A Pearl of a Law
Listen. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but at one time or
another I had heard that there was a law in New England which may
well still be on their books which states something to the effect
that it is a illegal to walk backward down the sidewalk while
eating a pickle. Clearly there never was and there never will be a
shortage of inane laws. For those of you who might be
thinking…yeah, sure, but nobody would think up dumb laws when it
came to pearls…would they? To you I say they most assuredly
would…and did…and here some of them are:
In 1299 there was a Venetian decree proclaiming that at a wedding
the bride alone, and nary one guest, was allowed to wear pearls.
And then only in moderation. One strand around her waist, and that
Now we go forward to slightly later times when sumptuary laws
prevailed over the lands of England, France, and Germany.
Puritanistic philosophy worried that the hedonistic tendencies
toward self-adornment would lead to morals going amuck.
Germany. The city of Ulm. No woman, married or single, high
birth or low birth…no woman at all folks…was allowed to wear
pearls on their dresses. Don’t say nuthin’ about naked bods…but
that’s my mind at work…so take no heed. By 1411…things had
progressed. They were now allowed to wear a single pearl wreath on
their heads…and I guess as many pearls as they wanted on their
naked bods. Oh lordy lord. I can not stop this train of thought.
A Frankish sumptuary law. (Quick parenthetical here
folks…for those who don’t know…a sumptuary law is one which
governs the current mode of dress.) A Frankish sumptuary law: An
ordinary noble serving a knight at a tournament, was not allowed to
wear any pearls whatsoever, except for one string around their
hats. Now…I have a question that someone out there might be able
to answer for me. It’s this? What is an “ordinary noble”? Is it an
oxymoron? Or perhaps a Duke is an ordinary noble, while a Prince is
an extra-ordinary noble. And does then extra-ordinary mean more
ordinary than usual, or less ordinary. And if less ordinary, then
why the “extra”? I ponder these things folks. That’s why I’m aging
so rapidly. Mommieee!..
Rules are set forth by a decree entitled the “Diet of
Worms”. Quaint name…no? Here were the rules. Citizens who were
not of noble birth, and nobles who were not knights…could not
wear either gold nor pearls. The “Diet of Augsburg”, circa 1530,
said this: If you were the wife of a noble–ordinary or
otherwise–you were allowed four silk dresses…but alas…no
Duke John George of Saxony said: The nobility may not wear
dresses of gold, or silver, and no adornments of pearls.
Professors and doctors of universities, their wives included,
could also not wear anything with gold, or silver, or pearls. As to
those who worked in courts of law…same thing. No gold, no silver,
and no pearls. Ye gads folks…they were coo-coo in them thar days.
Of course…this all leads to an old belief I’ve always had. And
it goes something like this. The more laws that are made,
especially if they’re stupid laws, the more outlaws that are
created. The proof of the pudding is this: All these laws and
decrees had little effect, as many portraits of that age testify.
Nary a woman portrayed was without pearls around her neck, or on
her ears. Were they all outlaws… criminals? Or were some of the
law-makers of that age much the same as some few Starr struck law
makers of this age. McCarthy-ists who feel they have the right to
infringe on the personal lives of others.
I know I’m going to be in trouble on this one folks. What the
And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
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