A richly embroidered altar cloth, which may be a remnant of a dress belonging to Queen Elizabeth I herself, has been found in Bacton, Herefordshire. Historians believe that Queen Elizabeth I could have gifted the dress to one of faithful servants, Blanche Parry. Blanche Parry was born in Bacton and was perhaps a churchgoer there as well. The cloth was preserved for centuries in the small rural church of St Faith’s in Bacton and it has now been identified by experts as a piece of a 16th century dress. Until very recently it hung in glass case on the wall.
The connection to the Virgin Queen has been rumoured for centuries. Tracy Borman, a Historic Royal Palaces joint chief curator, has featured the story in her new book, The Private Lives of the Tudors. It was not uncommon for Queen Elizabeth I to pass on clothes she no longer wore, due to her enormous wardrobe and the theory is that it once formed part of a court dress. It was made from cloth of silver, which was a high status fabric which could only be worn by royalty or the highest members of the aristocracy. It cannot be definitely confirmed that the dress was worn by Queen Elizabeth I, but she is depicted wearing a very similar fabric on the bodice of her dress in the Rainbow Portrait.
Tracy Borman said, “This is an incredible find – items of Tudor dress are exceptionally rare in any case, but to uncover one with such a close personal link to Queen Elizabeth I is almost unheard of. We’re thrilled to be working with St Faith’s Church to conserve this remarkable object, which will now be further examined by our conservation experts at Hampton Court Palace, where we hope to be able to display it in future.”