Historians of clothing and textiles must use many different sources to reconstruct the nature of their subjects in the Middle Ages, including surviving textiles, literary sources, and artistic works. Particularly important among these sources, at least for the later Middle Ages, are the records of great households, for textiles were crucial to the lifestyles of royal, princely, and aristocratic courts. Indeed, a classic work in the field, Françoise Piponnier's history of clothing at the court of Anjou, relied overwhelmingly on such records, and other scholars have used similar records for the royal court in thirteenth-and fourteenth-century England. For earlier periods, of course, the lack or paucity of records is a major obstacle. Sybille Schröder has ably used the financial records known as the pipe rolls to study the use of textiles at the court of Henry II of England to the extent possible, but those records provide only limited information. However, the reign of King John, Henry's youngest legitimate son and his successor (after the intervening reign of John's older brother, Richard I), saw a tremendous leap in record keeping and preservation, with many new types of records coming into existence. Particularly important for this project are the close rolls, which record the authorization for many purchases, and two surviving misae rolls, which kept the records of the king's chamber/wardrobe. These records are varied and incomplete, but cumulatively they are very informative and can provide the earliest possible indepth look at clothing and textiles at a European royal court. It is my intention, in this article, to describe what these records have to teach us.
SCOPE AND RANGE OF TEXTILE PURCHASES
Though there is no way to systematically work out how much cloth King John's court purchased, it was certainly a large amount. In the pipe roll for John's thirteenth regnal year (1211–12), John fitz Hugh, a major purchaser of goods for the king, bought over six thousand ells of cloth, of which a third was canvas but the rest was more expensive, including 1,283 ells of expensive scarlet, the finest woolen fabric available at the time.