Holy Grail of Fashion History
January 9, 2017 8:30 PM   Subscribe

A skirt believed to have belonged to Elizabeth I -- probably the one depicted in The Rainbow Portrait -- has been discovered in St. Faith's church (Bacton, Heresfordshire), serving as an altar-cloth for the last 400 years. It is the only surviving piece of clothing worn by Elizabeth I.

Eleri Lynn, curator of historic dress at Historic Royal Palaces, immediately noticed the piece was made from cloth-of-silver, only permitted to the royal family. She said, “We have 10,000 items of clothing and accessories in storage here, including many items worn by kings and queens, but there is almost nothing from before the reign of Charles II. In Tudor times, clothing was so expensive that it would be passed on from one generation to the next, or taken apart and reused for something else, like cushion covers. On top of that, Oliver Cromwell sold off every item of clothing in the royal stores, so the only things we have, including a hat which might have been worn by Henry VIII, have come back to Hampton Court after they have survived elsewhere.” (Telegraph) Pics at Daily Mail.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (41 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
But does it have pockets?
posted by zennie at 8:42 PM on January 9 [82 favorites]


It's family lore -- probably spurious family lore -- that we're descended from Oliver Cromwell. So, when I read things like this, I mutter "Goddamnit, Uncle Ollie!" and shake a tiny fist in the general direction of England.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:53 PM on January 9 [18 favorites]


So many questions. How do you have cloth made of fine silver thread or silver-wound thread without it tarnishing? If part of the cloth was made of cloth-of-silver, what was the rest of it made from? Why is the ownership of the former garment being determined now-- they don't know whose it is?
posted by zennie at 9:02 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


jacquilynne, are you by any chance a hard-bitten police officer, because perhaps you're what this country needs [/nerd]

The enormous labor involved in embroidered cloth -- indeed, in any pre-industrial textile -- never fails to awe me. Whenever I'm watching a period movie set before, say, 1800, and a decently dressed character has a bucket of something nasty upended on their head in a humorous fashion, it occurs to me that that person has just sustained as much financial damage as in a car accident.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:21 PM on January 9 [46 favorites]


We must - MUST - restitch this into something Queen Elizabeth II can wear.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:25 PM on January 9 [7 favorites]


How about a pussyhat?
posted by adept256 at 9:33 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]


There's a surviving corset from QEI's wardrobe, although I don't suppose we absolutely know that she wore it.
posted by clew at 9:39 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


zennie -- the idea is that the dress would have been passed on to a lady-in-waiting, in this case, Blanche Parry; this was normal practice for most aristocrats. In some cases, the garments would be passed on to the players, or cut up for ornaments -- they'd be too fine to wear for anyone not of that rank, not to mention the sumptuary laws forbade fabrics like cloth of gold or silver for anyone under the nobility.

The scholar in question thinks that the cloth was given to the church by Blanche Parry, who was a member of the congregation. If it is the same embroidery work, the animals were added later -- it's just the plants that are visible in the Rainbow Portrait.

I think silver thread does tarnish eventually.
posted by jrochest at 10:45 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


We must - MUST - restitch this into something Queen Elizabeth II can wear.

Under British law, Her Majesty is technically wearing all the clothes in the Commonwealth at all times.
posted by No-sword at 11:43 PM on January 9 [29 favorites]


Even the thongs.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:14 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]


I feel like they are burying the lede: it might be possible to recover DNA from the cloth, clone Elizabeth I, and then have the Commonwealth be ruled by a succession of her clones for all eternity. Either that or open up a theme park populated solely by Elizabeth I's.
posted by Balna Watya at 12:30 AM on January 10 [26 favorites]


I feel like they are burying the lede: it might be possible to recover DNA from the cloth, clone Elizabeth I, and then have the Commonwealth be ruled by a succession of her clones for all eternity. Either that or open up a theme park populated solely by Elizabeth I's.

Nice try, Steven Moffat.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:49 AM on January 10 [55 favorites]


Even the thongs.

Nice try, Steven Moffat.
posted by No-sword at 1:11 AM on January 10 [29 favorites]


In this part of the world thongs are footwear, so the mental image I have is amusing rather than disconcerting.
posted by deadwax at 1:54 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


When St Faith’s realised the importance of the find, it loaned the altar cloth to HRP, which is about to undertake an 18-month restoration, unpicking stitches from a crude Edwardian renovation and sewing it on to a new backing cloth.

It will then be displayed in its rightful home in the Tudor palace.


A fascinating little story, but the last two paragraphs in the Guardian piece sort of tweaked my nose a bit.

St. Faith's has possessed the cloth since sometime in the early 1600's, according to the idea it was passed to them from Blanche Perry, who was given it by Elizabeth. So they've had it for 400ish years after having received it from Perry, to whom it was gifted by the Queen, but it's "rightful home" is still in the Tudor palace. I guess royalty or celebrity touches something it never "rightfully" belongs to anyone else, no matter how it was acquired.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:16 AM on January 10 [23 favorites]


A fascinating little story, but the last two paragraphs in the Guardian piece ...

I think you mean the Telegraph ('Torygraph') piece. The nickname explains everything.
posted by plep at 3:05 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


Ah! Right you are! My apologies to the Guardian for the mix up.
posted by gusottertrout at 3:20 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


In this part of the world thongs are footwear, so the mental image I have is amusing rather than disconcerting.

In this part of the world, thongs are both underwear and footwear, which makes the image twice as amusing but no less disconcerting.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:41 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I don't think anything new was 'discovered' here. It was known that this cloth was from Blanch Parry and that she had got it from the Queen.

In fact, my wife is a Liz I fan and she and I specifically made a trip to this church to see this skirt. It was just hanging on a wall badly framed. There's even an effigy of Elizabeth I in the church (my photo)

Here's my blurry photo of a detail from the skirt. As you can see this was in 2012.

They even had a pamplet in the church outlining the history of the skirt.

Here's the church guidebook which includes "The beautiful, framed, silk Altar Cloth is fashioned from an Elizabethan court dress which possibly belonged to the Queen. It was an honour to receive parts of dresses from her."
posted by vacapinta at 4:04 AM on January 10 [40 favorites]


Also, having seen the thing close up (it is very faded) we thought it looked like the skirt from this portrait.
posted by vacapinta at 4:54 AM on January 10 [9 favorites]


So was it actually being used as an altar cloth for the last 400 years, or was it hanging on the wall badly framed?

I would think that 400 years is going to make for a lot of wine stains and candle drippings.
posted by heatherlogan at 5:12 AM on January 10


The church guidebook in vacapinta's comment above says it was framed in 1909.
posted by rory at 6:50 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


We can clone her from her DNA for Elizabethassic Park.
posted by y2karl at 7:00 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


Depending on how many Communion sacraments have been performed on the altar cloth, and the personal beliefs of each congregant over the years, they may (or may not) accidentally clone Jesus instead.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:19 AM on January 10 [8 favorites]


Alien vs.Predator, then ?
posted by y2karl at 8:40 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


I have never, ever wanted to time travel or hang out with Puritans, but damn if Cromwell's whole royal clothing archive tag sale doesn't make rethink that position.
posted by thivaia at 8:55 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


It is the only surviving piece of clothing worn by Elizabeth I.

That we know of...
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:10 AM on January 10


I wish there were more and better pictures of the embroidery. I drool over the Plimouth Plantation reproduction of the Layton jacket.
posted by Princess Leopoldine Grassalkovich nee Esterhazy at 9:50 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


In other news, the eyes and ears on the cloak in The Rainbow Portrait freak me out.
posted by slipthought at 10:31 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


So basically, as vacapinta says, this cloth has long been assumed to be a former part of Queen Elizabeth's wardrobe, but now the right person finally discovered it and is now working to restore it.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 10:41 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Depending on how many Communion sacraments have been performed on the altar cloth, and the personal beliefs of each congregant over the years, they may (or may not) accidentally clone Jesus instead.

Good news, everyone! The clone is genetically the merging of Jesus AND Elizabeth I! The reunification of the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches can commence!
posted by mephron at 10:47 AM on January 10 [16 favorites]


The Farnsworth Voice effect is so much stronger when the "Good news, everyone!" is followed by something that he actually would likely say.
posted by radwolf76 at 10:57 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]


I wish there were more and better pictures of the embroidery.

My wife uncovered a few more photos she took.

You can see how it hung on the wall. It is on the right in this photo.
posted by vacapinta at 11:52 AM on January 10 [10 favorites]


The Farnsworth Voice effect is so much stronger when the "Good news, everyone!" is followed by something that he actually would likely say.

The wha-?
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:17 PM on January 10


various vacapinta comments

this is why I metafilter

thanks, OP and mrs vacapinta!
posted by infini at 1:57 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Those pics are great vacapinta - (it seems like?) you can really see the intervening-centuries' repair or overstitching jobs that the articles talk about needing to undo.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:01 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the extra photos, vacapinta. What's the deal with the later addition of little animals and insects? They seem competently embroidered, but why add them at all? They're kind of odd, wedged into open spaces here and there with no particular reason.
posted by Quietgal at 4:16 PM on January 10


We can clone her from her DNA for Elizabethassic Park.

Dr Alan Grant [holding a newborn baby in his hands]: What lineage is this?
Dr Henry Wu: Uh, it's a Plantagenet.
Dr Alan Grant [worried]: You bred Plantagenets?
Muldoon: They should all be destroyed.
Dr Alan Grant: What kind of metabolism do they have? What's their growth rate?
Muldoon: They're lethal by puberty, and I do mean lethal. I've hunted most things that can hunt you, but the way these things scheme...
Dr Alan Grant: Do they show intelligence? With their brain cavity -
Muldoon: They show extreme intelligence. Especially Henry II. We bred eight originally but when he came in he took over the clan and killed all but Edward I and Henry III. That one... when he looks at you, you can see him plotting your downfall.
posted by um at 6:26 PM on January 10 [7 favorites]


This one definitely does not look purple.
posted by 4ster at 7:06 PM on January 10


My guess would be that the added embroidery would be to cover small holes, spots of wear, or stains but I can't really tell from the pictures.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:33 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Under British law, Her Majesty is technically wearing all the clothes in the Commonwealth at all times.

Ahem ?
posted by y2karl at 5:25 AM on January 11


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