Readers of Regency Romance may think only heroines can be found in dishabille. Au contraire!
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].
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.
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.
Mr. Tilney seems to sport a bit of a Steenkirk.
As well as Mr. Darcy himself, of a fashion.
Go ahead. Just yank that annoying, slap-dash cloth off.
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.