© This Month - September

Eleri Lynn’s talk on the Bacton Cloth in the Borough Theatre on September 27th starts at 7.30pm. Non-members may join on the night.

The following article can also be seen in the September edition of the Abergavenny Focus


Fit for a Queen

A piece of fabric found in a Herefordshire church has been hailed as the Holy Grail of fashion history after being identified as the only surviving piece of clothing worn by Elizabeth 1st. Helen Morgan reports:

The embroidered textile had been cut up and used for centuries as an altar cloth,  before being hung on a wall in the 13th-century church of St Faith, Bacton. “It is almost certainly part of a skirt worn by  the Tudor queen, making it the only known survivor of her famously lavish wardrobe,” says Eleri Lynn, curator of historic dress at Historic Royal Palaces.
“When I saw it for the first time I knew that it was special. As I examined it, I felt I had found the the Mona Lisa of fashion.” None of Queen Elizabeth I’s dresses is known to have survived even though cloth was valuable and passed down the generations. Hampton Court was plundered during the Civil War and the current collection — like the Bacton cloth — has been discovered elsewhere.
It was while researching Welsh connections to the Tudor court that Eleri Lynn came across the Bacton altar cloth. The evidence all points to it being worn by Elizabeth. The embroidered design, featuring roses, daffodils and other flowers, was typical of the late 16th century, and made from cloth of silver, which, under Tudor law, could be worn exclusively by the monarch or immediate members of the royal family. Furthermore, the botanical pattern  is strikingly similar to that on a bodice worn by Elizabeth in the so-called Rainbow Portrait of 1602 and it is “not inconceivable” that the skirt, which cannot be seen in the painting, was once part of the same outfit. Also, an illustration of a bear in a book published in 1594 exactly matches a bear embroidered on the fabric.
The connection to St Faith’s makes sense because its parishioners included Blanche Parry, Queen Elizabeth’s favourite lady-in-waiting. When Blanche died in 1590, aged 82, it is thought the Queen honored the memory of her old friend and Welsh-speaking confidante by having one the royal skirts fashioned into an altar cloth and gifted to Blanche’s family church in the Dore Valley.  The cloth will go on display in Hampton Court next auturm following extensive restoration work.


©  Historic Royal Palaces / Church of St. Faith, Bacton, Herefordshire

Abergavenny Local History Society 
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