High Heels: Pomp, Pageantry and Power

Charles II, Rory Hutton, shoes -

High Heels: Pomp, Pageantry and Power

Today marks 390 years since the birth of Charles II. He was proclaimed King of England, Scotland and Ireland on his thirtieth birthday in 1660. Charles’ Restoration court liked to indulge in pomp, pageantry and partying, earning him the nickname The ‘Merry Monarch’. 

Charles II Dancing at the Hague


High heeled shoes were the footwear of choice at his court. Primarily worn by men, high heeled shoes were a symbol of masculinity, power and pedigree. 

High heels originated in Persia as a practical enhancement to the riding shoes of Persian cavalry soldiers, with the elongated heel helping them stay secured to the stirrups. By the early 17th century the fashion for high heels had spread throughout European courts. They had become anything but practical by the middle of the century. At the court of Louis XIV, for example, the elevated heels had been further enhanced with red soles to distinguish members of the royal family and ‘favourites’ from the rest.

Detail from Charles II Coronation Portrait

This practice extended to Charles II’s court and he can be seen sporting a pair of crimson heels in his coronation portrait by John Michael Wright. They became a symbol of royal splendour and a thrusting cosmopolitan outlook. 

Shoes for Kings Scarf

Inspired by the legacy of Charles II’s sartorial style and lust for life, Rory’s latest illustrations revel in the (teetering) pinnacle of men’s footwear. 

Lino Cut Shoes



Charles II Dancing at The Hague, May 1660 by Gonzales Coques. Collection of National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Caird Fund. 


Portrait of Charles II by John Michael Wright. Detail of shoes. 


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