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Royal lackeys, The Hague
Servant in livery (around 1900)

Livery is an old name for the caps or fur coats that the king in France used to present to the banners and knights at the great annual celebrations .

Later it became a term for the uniform- like clothing of the servants . This was kept in special colors, which in some aristocratic houses was based on the colors of the coat of arms, in others according to the personal taste of the landlord. The respective livery was also referred to as the court color . Originally, princes who were vassals of another also had to wear their master's livery when they appeared at his court or were on his behalf.

The livery fashion in Europe was long determined by the French court in Versailles . In general, the servants received additional liveries for festive occasions, which differed from the everyday uniform, as well as special ones for the morning ( lever ). The Economic Encyclopedia by Johann Georg Krünitz gives a detailed description of the livery common in England in the 18th century :

“It is usually one color, but not trimmed. In addition, it is also a dark color, which does not take offense at rain or dirt, because the servants always have to ride when traveling. The skirts are made like body skirts , with very short tails, plus round hats with a braid [...] or with gold and silver cords and squares. They are looking for large Spanish tubes and hair pouches to go with the good livery . They wear braids with their second livery. The third livery of the morning is a powder color [...] horse-drawn coachmen wear short, very tight waistcoats [...] yellow trousers and tight boots with brown cuffs [...] clad spurs. Grooms have round hats, but coachmen […] have hunting hats with cords and squares. The colors are usually very bright that they can be seen from a distance. "

The servants who wore a livery were also called livery servants in contrast to the valets who wore none. Another term for these servants was lackeys .

Usually the livery was provided by the respective employer, i.e. tailor-made at his own expense, which should then last for two years before a new outfit was available. The servants were allowed to keep the old uniforms.


  • Heinrich XXVIII. Prince Reuss zu Köstritz : The correct servant. Manual for masters and their servants . Parey, Berlin 1900 ( full text at Wikisource)
  • Marieluise Kliegel: The servant's old clothes. Liveries and livery buttons - selected examples of German aristocratic courts of the 19th century . United Westphalian Aristocratic Archives, Münster 1999 (also Münster (Westphalia), Univ., Diss., 1997)
  • The emperor's expensive clothes. Festive robes and regalia, court uniforms and liveries from the early 18th century to the times of Franz Joseph I and Elisabeth . Catalog for the exhibition of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien and the Reiss Museum Mannheim 2000/2001. Vienna / Mannheim 2000, ISBN 3-85497-010-2

Web links

Commons : Livery  - collection of images, videos, and audio files
Wiktionary: livery  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. livery . In: Johann Georg Krünitz: Economic Encyclopedia .
  2. Servants . In: Johann Georg Krünitz: Economic Encyclopedia .