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Medieval Cone Shaped Princess Hats Were Inspired by Mongol Warrior Women

What we think of as the headgear of white Europeans actually began as the headdress of Mongolian queens

smithsonian.com

Nothing says "princess" like a pointy, cone-shaped hat. From kids' costumes to medieval paintings, the cone hat—more formally known as a hennin (or henin)—is a sure sign of royalty. But here's something you might not know about the hat that adorn the heads of pale-skinned ladies: they were actually modeled after the hats of Mongol warrior queens.

The blog Medieval PoC explains:

The European Henin is modeled directly after the willow-withe and felt Boqta (Ku-Ku) of Mongolian Queens, which could reach over five to seven feet in height.

Mongolian women’s boqta also had a special role: because men and women’s clothing were more or less exactly the same in design, appearance and function, reflecting thousands of years of more or less equal rights between the genders, the women’s tall headdresses served to differentiate men and women from a distance.


According to Medieval PoC, Marco Polo brought at least one boghtaq back from his travels, and shortly thereafter there was a sudden boom in popularity of cone-shaped headwear amongst the ladies. Medieval PoC points to the book Secret History of the Mongol Queens, where author Jack Weatherford writes:
The contraption struck many foreign visitors as odd, but the Mongol Empire had enjoyed such prestige that medieval women of Europe imitated it with the hennin, a large cone-shaped headdress that sat towards the back of the head rather than rising straight up from it as among the Mongols. With no good source of peacock feathers, European noblewomen generally substituted gauzy streamers flowing in the wind at the top.

Today, it's hard to imagine a princess without a cone-shaped hat. But what we think of as the headgear of white Europeans actually began as the headdress of these Mongolian queens.

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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