WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Steenkirk

Readers of Regency Romance may think only heroines can be found in dishabille. Au contraire!

Steenkirk

A muslin neckcloth carelessly put on, from the manner in which the French officers wore their cravats when they returned from the battle of Steenkirk [sic].

19th century wood engraving of a gentleman wearing a Steinkirk cravat, Probert Encyclopedia.

Apparently, those Frenchies were in such a rush to get to the fight, they had no time to properly tie their cravats. The Battle of Steenkerque was a fight from 1692, during the Nine Years’ War, where the French forces took on a joint English-Scot-Dutch-German army commanded by William of Orange. The French won, messy cravats and all.

Map and Overview of the Battle of Steenkerke, 3 August 1692.

Voltaire explained the Steinkirk neckcloth phenomenon in his 1751 tome, Age of Louis XIV:

The men at that time wore lace-cravats, which took up some time and pains to adjust. The princes having dressed themsevles in a hurry, threw these cravats negligently about their necks. The ladies wore handkerchiefs made in this fashion, which they called Steinkirks. Every new toy was a Steinkirk.

Steinkirk cravats consisted of a long, narrow, plainly trimmed neckcloth wrapped once about the neck in a loose knot. The ends were then twisted together and tucked out of the way into a button-hole, either of the coat or the waistcoat. This tyle was popular with men and women until the 1720s.

I personally think the Mailcoach and Waterfall styles of the Regency have their origins in the Steinkirk.

Portrait of J.B. Belley, Deputy for Saint-Domingue by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson, 1797, Palace of Versailles.

Mr. Tilney seems to sport a bit of a Steenkirk.

JJ Feild as Henry Tilney, 2007, Northanger Abbey.

As well as Mr. Darcy himself, of a fashion.

Colin Firth as Fitzwilliam Darcy, 1995, Pride and Prejudice.

Go ahead. Just yank that annoying, slap-dash cloth off.

Colin Firth as Fitzwilliam Darcy, shedding that silly old Steenkirk.

Cravats are delicious things.

The only question I’m left with is exactly how many different ways are there to spell Steinkirk? I discovered Steenkirk, Steenkerque, and Steenkerke.

 

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

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