English Embroidery of the Late Tudor and Stuart Eras
By Melinda Watt
Published Online (2010)
Introduction: The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw a flowering of the art of embroidery for secular use, particularly in England. During the Middle Ages, English artisans were famed throughout Europe for their embroidered church vestments. However, from the time that King Henry VIII severed relations with the Catholic church in 1534 and established the Church of England, the need for elaborately decorated religious vestments and furnishings for worship diminished greatly. But by the late sixteenth century, the taste for rich clothing and domestic decorations increased and a larger portion of society could afford to buy or make these luxury items during the relatively peaceful and prosperous late years of Elizabeth I’s reign.
A surprisingly large number of fragile embroidered objects have survived in public and private collections. A variety of contemporary concerns and opinions about nature, faith, family relationships, and the monarchy are reflected in the embroidery designs. This was the favored mode of decoration for household furnishings and fashionable dress, as well as for ceremonial garments and decorations used at the late Elizabethan and early Stuart court.