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Wedding Suit of King James II of Britain (1633-1701)

Detail of the embroidery on the wedding jacket of James II, 1673. Detail of the embroidery on the wedding jacket of James II, 1673. Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK, acc. no. T.711:1, 2-1995.

James II  (James VII in Scotland) was the son of the British king, Charles I (r: 1625-1649) and a brother of King Charles II (r: 1660-1685). He reigned from 1685-1688. James was married twice, first to Anne Hyde and then to Mary Beatrice d’Este (also known as Mary of Modena; 1658-1718). Queen Mary, wife of King Willem III, was his daughter with his first wife.

The wedding suit dates from 1673 and was worn by James at his wedding with his second wife. At the time James was the Duke of York. The suit consists of a jacket and knee-length breeches, both decorated with shaped panels of gold and silver embroidery of lilies and honeysuckle. Originally it probably had a waistcoat in a contrasting cloth and colour. It is not known who made the suit.

The suit is regarded as being of particular interest to costume historians, as it was made in the transition period between wearing petticoat breeches and doublets (early seventeenth century) and the later, more streamlined breeches, waistcoat and long jacket. In addition, it has a rare example of a seventeenth century garter star still in situ on its original support.

The embroidered suit is made from a woollen broadcloth in a heather colour, lined with coral ribbed silk. The metal thread embroidery on the jacket and breeches takes the form of silver and silver-gilt threads that were couched to the ground material. Originally, tiny strips of parchment wrapped in metal strips were used (a form of passing), to give the embroidery a three-dimensional effect. The jacket cuffs are decorated with applied gold and silver Venetian lace. The wooden buttons of the jacket are covered with gold and silver.

The suit was acquired by Sir Edward Carteret (d. 1699) of Jersey, who attended the wedding ceremony in Dover. Apparently after the death of Sir Edward Carteret the suit passed to Sir Edward’s widow and then to her sister, Anne Durell. Anne Durell later became the wife of Matthew de Sausmarez of Guernsey. The suit was kept in the Sausmarez Manor, Guernsey until November 1995, when it was bought in a Sotheby’s auction by the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The early history of the suit also reflects the complex history of Britain at that time. Following the execution in 1649 of his father, Charles I, the Duke of York spent time hiding on Jersey and came into contact with the Carteret family, who remained loyal monarchists. In 1660 James's brother, Charles II, returned to Britain and re-founded the monarchy. It is said that the American colonies (still part of Britain at this time) changed the name of New Amsterdam into New York after the Duke of York and the district of New Jersey was created to commemorate his exile on the island of Jersey.

V&A online catalogue (retrieved 26 June 2016).

GVE

Last modified on Wednesday, 26 April 2017 11:45