The Tudor Society

The Bacton Altar Cloth

Video from Historic Royal Palaces:

The article I mention in my video, the 1918 one - The Queen's Kirtle Lionel Cust


Historic Royal Palaces have now replied to my comment on Facebook:

"Hello Claire Ridgway, Thanks for the post, you've covered some very valid points. Our Curators are aware of the articles that you mention and are not claiming to have discovered the altar cloth. Rather, they have been able to examine it closely and identify it as a fragment of a dress because of a dart sewn into it. We are of course aware of the research many historians and local people have pursued into this history of this fascinating object, and will continue to endeavour to communicate that."

My reply back to them:

"Historic Royal Palaces, the newspaper reports have all called it a new discovery, your video description says "In this video Tracy Borman and Eleri Lynn, the Curator of the Dress Collection describe the significance of the find, what it was like to discover it" and Eleri Lynn states that it is a "once in a career identification" and no credit has been given to Lionel Cust. In The Daily Mail, Tracy Borman is quoted as saying "'It was only because I was having a wander round the church that I saw this extraordinary material on the wall. It was one of those chance discoveries" and "This is an incredible find". That's very misleading and obviously has led to people seeing this as a brand new discovery. I realise that newspapers can make errors in their reports but their reports seem to have been based on your press statement.
In your own press statement: "A richly embroidered altar cloth, preserved for centuries in a small rural church in Bacton, Herefordshire, has recently been identified by experts as a piece of a sixteenth century dress, which may even have belonged to Queen Elizabeth I herself. Rumoured for centuries to be connected to the Tudor Queen via her servant, Blanche Parry, the story of this remarkable object is uncovered in a new book, from Historic Royal Palaces Joint Chief Curator Tracy Borman: ‘The Private Lives of the Tudors.’"
And quoting Tracy Borman from the press statement:
"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."
The words "find" and "uncover" make it all sound new. But it was identified as such by Lionel Cust. Perhaps it should say something like "science has been able to prove Lionel Cust's identification".
I'm not trying to be difficult, I just think that the press statement and coverage of this work have been misleading. Are Cust and Richardson cited in Tracy Borman's book? Does her book go into more detail on the history of the theory?
I'm so glad, though, that further work is being done on the cloth and that the video if it means that we can all enjoy the detailed and exquisite embroidery. It's also good that it is being conserved properly to protect it from damage."

My comment and their reply can be found at ps://

HRP's press statement can be found at

Notes and Sources

  • Magazine - This is actually volumes 32 and 33 so December 1918 is right at the end.
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