%20seton&f=false

  8. It looks like the enigma is solved: « The fifth George lord Seton (…) after he came from his travells in France, was sent ane ambassadour to France, To treat of the marriage betwixt Queen Mary and Francis the Second, the Dolphin. (…) To see that marriage perfected: the whilk marraige was solemnized in Nosterdame, the great cathedrall church of Paris, the 24 of Aprill, 1558 years, the said ambassadour being present. » Thank you for the sleuthing, Marie.

  9. Why I’m interested in the 5th George but 7th Lord is because he was one of the commissioners who may have been poisoned after ratifying the Treat. One source says he died of a stomach flux but others say he survived! Secondary historians can be so misleading!

  10. I may be of assistance for information regarding the Seton Family. Firstly, George Seton was the 7th Lord Seton, and the 5th Seton Lord in succession with the name of « George », and stated clearly in the family records and title documents, along with in Maitland’s ‘History…’. I’m the owner author of theSetonFamily.com, and a direct descendant via the Seton’s of Barnes family line.

  11. Dear Kenneth, thank you for your interest. We must have used your website when looking for help in our quest about the Seton lords. If you have detected any error in my article, please let me know, and I will correct it. Furthermore, if you wish to guest post about the 5th Seton on my blog, please let me know.

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