This is the webpage of a group whose aim is to improve the kit and clothes of a UK seventeenth century Civil War reenactment group, using the most up to date references and research. Feel free to comment on any of the subjects raised here and return often as I want to keep the discussion lively and ongoing.

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Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Beards Old and New

I have a theory which I shall back up with images that the older you were in the 1640s, the more facial hair you had. Most of the pictures I've posted here are details from portrait painters of the period, notably Dobson, Walker and van Dyck, though there are a few others. I've kept to those sitters who can be reasonably accurately aged and portraits for which I can capture a decent sized image.
It may be that on campaign it was difficult to keep the standards shown here, but as an officer, a clearly marked fashionable beard or moustache would have served to mark them out from rank and file

First up is the Earl of Sandwich painted by Walker. He's 25 and has the merest smudge on his top lip.

These guys, Richard Lovelace on the left and Thomas Killigrew below right were both about 28 when captured for posterity. Yet again, whether or not they could grow any more whiskers, both have seemed to opt for a top lip subtle moustache look.

Both Thomas and Richard were royalists but seem to have taken very small parts in the course of the war.

 Charles Cotterell at 30 years of age. Good growth of moustach on the top lip. Painted with Dobson in Oxford. Cotterell served in the armies.

 Richard Neville by Dobson at 30. First appearance of remaining whiskers below the bottom lip in this list.
Spencer Compton, possibly a bit later than the first Civil War, but another subtle mo' sported by this 30 year old Royalist.

 Henry Stone at 32. Nice mo' and that spot under his bottom lip. Stylish. He was a sculptor and seems to have missed the war completely.
 Richard Willis at 32 also. Small underlip growth and what would come to be known as a Cary Grant on top. Looks rather superior doesn't he?
Thomas Fairfax, Black Tom from Yorkshire. One of the best parliamentarian generals and well groomed in the beard department. Tom has a neat, square cut goatee, getting slightly larger as he gets older I assume. Tom is 33 in this portrait as far as I can work out.

William Dobson on the left was 35 when he painted himself. Small underlip thing going on here. William Ireton (39) on the right however has a full set coming up, though moustache and square goatee, like his friend Fairfax are still quite defined in this portrait by Walker. Maybe this was Henry after a week on campaign?

Oliver Cromwell seems to have a small moustache and tiny lower lip beard. He was 45 I think when Walker painted him here .

John Lord Byron below was also 45 when painted by Dobson. Nicely sculpted whiskers above and below the mouth.

Conyers Darcy at 52. Beginning to opt for something that covers at least part of the chin. Conyers was a nobleman who spent most of the war in the Houses of Parliament.

Endymion Porter painted by William Dobson at age 56. As above, the large goatee covers part of his chin. Endymion seems to have spent large parts of the Civil War at the King's side, though it's unclear whether he fought at all.

Nicholas Lanier, also painted with Dobson at 57 years of age. Big moustache and accompanying goatee beard. He was a musician at the court in Oxford.

Two guys aged 65. Inigo Jones has the full set of whiskers and Sir Thomas Aylesbury a decently (for his age) wide goatee covering his chin. Aylesbury was a  Royalist and patron of mathematics. See comments below.

Finally a selection of images of Charles that show his facial hair as it changed over the years, from the well groomed King in 1630 to the image of the martyr with a full beard in 1649. Interestingly he seems to have plumped for a rather distinctive pointy style that no one else seems to have copied.


  1. Same in the 18th century. Some say beards did not exist in this period, which is rather like saying life does not exist on other planets! Some men did wear beards, & as you have shown, period paintings prove it.
    Good post, thank you.
    Le Loup.

  2. From a Somerset Vicar to 'The Vicar'....
    Please do not confuse Sir Thomas Aylesbury of the portriat with Revd Thomas Aylesbury - a cousin of his, who was incolced with the Clubmen - cf my articles on the two in the Oxford DNB :-)