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Rediscovery of a Tudor Dress Fragment

Bacton altarcloth

Embroidered altarcloth, St Faith’s Church in Bacton, Herefordshire

Curators from the Historic Royal Palaces in the UK have identified an embroidered altar cloth from St Faith’s Church in Bacton, Herefordshire as a rare fragment of Elizabethan dress. Blanche Parry, one of Elizabeth I’s most loyal servants, was born in Bacton, and the altar cloth has historically been associated with this Chief Gentlewoman of the Bedchamber, who may have received the fabric as a gift. Surviving items of Tudor dress are few and far between.

The value of the cloth meant that it was routinely repurposed, with the provenance of surviving fragments difficult to trace once removed from their original context. The textile dates from the last decades of the 16th century and is made from cloth of silver, which Tudor sumptuary laws dictated could only be worn by royalty or the most prominent members of the aristocracy. Elizabeth I wears an intriguingly similar fabric in the famous Rainbow Portrait.

Bacton altarcloth

Embroidered altarcloth (detail), St Faith’s Church in Bacton, Herefordshire

Bacton altarcloth

Embroidered altarcloth (detail), St Faith’s Church in Bacton, Herefordshire

Bacton altarcloth

Embroidered altarcloth (detail), St Faith’s Church in Bacton, Herefordshire

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