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The University of Southampton

450th wedding anniversary celebrated in style

Published: 21 July 2004

On 25 July 1554, Mary Tudor married Prince Felipe of Spain in Winchester Cathedral, bringing about a powerful political alliance between the two countries. It was the last ever Catholic wedding to be held in the Cathedral and a flamboyant act of union of two of the most influential royal and staunchly Catholic dynasties in Europe at the time.

Four hundred and fifty years later - with Spain coincidentally celebrating the marriage of another Crown Prince Felipe - the University of Southampton's Centre for the History of Textiles and Dress, in collaboration with the Textile Conservation Centre, is marking the anniversary with a conference exploring the intricate relationships between England and Spain over the last 500 years via the medium of textiles.

The conference, 'Textile Cultures: Spain and England since 1500', takes place on 22 and 23 July 2004 and will bring together academics from Spanish and British museums and universities with a specific textile research interest, as well as individuals with a more general interest from the local community. The conference will be held at the University of Southampton's Winchester School of Art campus.

One of the conference sessions will focus on Mary's wedding clothes and those she ordered for her husband. Whilst their wedding attire didn't survive and there are no paintings or engravings of the marriage, incomplete wardrobe accounts listing some of her clothes demonstrate that Mary knew only too well the power of dress to impress and to convey messages of mood and intent. By dressing Felipe in the regalia of an English nobleman, beginning with the Order of the Garter granted to him as he stepped onto English soil for the first time, she sought to convey to her people his intended position as reliable, non-threatening royal consort.

Dr Lesley Miller and Dr Maria Hayward, the conference organizers, comment: "The Armada apart, the interaction of England and Spain in comparison to that of England and France is an understudied field. New insights into the dialogue between the cultures will be sought through analysis of material and visual culture of royal alliances, trade, tourism, collecting and the media: from consideration of the diffusion of textile technology to the intimate connections between people, clothes and identity."

Other conference sessions will look at political and commercial relationships in the later Middle Ages; the dress and portraits of Henry VIII's first wife Catherine of Aragon to assess her integration into English court life; the Spanish technique of 'goffered' or stamped velvets; and the debt of Catalonian 'Art Nouveau' to the British Arts and Crafts Movement. Speakers include experts from the University of Southampton, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, the Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas in Madrid, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Notes for editors

  1. Digital images of textiles featured in the conference sessions are available from Media Relations on request.
  2. Winchester School of Art is unusual in embracing all textile disciplines, including those represented by The Centre for the History of Textiles and Dress and The Textile Conservation Centre. The latter is a leading international centre for the education of textile conservators and for research into textile conservation. The Centre uniquely combines an academic department alongside a commercial Conservation Services department, each staffed with trained experienced conservators. There is no other institution in the world which undertakes as much research into textile conservation issues, has such an outstanding publications record in this field and has done as much to develop the profession of textile conservation. Over 200 people have studied at the Centre and now work in museums and conservation laboratories in over 20 countries.
  3. Winchester School of Art merged with the University of Southampton in 1996. Founded in 1860, WSA has an international reputation for research and teaching in art, art and design history and design, with links with many other institutions in Europe.
  4. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University has over 19,200 students and 4,800 staff and plays an important role in the City of Southampton. Its annual turnover is in the region of £250 million.
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