Katherine Bellenden

Katherine Bellenden

Katherine was in royal service from 1537, as a seamstress then a lavender (laundress). She repaired clothes, made shifts and shirts and even took charge of swaddling and tail clouts (nappies) for royal babies. 

As lavender she oversaw the redshanked (bare legged) girls of the laundry who cleansed and pressed the court cloth including the table linen. 

Stale human urine was a common cleaning agent, possibly why the laundry was taken to a site at the bottom of the castle hill.

Each year the treasurer gave Katherine a set fee to buy wash tubs, black soap and to pay wages. 

She married three times, rising in wealth and status, which would have been reflected in her dress. Her first husbands were provosts of Edinburgh and the last a favourite of James V. 

Yet the sumptory laws on clothing dictated what she wore. Only royalty was allowed purple, with materials like velvet and silk being restricted to the high born.