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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds [CLASSIC MUSIC PLAYING]

Skip to 0 minutes and 28 seconds SALLY: So Eleri, we’re here in the stores of the Royal Ceremonial Dress collection at Hampton Court Palace. And we’re surrounded by objects, but we’ve got a very significant one in front of us. Could you tell us why this one is so important?

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 seconds ELERI LYNN: Yeah, absolutely. Well, as you said, we’re in the stores of the historic dress collection, where we have 10,000 items of royal and court dress dating back to Tudor times. But only two of those objects are from the 16th century. And there are lots of reasons for that. One of them is that the intrinsic value of clothing and textiles in the 16th century was such that you would hand clothing down, you would bequeath it in wills, it would just get repurposed and refashioned. So I’m sure that most of the Tudor wardrobe is now threadbare cushions in stately homes, up and down the country, having been reworn and then turned into upholstery. And then fashioned into smaller things.

Skip to 1 minute and 20 seconds Also, we know that the Stuarts sold off a significant portion of the Tudor wardrobe, and that Oliver Cromwell did the same for the Commonwealth sale. If it survived all of that, it then had the Great Fire of London to contend with, because the main store of the Royal Wardrobe was right in the heart of the city of London.

Skip to 1 minute and 37 seconds SALLY: Lots of things to overcome.

Skip to 1 minute and 39 seconds ELERI LYNN: Yeah.

Skip to 1 minute and 39 seconds SALLY: Leading on, then, what is the story behind this hat?

Skip to 1 minute and 43 seconds ELERI LYNN: Well, so this hat is known as the Bristowe hat. We actually acquired this quite recently from a direct descendant of an important courtier called Nicolas Bristowe. And he had been an important courtier to Henry VIII, to Edward, to Mary, and to Elizabeth I. So during the 16th century–

Skip to 2 minutes and 2 seconds SALLY: That’s a a long stint.

Skip to 2 minutes and 3 seconds ELERI LYNN: Absolutely. But he lived for 90 years, which, in the 16th century, is a significant stretch. And he was one of the officials of the Royal Wardrobe. He was Keeper of the Jewels. And he was also Keeper of the Little Wardrobe at the Tower, which meant that he was in charge of prisoner’s clothes at the Tower. And one of the perks for that was that he got first dibs on the clothing of executed prisoners. We have a record that the day before Thomas Cromwell was executed, that Nicolas Bristowe arranged for the transfer of all of his clothes to be delivered here to Hampton Court. And then distributed to top courtiers.

Skip to 2 minutes and 48 seconds And Nicholas Bristowe was in receipt of a significant number of Thomas Cromwell’s own clothes. We also know that Nicholas Bristowe received gifts directly from the King of clothing– accessories, and so on. Sadly, there isn’t a receipt that says to Nicholas Bristowe from the King, right on–

Skip to 3 minutes and 8 seconds SALLY: One red hat.

Skip to 3 minutes and 9 seconds ELERI LYNN: Exactly, one plum coloured hat with green ostrich feather. According to family legend, Nicholas Bristowe was in France at the siege of Boulogne. And when the city fell, Henry threw his hat up in the air, Nicholas caught it, and this is the said hat. And the family kept it all of that time.

Skip to 3 minutes and 27 seconds SALLY: Lucky catch.

Skip to 3 minutes and 28 seconds ELERI LYNN: Yes, exactly. So even if it isn’t true, the fact that the family believed it, and that they kept this hat in sort of almost relic-like conditions– they kept it away from the light, they kept it in fantastic conditions, which means that it has survived with this vibrant colour, this fantastic plum-coloured silk and this green ostrich feather. We did get it scientifically dated because it looked so vibrant. Almost you can’t believe that it is that old, but the scientific data came back that, yes, it was the right period. They did have lots of techniques, lots of colours, lots of material– some of them quite bright and bold.

Skip to 4 minutes and 10 seconds We know that it’s a high status hat because it has a silver braid button just here. And aside from the fact that it’s silk and ostrich feathers, which are elite materials, the fact there’s silver on it also elevates its status. And more than that, there are evenly positioned holes around the side here, which suggests that jewels could have been attached that way. So jewels weren’t attached permanently to clothing or to accessories, it was definitely something that you would mix and match. You would take off the jewels and pearls, and reattach them to something else. So that makes a lot of sense.

Skip to 4 minutes and 50 seconds SALLY: So it’s definitely high status.

Skip to 4 minutes and 51 seconds ELERI LYNN: Definitely high status.

Skip to 4 minutes and 53 seconds SALLY: Definitely fashionable?

Skip to 4 minutes and 54 seconds ELERI LYNN: I would say so. Looking at the documentary evidence, talking about the fact that the courtiers did indulge in these colourful and wonderful styles. We can pretty much say that it was a court hat. It wouldn’t have been worn outside of court, partly because the materials would have excluded it from most people’s reach. And even if it wasn’t Henry’s hat, the fact that it was an important court hat, and has this direct provenance to Nicholas Bristowe, is enough to make us very excited about it here at Hampton Court, because it’s almost as if it’s come home.

Skip to 5 minutes and 28 seconds It’s almost certain that this was worn around one of the royal courts, and Hampton Court being such a favourite, it’s nice to think that it’s been here before.

Skip to 5 minutes and 36 seconds SALLY: Yeah, you really want it to be, don’t you? You absolutely want this to be the hat. And if it was Henry’s, that would be even better.

Skip to 5 minutes and 43 seconds ELERI LYNN: It would. The one thing I haven’t done yet is measure it– on the inside– in comparison to existing armour, and things like that. Which seems like a bit of a no-brainer. I think that’s the next step.

Skip to 5 minutes and 55 seconds SALLY: Can I be here when you do that? That would be amazing. I feel like we’ve mentioned the materials quite a lot. We wouldn’t see this kind of style, necessarily, in fabrics today. So how is it– how have they managed to produce this effect?

Skip to 6 minutes and 9 seconds ELERI LYNN: Yeah, it is unusual, particularly in millinery. So it is a wool felt base, over which they’ve put a bit of a netting, through which then comes this tufted silk. And it’s a technique called thrumming, which was particularly fashionable in the mid-16th century. And almost the effect is like a long, uncut velvet. It looks very plush, very rich. I mean, you do wonder whether or not there may have been another ostrich feather this side, but I’m not sure.

Skip to 6 minutes and 46 seconds SALLY: And do you feel the ostrich feather is original to the hat?

Skip to 6 minutes and 49 seconds ELERI LYNN: Yes, I think so.

Skip to 6 minutes and 50 seconds SALLY: Not an extra add-on?

Skip to 6 minutes and 52 seconds ELERI LYNN: No, it is original. However, there is evidence to show that here it has, I think, been sort of slightly repositioned. So maybe it fell off, or maybe it’s not quite in the original position completely.

Skip to 7 minutes and 6 seconds SALLY: It is a fabulous piece.

Skip to 7 minutes and 8 seconds ELERI LYNN: It is, and such an incredible survival. There’s a whole avenue of research there that is opened up because of the material study of this object.

Skip to 7 minutes and 18 seconds SALLY: Thank you.

Skip to 7 minutes and 19 seconds ELERI LYNN: Thank you.

The Bristowe hat

In this video Sally meets Eleri Lynn, the Curator of the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection at Historic Royal Palaces, to look at a rare survival from the Tudor era ‒ the Bristowe hat.

Eleri explores how the hat came in to the Historic Royal Palaces’ collection and shows us the curatorial clues she found to confirm its provenance as a hat from the Tudor court.

We see the hat close up and get to explore how it was made, the materials it was made from and the luxurious decorations that would ensure its wearer in the Tudor court stood out and their status could be seen by everyone.

  • How does this hat differ from the hats worn by Henry VIII in some of the portraits we have seen?

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This video is from the free online course:

A History of Royal Fashion

The University of Glasgow