Detective work in the Archives: The case of the mysterious textile


Jane Seymour textile

A new find in the Archives was a 19th century, 1820, letter from the founder of UCA’s Textile course donating a small embroidered piece of material purported to be embroidered by Jane Seymour for Henry VIII’s counterpane, and fragile paper with an heraldic design on it. This was said to be in the keeping of a Mr Nicholls, lawyer to a Duke of Northumberland (the date of the letter suggesting it would be Henry Percy, 3rd Duke of Northumberland [1785 – 1847])

On contact with the V&A expertise suggested that ‘this object is probably continental European rather than British. It is likely to date from the 18th-century, or possibly the later 17th-century, but is definitely not 16th-century’. It is possibly Portuguese, of a type known as Castelo Branco. The V&A have a lot of Castelo Branco in their collection, one example can be seen here :

Although not of 16th century origin, it still begs the question of why the writer thought it was, who was ‘Mr Nicholls’ and why did he have it? What story is behind this? Did the Duke of Northumberland collect this? And was he duped?

Jane Seymour letter 2

Coat of Arms


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