Of moss green silk, edged in cream, the latchets secured by a steel buckle, the sole leather-lined and with Louis heel and rounded toe, accompanied by an apocryphal note stating ‘Shoe worn by Queen Elizabeth / 1596’ survives from the second quarter of eighteenth century England.
The condition of the shoe is thoroughly charming with the whole showing signs of obvious wear commensurate with use and age. Please see the photographs for visual condition reference. There are no major flaws and the buckle appears to be original.
There are several pieces of ephemera that accompany the shoe, two of which should be taken with a pinch of salt, though they are presented with it, as found, and further research could be undertaken. The first reads “’Shoe worn by Queen Elizabeth / 1596”, the second of the same ilk reads “Shoe: reputed property of Queen Elizabeth 1st. 1596. (Mrs. M.H.A. Moody)”, the third is a ticket from Richardson & Griffiths from London with prices verso and the fourth is a leaf shaped calf leather tag reading ‘From Groote Schuur Cape Town’. Groote Schuur, Dutch for “big barn”) is an estate in Cape Town, South Africa. In 1657, the estate was a plot of land owned by the Dutch East India Company which later became a farm and farmhouse in private hands. Cecil Rhodes took out a lease on the house in 1891. Whether this tag is associated with this shoe is unclear. The shoe itself is also marked to the underside of the heel with a sticker annotated ‘A.H. 9 Moody’. Mrs M.H.A Moody was listed as an honorary freeman of the Borough of Stourbridge.
Just like today’s array of sandals, wedges, and wellies, in the 18th century different shoes suited different needs, both stylistically and practically. Shoes in this period had high, curved heels (the origin of modern “louis heels”) and were made of fabric or leather, with separate shoe buckles. These were either shiny metal, usually in silver (sometimes with the metal cut into false stones in the Paris style), or with paste stones, although there were other types. This pair of simple but elegant latchet shoes exhibit all the classic features from the second quarter of the 18th century, beautifully crafted and extremely well preserved. Also of note is the dog-leg (stepped) side seam, a feature which developed as latchets widened to support increasingly large buckles in first half of the century, and which was retained until about 1770. This shoes style and colours used point to it possibly being made by John Hose of London.
An exert of the time reads: “It is deserving of remark, that no females formerly showed any signs of crumpled toes or corns. They were exempted from such deformities and ills, from two causes, to wit: their shoes were of pliable woven stuff, satin, lastings, &c., and by wearing high heels, they so pressed upon the balls of their feet, as necessarily to give the flattest and easiest expansion to their toes; while, in walking, at the same time, they were prevented from any undue spread in width, by their piked form. There was therefore, some good sense in the choice of those high heels, now deemed so unfitting for pretty feet, that has been overlooked. In a word, ladies could then pinch their feet with impunity, and had no shoes to run down at the heels.”
A thing of delicate beauty and an object with real presence.