An inventory from 1600 shows some 2,000 gowns in Elizabeth’s royal wardrobe, containing imported silks, furs and damasks, decorated with precious jewels and gold and silver thread. The Bacton Altar Cloth – Elizabeth I’s only surviving dress – now at Hampton Court Palace. An enormously rare piece of Tudor clothing, known as the Bacton Altar Cloth, is now on show at Hampton Court Palace – and it was once one of Elizabeth I’s dresses.
Occasionally, an incredible discovery of historic significance occurs. Such is the case with the Bacton Altar Cloth, now believed to be part of a lost dress from Elizabeth I’s wardrobe. This item is not just rare – it is unique. For although accessories belonging to Elizabeth have survived, no single item of her clothing is known to have done so. On 12 October 2019, the fragment of dress, which at some point was converted into an altar cloth, will go on display at Hampton Court Palace. In this blog, we explore its likely provenance and just what features of the fabric have convinced experts that it once belonged to one of England’s most iconic queens.