The Prince and the Pauper – Chapter Nine – Fun Fact

Ermine image with caption

Wearing real animal fur is definitely a controversial topic. Personally, as someone who lives in an area with cold winters, I have never felt the need to wear fur. There are plenty of other warm fabrics that can be worn instead. But there is one group of people who historically have not shied away from wearing fur, and one type of fur in particular. The Fun Fact that we explore for The Prince and the Pauper Chapter 9 is…


Ermine is a specific type of fur that is often associated with royal families, and is mentioned in The Prince and the Pauper. If you are not already familiar with it, you will probably recognize the pattern when you see an image of it. Keep reading, or watch the video below, for a crash course on ermine!

Reference in The Prince and the Pauper

“He was ‘magnificently habited in a doublet of white satin, with a front-piece of purple cloth-of-tissue, powdered with diamonds, and edged with ermine.” (p. 44)

This is part of the description of Tom, standing in fine royal clothes, and finally starting to fit the part of a prince.

What is ermine?

Ermine (Mustela erminea) looks similar to a small rodent like a weasel. They can also be called stoat, short-tailed weasel, or Bonaparte weasel. The term ‘ermine’ is especially used in winter in places with colder climates. During this time of year, the coat of the ermine turns pure white with a black tail tip. In summer, their coat will turn brown. This change in fur color helps with camouflage.

Ermine can be found all across North America and Eurasia. They live mostly in thickets, woodlands, and wooded areas. Since they live in abundance, it is not necessarily hard to catch them and collect their furs. However, as they are so small, it takes many animals to create a fur large enough to be worn, especially one that meets the standards for royalty.

Why was it popular with royals?

Supposedly it first became associated with royals because of a symbolic legend. This legend stated that an ermine would “rather die than be defiled/soiled” (which is often seen in the original Latin wording). Therefore, ermine fur represents moral purity to the royals. They also enjoyed the fine texture and pur color of the fur. Edward III was the first to restrict ermine to members of the royal family.

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