Sunday, August 25, 2013

History's Runway: An Embroidered Garter Star, 1627-1700

Embroidered Garter Star
Edmund Harrison, 1627-1700
The Victoria & Albert Museum

We’ve looked at many jeweled garter stars, dripping with diamonds.  But, they weren’t always gem-encrusted.  Sometimes, especially on daily-worn uniforms, the star was an embroidered patch which was sewn onto the garment.  Well, look at that…here’s one which dates between 1627 and 1700.

This form of the Order of the Garter (the highest order of English knighthood) as a star was introduced by King Charles I (ruled 1625-1649) in 1627. The garter star was to be worn by Knights of the Garter, “upon the left part of their cloaks, coats and riding cassocks, at all times when they shall not wear their robes, and in all places and assemblies...a testimony to the World, of the honour they hold...the Order Instituted and Ordained for persons of the highest honour and greatest worth.”

I want one.  I’d settle for being granted an OBE.  Hint, hint, Buck House.

Embroidered badges like this, and, in fact, all ceremonial embroidery was carried out in professional workshops in London. One such workshop was run by one Edmund Harrison, who held the appointment of “King's Embroiderer.”
 In 1633-1634, Harrison supplied 34 “rich orders set upon clokes [cloaks] and coates.” These varied in quality and materials.

One star that Harrison supplied to the Master of the Robes was “of blue velvet set with diamonds.”  And, thus, began the tradition of adding jewels to these stars.

We do not know to whom this star of the Order of the Garter belonged. Since being given to the V&A in the Nineteenth Century, it has been associated with a gift from Elizabeth of Bohemia (1596-1662), sister of Charles I. Such a badge can still be seen in place on the wedding suit of Charles's son James, later James II (ruled 1685-1688), which is also in the V&A.

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