The 16th century marriage tapestry is to go in for conservation work by The Textile Conservancy Company. It dates back to c.1525 and has lived at Hever Castle since William Waldorf Astor purchased it through his agent Partridge in the early 20th century for 70,000 franks. The tapestry will be away for conservation until spring 2017, when it will be returned to the Book of Hours room.
The tapestry illustrates a historic event: the marriage of King Henry VIII’s younger sister, Princess Mary Rose Tudor to King Louis XII of France. The union was political and understandably, the twenty-year old royal was reluctant to marry a man over thirty years her senior. However, Princess Mary Rose dutifully agreed to the match on condition that should she outlive the French monarch she could choose her new husband, namely Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk – a close friend of Henry.
Princess Mary’s marriage to King Louis was short-lived as he died just three months later, allowing her to marry Charles Brandon.
The tapestry is of historic importance as the woman to the right of Princess Mary Rose is supposedly Anne Boleyn – it is known that she and her sister Mary were present at the French Court at the time of the wedding in October 1514.
The conservation process
The Textile Conservancy Company will analyse the tapestry weave further and the lining will be removed to facilitate the conservation treatment.
- It will be thoroughly cleaned using low powered vacuum suction to remove the loose particulate soiling.
- pH readings will be taken throughout the hanging.
- Parts of the tapestry will be cleaned using conservation grade detergent and then rinsed with deionised water.
- Areas of weakness and loss will be consolidated to enable the tapestry to withstand long-term display.
- Naturally occurring slits where the thread is weak or missing should be consolidated with conservation stitching worked in polyester thread.
- Holes and areas of loss will be repaired with patches of appropriately dyed support fabric, inserted between the back of the tapestry and the linen support, and secured with conservation stitching.
The tapestry will then be prepared to return to the Castle with a new lining and hanging mechanism before it is packed for transportation.