Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more

Rather a dramatic title for a post about knitting, but there is a reason I'm starting with a quote from Shakespeare. I'm originally from the town of Monmouth in south Wales, which is 'famous' as the birthplace of Henry V and the place of origin of the Monmouth Cap. For many years I have been making reproduction Monmouth Caps to be sold in Monmouth Museum, but I haven't made any for a while and the museum's stock is totally gone. The requests for more caps have been getting more insistent, especially as this year is the 600th anniversary of Henry V's victory of the battle of Agincourt.

The siege of Harfleur - where Shakespeare has Henry V make his once more unto the breach speech.

But just what is a Monmouth Cap? Well its simple, tradition piece of woollen headgear popular with soldiers and sailors from the 15th to the 18th century. The main features are the double thickness brim, a wool button on the top of the cap, and a carrying loop, making it both practical and functional!  One theory is the hats could be worn under helmets in battle, and used as bag to carry the helmet when it was not in use. The originals were made of local coarse wool, and were felted, making them more weatherproof. The caps were probably produced in large quantities by local people, but as mass produced, low cost items, very few have survived - although there is one 16th century example in Monmouth Museum.

My 'modern' Monmouth Cap - not entirely traditional being from softer wool and not felted

Monmouth Caps are 'immortalized' in Shakespeare's Henry V, when Fluellen a Welsh captain in Henry's army comments;
Your majesty says very true: if your majesties isremembered of it, the Welshmen did good service in agarden where leeks did grow, wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps; which, your majesty know, to thishour is an honourable badge of the service; and I dobelieve your majesty takes no scorn to wear the leekupon Saint Davy's day.
I've found it quite hard to get started on some more caps, as there are so many other things I wanted to knit. So, when I had to pack up to leave my house at the beginning of the month the only wool I took with me was Monmouth hat wool. As a result I have plunged successfully unto the breach and made ten caps which have dispatched off to the museum.

Ten Monmouth caps of varying hues and sizes

Not quite enough for all of Fluellen's men, but it should keep the museum going for a while!

15th century image of the Battle of Agincourt.


  1. And indeed a noble enterprise! Performed in exile forsooth!

  2. Traces of the cap industry still survive in Overmonnow, Monmouth, in the name Cappers' place. Am on the lookout for suitable wool for more caps as this could indeed be a bumper year for them.


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