How Lord Kingsale acquired the right of wearing his hat in the royal presence is this: King John and Philippe II. of France agreed to settle a dispute respecting the duchy of Normandy by single combat. John de Courcy, Earl of Ulster, was the English champion, and no sooner put in his appearance than the French champion put spurs to his horse and fled. The king asked the earl what reward should be given him, and he replied, “Titles and lands I want not, of these I have enough; but in remembrance of this day I beg the boon, for myself and successors, to remain covered in the presence of your highness and all future sovereigns of the realm.”
Lord Forester, it is said, possessed the same right, which was confirmed by Henry VIII. The Somerset Herald wholly denies the right in regard to Lord Kingsale; and probably that of Lord Forester is without foundation. (See Notes and Queries, Dec. 19th, 1885, p. 504.)
On the other hand, the privilege sees at one time to have been not unusual, for Motley informs us that “all the Spanish grandees had the privilege of being covered in the presence of the reigning monarch. Hence, when the Duke of Alva presented himself before Margaret, Duchess of Parma, she bade him to be covered.” (Dutch Republic.
A cockle hat. A pilgrim's hat. So called from the custom of putting cockle-shells upon their hats, to indicate their intention or performance of a pilgrimage.
How should I your true love know From another one? By his cockle-bat and staff, And his sandal shoon.
A BROWN HAT. Never wear a brown hat in Friesland. When at Rome do as Rome does. If people have a very strong prejudice, do not run counter to it. Friesland is a province of the Netherlands, where the inhabitants cut their hair short, and cover the head first with a knitted cap, then a high silk skull-cap, then a metal turban, and lastly a huge flaunting bonnet. Four or five dresses always constitute the ordinary head gear. A traveller once passed through the province with a common brown chimney-hat or wide-awake, but was hustled by the workmen, jeered at by the women, pelted by the boys, and sneered at by the magnates as a regular guy. If you would pass quietly through this “enlightened” province never wear there a brown hat.
A STEEPLE-CROWNED HAT. You are only fit to wear a steeple-crowned hat. To be burnt as a heretic. The victims of the Autos-da-Fé of the “Holy” Inquisition were always decorated with such a head-gear.
The street arabs of Nottingham-shire used to accost a person wearing a white hat with the question, “Who stole the donkey?” and a companion used to answer, “Him wi' the white bat on.”
The Scotch have the word hattit-kit or hatted-kit, a dish made chiefly of sour cream, new milk, or butter-milk.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894