“Embroidered with Woodbine and Eglantine”: Elizabethan Textile Furnishings
with Dr Gillian White
Thursday 30 November 2017
A colourful talk on Elizabethan textile furnishings by Dr Gillian White took us back to the sumptuous court of Elizabeth 1st and a feast of colours, patterns and amazing textiles – not only the opulence of wool, silk and twisted silver threads that would have shimmered and glittered by candlelight, but the sheer size of the masterpieces that certainly wouldn’t have fit in anything but a very large house.
We were shown a portrait of Elizabeth surrounded by, and wearing, fabulous textiles and returned to this image as we were enlightened about the important statements each of the items surrounding her said about her. The tapestries, the carpets, the chair and her costume all said ‘I’m in charge’!
Tapestries of biblical, classical and pastoral scenes would have hung on the important walls; they spoke of unbelievable wealth as well as being decorations to impress the visitors. Carpets, another expensive commodity were draped over tables and cupboards – rarely for walking on – unless you were the monarch, of course. The panels that draped over the edge of the table, or pants as they were called, depicted beautiful scenes perhaps a bit out of scale, either woven or embroidered that covered the vast tables of those days.
We moved to the chair which was carved and covered with cushions proclaiming the power of Elizabeth; lions, ciphers, and crowns, and a glove that said ‘I love England’- to the dress, a confection of animals, birds and fish – she commanded the earth, sea and air. A textile lover’s dream come true.