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Published: 30 May 2020

By Andy Ross

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Tudor Textiles

A bear, a boat and a fantastical sea creature  show the Tudor's love of exploration A bear, a boat and a fantastical sea creature  show the Tudor's love of exploration

At the Tudor court, textiles were more highly regarded than paintings and other decorative art. They were expensive, out of reach for many, and projected the wealth and taste of the European courts, never more so than at the Field of the Cloth of Gold festival. This event was designed to cement the peace brought about by the Anglo-French Treaty of 1514, and the Treaty of London of 1518, which allied Henry VIII and Francis I as Christian kings. The event received its name from the golden textiles which decorated courtiers, officials, tents and encampments. 

In a new book, Tudor Textiles, the Field of the Cloth of Gold is used as an introduction to this fascinating period in European history, but it is the intricate and detailed design work incorporating motifs from the natural world which has been a long fascination. 

Cloth laid out for embroidery Cloth laid out for embroidery

The Tudors used such motifs to give meaning to textiles. Bees for industry, or fantastical animals to show their interest in distant lands and exploration. As the fabrics were all made of from natural materials - wool, silk, precious metals, etc - and required long hours of preparation, it is no surprise that they were expensive to produce. What is more interesting though is the language that could be conveyed by, say, embroidery. The use of roses, heartsease and eglantine in a play, fashionable motifs in the Elizabethan court, apparently were witty criticisms of men and praise of unmarried women! Who couldn't love that?

This book promises to be a very entertaining and intriguing read. It is filled with information about the historical context and culture of the time, and also full of images of these exquisite fabrics. Thank you, Elaine, for the link.