Cardinal Thomas Wolsey
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Meaning of the Colour Crimson

In Elizabethan England, the Crimson colour depicted royalty and nobility. The colour Crimson like Gold and Indigo was synonymous with luxury and richness and was worn only by the people of the upper class as dictated by the Sumptuary laws of the country.

Crimson derived from the word “Kermes” had a strong religious symbolism and as such was associated with the church itself. The esteemed church figures wore crimson robes that symbolized the presence of God.

What is the meaning of the color crimson?


How did it come to be associated with passion, violence, and danger?

Crimson is a strong, deep red color. It is also known as carmine, cochineal, or pomegranate red . It has been used as a color for clothing, cosmetics, and paint since ancient times. In some cultures, crimson is associated with blood and violence. In others, it is seen as a symbol of passion, love, and danger.

How to make color Crimson?

Crimson can be made by mixing red and blue pigments together, or by using the dried stigmas of the saffron plant. To make a deep, rich crimson, add a small amount of black pigment to the mixture. To make a brighter crimson, add a touch of white pigment. Crimson can also be made from natural dyes, such as madder root or cochineal insects.

Crimson the colour of Royalty
Crimson the colour of Royalty

Crimson: The Colour of Royalty

Crimson represented fire, authority, and power. The rich were the only one who could afford the colour and thus were worn only by the royalties, nobles and the members of the Council.

The deep Crimson colour was obtained from a rare species of insect called the kermes vermilion which was only found in the Mediterranean invariably making it quite costly.

Rich Elizabethan men and women wore clothing of fine linen dyed with the bright red version of the colour Crimson.

In one of Elizabeth I’s portraits, she has been seen wearing a Crimson-coloured robe with elaborate collars made from expensive silk. The colour signified elegance and royalty to its true meaning.

Queen Elizabeth I Portrait wearing a Crimson Gown
Queen Elizabeth I Portrait wearing a Crimson Gown

What does Crimson red symbolize?

The colour Crimson held a great religious significance in the Elizabethan society. It signified celestial love and the presence of God.

The high church officials wore Crimson robes and it denoted the blood of the martyrs signifying faithful Christians who suffered hardships and sacrificed their lives for the love Christianity.

Crimson is the traditional colour for the for Pentecost Sunday celebrations in the Church.

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the Archbishop and the Cardinal of the Catholic Church during Henry VIII’s reign have been seen wearing Crimson robes.

Pentecost is a Holy day celebrated on the 7th Sunday after Easter and marks the descent of the Holy Spirit upon its followers. The day is celebrated by ceremonial worshipping and feasts.

It represents the fire of “burning charity” or the generous sacrifices of the martyrs. Crimson being the liturgical colour of Pentecost is worn by the priests and important members of the church.

The paraments, the altar cloth, the lectern and the pulpit where the preacher delivers his sermon all are changed to the bright and dark colour of Crimson.

Crimson also signifies blood or the life-source that flows through our body. It also signifies the colour of Christ’s blood who shed for the sins of his devotees.

Crimson denotes humility and atonement. During the day of Atonement, Christian devotees do fast and give up their normal daily activities. Instead, they pray before the Holy Christ and seek his forgiveness and blessings.

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey

What colours did royalty wear?

The members of the royalty wore certain colours like the Purply and crimson bu which they could be immediately recognized. These colours could only be worn by the royalty and no one else in the kingdom.

Some other colours such as gold, deep blue, violet and scarlet were also worn by the royalty along with privy members and important courtiers as well.

What did Crimson mean Spiritually?

As a symbol of social status, crimson colour was worn by royalty in the Elizabethan era. Wearing crimson was determined by the Sumptuary Laws of England, where only royalty, nobles and privy council members were allowed to wear crimson.

However, crimson has had other significance that is often overlooked.  Crimson had a strong religious symbolism. The colour was associated with the church and important religious figures were often depicted in crimson robes. Crimson was associated with knowledge, power and certain religious aspects.

In Biblical terms, it symbolized the blood of martyrs and indicated the presence of God. Crimson is also viewed as the colour of flowers, which also holds important meaning. A crimson polyanthus symbolizes the mystery of the heart, while a dark crimson rose symbolizes mourning.

The symbolism of the rose has continued even to modern times.

crimson rose
crimson rose

Dyes used for colour Crimson

In the beginning, Kermes dye extracted from the bodies of the female insects’ Kermes vermilion found in the Southern parts of Europe was used to obtain the colour Crimson.

Later on, the Cochineal dyes used by the Aztec people were discovered by the Spanish explorers.

The dye was obtained from the insect Dactylopius coccus. The insects were crushed, boiled and dried to obtain the rich hue of Crimson. The colours thus obtained were much more long-lasting than the kermes dyes.

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