In Fine Style – a superb Tudor and Stuart exhibition

Photo: Melanie Clegg.

I was lucky enough to be invited to the blogger’s preview yesterday morning of the new exhibition In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace. It must surely be testament to how thoroughly excited I was about this exhibition that I did not at all begrudge getting up at 3.30am to get there for the 9am start and proof of how ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT it is that I think it was an entirely well spent effort.

Photo: Melanie Clegg.

This exhibition explores the sumptuous costume of British monarchs and their court during the 16th and 17th centuries through portraits in the Royal Collection. During this period fashion was central to court life and was an important way to display social status. Royalty and the elite were the tastemakers of the day, often directly influencing the styles of fashionable clothing.

In Fine Style follows the changing fashions of the period, demonstrates the spread of styles internationally and shows how clothing could convey important messages. Including works by Hans Holbein the Younger, Nicholas Hilliard, Van Dyck and Peter Lely, the exhibition brings together over 60 paintings, as well as drawings, garments, jewellery, accessories and armour.

Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Let’s face it, if you are into royal and aristocratic portraiture, there are few collections to touch the Royal Collection and the effect when they bring some of their most wonderful pieces together to display together is really quite staggering. The rooms of the exhibition were a riot of colour, rich shimmering fabrics, glossy hair and shimmering fine lace. It was absolutely amazing.

Photo: Melanie Clegg.

The layout of the exhibition and all the sumptuous imagery on display really encourages the viewer to get as close as they can to the portraits, all the better to feast your eyes on the amazing rich detailing of the fabrics, lace, jewels and trimmings on display. It really is extraordinary how much attention to detail went into even what could be considered the most trivial aspects of a costume – I was particularly struck by the lavishness of sleeves, something that our well dressed forebears clearly put a lot of thought into, lavishing lace, jewels and ribbons on them. I recalled though that making sleeves as presents, particularly to loved ones, was a popular pastime in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries so clearly they were considered rather more special than they are now.

Also on display were some wonderful examples of contemporary clothes, many of which with royal associations but several there just because they are beautiful and rare examples of seventeenth century fashion. I fell a bit in love with Henrietta Maria’s crimson mule shoes, garnished with a touch of gold lace.

Naturally, I ran around like a mad thing taking photographs of EVERYTHING so here are some of the highlights. Brace yourselves for VISUAL OVERLOAD.

Details from Louis, the Grand Dauphin and his Family, Mignard, 1687. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Detail from the Three Eldest Children of Charles I, Van Dyck, 1636. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Eleanor Needham, Lady Byron, Lely, c1663. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Details from James II, when Duke of York with Anne Hyde, Princess Mary and Princess Anne by Lely, c1668. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Charles II when Prince of Wales, Dobson, 1644. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

The Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia, Archduchess of Austria, Pourbus the Younger, c1598-1600. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Margaret of Austria, Queen Consort of Philip III of Spain, Juan Pantoja de la Cruz, c1605. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Portrait of a Young Girl, British School, c1630. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Prince Henry Frederick of Bohemia, Flemish School, c1616. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Alleged portrait of the young Henrietta Maria when a Princess of France, Anonymous, c1622. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Details from Princess Elizabeth of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel, van Doort, 1609. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Details from Portrait of a Woman, British School, c1620. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Detail from Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, Mytens, 1626. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Detail from Mary Princess of Orange, Hanneman, 1655. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Details from Lady Bowes, British School, 1630. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Details from Portrait of a Lady, Cornelius Johnson, 1624. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Detail from Anne of Denmark. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Charles I, Van Dyck, 1645-6. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Details from Charles I, Mytens, 1628. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Charles II Dancing at a Ball at Court, Janssens, c1660. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Details from Mary II when Princess of Orange, Wissing, c1686-7. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Details from Queen Henrietta Maria, Van Dyck, c1632. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Details from Frances Stuart, later Duchess of Richmond, Lely, c1662. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Details from Frances Stuart, later Duchess of Richmond, Huysmans, 1664. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Anne of Denmark, van Somer, 1617. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Details from Mary of Modena, when Duchess of York, Verelst, c1675. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Details from Anne of Denmark, Gheeraerts, 1614. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Details from Elizabeth I when a Princess, Attributed to Scrots, c1546.Photo: Melanie Clegg. (One of my favourite portraits so I may have gone a BIT wild.)

Henry VIII, van Cleve, c1530-5. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Details from Portrait of a Man in Red, Unknown Artist, c1530-50. Photo: Melanie Clegg. This painting had a room to itself to highlight its recent conservation work and inviting visitors to speculate on the sitter’s identity.

Edward VI, Attributed to Scrots, 1546-7. Photo: Melanie Clegg.

Queen Anne Boleyn, Holbein, c1533-6. Photo: Melanie Clegg. Now before you all shout at me, this is the official identification of the Royal Collection which I have spoken with them about and agree with, mainly because I think ONLY the Queen, in this case Anne Boleyn, could have been portrayed so informally in her nightgown in this period.

Anyway, there ends my pictures! Unbelievably, I haven’t posted photographs of everything on show – this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this astonishing and really excellent exhibition.

Photo: Melanie Clegg.

But wait! It doesn’t entirely end there! We were all fortunate to be given copies of this brilliant fake glossy fashion magazine from the seventeenth century. How cool is this? It was the brainchild of someone in the Royal Collections Media team, who was inspired by the fact that fashion magazines as we know them had their birth in the seventeenth century.

Anyway, I slipped two extra copies in my bag to giveaway to two lucky commenters on this post so you too can enjoy Mr Samuel Pepys’ style queries, tips on how to spot a Restoration fop and hints on when to put your sons into trousers instead of skirts and LOTS more. It’s ace.

Photo: Melanie Clegg.

In Fine Style opens today at the Queen’s Gallery and is running until Sunday 6th October. Here is your timely warning that if you plan to combine a visit to the exhibition with a jaunt inside Buckingham Palace then you need to pre-book tickets for the latter well beforehand as it’s a strictly book in advance job. Unless like me you hung on to your tickets from last year so you can get in for free this summer. Woohoo.

Photo: Melanie Clegg.

ps. There’s also an excellent learning room for children with Jacobean costumes and a brilliant portrait backdrop to pose in front of as well as bags containing activities to go with the exhibition.

pps. There’s a great free interactive app to go with the exhibition. You can download the app, take photos of yourself and then make yourself look like a Tudor or Stuart beauty. It’s inspired by a totally mad miniature of Henrietta Maria in the exhibition which had her face and then a whole slew of different hairstyles, hats, BEARDS etc that could be placed on top.

Many thanks to Anna Reynolds and everyone at the Royal Collection for inviting me to such a fun event.

‘Frothy, light hearted, gorgeous. The perfect summer read.’ Minette, my young adult novel of 17th century posh doom and intrigue is now £2.02 from Amazon UK and $2.99 from Amazon US.

Blood Sisters, my novel of posh doom and iniquity during the French Revolution is just a fiver (offer is UK only sorry!) right now! Just use the clicky box on my blog sidebar to order your copy!

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75 thoughts on “In Fine Style – a superb Tudor and Stuart exhibition

  • Gussie Leigh


    I don’t even know how many times I had to mash ‘f5’ before I was finally able to get every single picture to load, but it was so entirely worth it for those details on ‘Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia.’ Just the fine organic lines in those hands that indicate how sheer the fabric is are enough to make me swoon.

    What an exquisite exhibition. <3<3 Thank so so much for sharing.

  • Lucy

    OMG! I am in deep envy. I ordered the book which won’t arrive for a couple of weeks. I would love to enter the draw. What a brilliant giveaway. Thank you for taking so many photos. We don’t get these color combinations and texture combinations anymore. We really could. Maybe the next fashion revolution will include them, I can only hope.

  • Karen Reid

    What an amazing exhibition, loved the photos. Also going for sympathy vote for one of the magazines as I live in Australia & the exhibition most likely wont make it to Perth where I live

  • Michelle

    How lovely! I wish I could go, but alas, a trip across the pond is too much for me right now. But I do love living vicariously through your work.

  • Mary Keynko

    Some of my favourite works of art! I think a trip to London may be in order!

    And the magazine sounds like an excellent idea – fingers crossed for a lucky win

  • Erin

    Gorgeous! That’s my favourite portrait of Elizabeth too. I really MUST go to this exhibition, I have no excuse, being a Londoner!!

    And “Robe”!? Snigger! That must have been ace to work on!!

  • christy

    Choir singing in the background ahhhhh. So envious of these historical girls and their fantastic clothes. Details are breath taking. Thanks so much for all of the wonderful pics. It’s hard to pic a favorite. Can’t we just wear them all? Ok not so much the boy stuff.

  • celeste

    Amazing close ups! Such gorgeous dresses! Iwill be daydreaming of them all day long! I would love to be entered to win the magazine! Im just so infatuated with these beautiful outfits!

  • Caroline

    So awesome. I hope we can make a trip across the pond this fall to see this exhibit as well as the Royal Bedchamber exhibit at Hampton Court. Here’s to hoping and I’m glad that you’ve highlighted both since my chances of getting over are slim.

  • Tina

    I am finally shutting my mouth after 30 minutes of it hanging open. I can’t even thank you enough for posting these, especially as I won’t be coming to London this year! But wow! Wow! WOW!!!

    I am so glad to see that the collection includes Elizabeth’s portrait when she was a princess. Of all her portraits — even the ones when she had transformed into Gloriana — this one remains my favorite, the preteen or teen with those serious eyes and already displaying those long, elegant fingers; that Tudor red hair peeping from underneath her French hood. I’m sure that when it was painted, she could never know what the future held.

    I love this gown so much — always have, that I had one handmade for me for the Texas Renaissance Faire last fall. The cloth used varies a bit due to what was available, but Very Merry Seamstress did a magnificent job in recreating it. My first custom-made costume, and one in honor of a woman I’ve admired my entire life.

    As for the other portraits — I’ll be going back over this collection again. After I’ve staarted breathing again. *bg*

  • Edie

    Oh. My. God… Breathtaking. Absolutely breathtaking. The detail on the clothing is amazing…and here I thought I was dressed up for work! Wouldn’t it be an absolute dream to go back in time and try on these clothes and feel the weight and the majesty of it all? I can’t thank you enough for sharing these and if you have more…please post more!

  • Lauren

    What a sumptuous and beautiful exhibition! You are so lucky to be able to view such beautiful trinkets and portraits living in Europe. Thanks for all the beautiful photographs and amazing details. I’m looking forward to reading Minette!

  • Marion Low

    Incredible, beautiful photos. The details are just astounding. How many weeks did it take to complete any one of these gowns? (Almost as long as it took to download all the photos!!). I hope all who are there will see this exhibit, I envy you all. I would love to win that special fashion magazine; brilliant idea. This is why so many actors say they get into a character the minute they get into the costume. It must change the way you move, walk, sit, and act. I’m afraid the docents would have to throw me out at the end of the day. Thank you for this lovely blog and the chance to win the magazine.

  • Maya

    Thank you for all this eye-candy!! Definitely going to London this year; I just need to find another event that can make my boyfriend want to book a flight as urgently as I do.

    I am in love with that magazine and would like to enter the draw, but since I’m never lucky at giveaways, could you tell us if they’re going to mass-print it? I need to buy one!

  • Julia- Tea Temptress

    What an amazing amount of lusciousness! It is stunning to see how the portrait artist captured so much exquisite detail via paint of the extraordinary detail of their wardrobes. Loved it! You were so lucky to see it in person.
    Great photographs, Ms. Clegg and Co.

  • Peyton Kempf

    Oooooh la la, ma cherie! Absolutely amazing! I always jump with glee when I see a post from you on Facebook! I am obsessed with England and France’s history and your words always bring it to life for me. Living here in the States I get to live vicariously through you! Hehe! :) Your writing is beautiful. Your blog is fantastic! Thank you for capturing the detail of the paintings. Wow! It is almost like seeing it in person! Cheers!

  • Kimberly Alexander

    WOW- Thank you ever so much for sharing this visually stunning exhibition – wish I could fly over to see it in person, but alas, not in the cards this year…And would naturally appreciate a copy to share with my grad & undergrad students – after thorough reading of course!

  • Baji Swift

    Oh my goodness Melanie! Amazing pics!
    I’m a little jealous, but I will certainly savor every fantastic pic you took! Thanks a bunch!

  • Helen Wake

    You lucky thing you!!! How absolutely gorgeous! I shall definitely visit and may have to re-read “Minette” as I am sure I was still in C18 mode in my head. Husband is swotting for yet another accountancy exam for the next few weeks but I may go along first alone. Husband looking very much like Charles I these days and will be on at me to make an outfit like the ones to be seen!
    On a different note, we are going to spend a few days at Versailles for our tenth wedding anniversary on 21st June, so I will be re-reading your previous blogs for details. Do I dare risk a faint in the Queens Bedchamber?
    Lots of love,
    Vive La Reine!

  • Maribeth

    It’s kind of funny how I can always tell it’s Charles II in some of these portraits I’ve never seen. He reminds me of Louis XIII.

    And don’t Elizabeth I and Edward VI look a lot alike?

    Lely’s paintings are some of my favorites because he seems to capture the effect that certain types of lighting have on the skin or clothing, but I also really like that he caught the luster of the pearl necklaces some of the ladies are wearing.

  • Ruth Barrett

    Envious (as ever!)… but I am grateful that you share such wonders on your blog so that we can enjoy them by proxy.

  • Msfracture

    Aaaah such glorious & inspiring images! I would definitey be framing a few of them. ~_~

  • Dane

    Your photography is stunning! I could stare all day at the close-ups. Then I imagine what it would be like to have to wear these clothes all day… Yikes! I am grateful for my comfy clothes, but envious of bygone style.

  • justine pratz

    Truly sensual overload. You must have just been in some sort of heaven. Never expected polka dots. Never expected the richness of colors.These are some surprises. The lace work is unbelieveable. Also noticed the individuality regarding the identical rings on many fingers of Princess Elizabeth. This reflecting from the dress – she must have had a strong hand in this design as a whole. My question to you is how did you find the workmanship on diplay garments? Were you able to look closely enough on seams and hems and the many little openings? Anyones dress in particular that you got actually to see and know they were once inside it? Comments on the display of jewels?

  • Hester

    This is gorgeous, I wish I could go and see it myself! (Hm, I’m will be in London in a couple of weeks, perhaps I can!)

  • Hiboux

    Oh my goodness, this is brilliant! As a student of Fashion PR with an extreme interest in 16th – 19th century fashion, this is just… it’s too much! J’aime un million de fois! I’m so jealous that you were able to attend such a beautiful exhibit, but I know you savored every second of it and that in itself makes me quite happy. Now, how to win that magazine? Shall I shower you in pleasantries? Should I consult a tarot reader? What would Madame de Montespan do? Actually, we probably do not wish to know what SHE would do. Anyhow, very, very lovely. It gives me an idea… perhaps there should be a sensual edition. The Playboy of the 17th century. It could include various women in the guise of Aphrodite, and especially the portrait of Gabrielle d’Estrées’ nipple pinch! Ooh la la, le scandale! Well, I’ve rambled on quite enough. It is night time where you are, so I hope you are having pleasant dreams! Au revoir!

  • Lexi

    Just stunning; I always love looking at the detailed embroidery in these portraits, and the jewels! Incredible, how amazing to get a preview :)

  • marilyn ritter

    Absolutely stunning photography Melanie! Please put my name in the hat to win and thank you.

  • Tara from Maryland

    Thank you so much for posting so many delightful images! I would absolutely KILL to see Lely’s Frances Stuart, and, as I’m a Marylander now, oh, the thought of seeing Henrietta Maria’s shoes! Please enter me in the giveaway too. And, I must say, the Royal Collection should give you a stipend for selling the exhibition books. I think I must have a copy now, but it has not been released in the States yet.

  • Valerie

    As always, I am so very grateful for your posts! Thank you for taking the time to do this! xo :)

  • Valerie

    Gorgeous! Thank you for taking so many pictures, it’s brightened up a very rainy Saturday!

  • Sparrow

    Those sketches purported to be her have always been my favorite, and I’ve always hoped they were actually her. The paintings are always stunning, but there’s something so human and accessible about the sketches; they look like a real person, and define the features in a way the painting don’t. I think it’s one of the most frustrating parts of loving history, and reading about those long before us- wanting to know what they truly would have looked like. There’s a painting about an hour’s drive from where I live, in the Toledo, Ohio museum that is supposed to be of Kitty Howard, but it’s never been positively identified, and some people argue it’s not her. I always loved that one too, long before i found out it was in Toledo (such a bizarre place for it to end up)- and hoped it was really kitty. It has that same unique aspect to it that reveals more personality than more formal paintings usually do. Thank you for sharing them, and all the others. Residing in the US, I get to live vicariously through your descriptions with all these amazing places and exhibitions :)

  • Terri

    The embroidery is amazing! How many hours upon hours upon hours it must have taken!

  • Vaeda van Lieshout

    It is such a credit to the painters of these portraits that they are almost like photographs, you can almost see every stitch of the embroidery – especially in the Infanta Isabella’s portrait. What skills to have created such gowns for us to enjoy now. And thank you for going crazy with your picture taking!

  • Samantha Bird

    What superb costumes, beautiful and delicate with eye to detail. I wish I lived in that era.

  • Vicki Munden

    This collection looks absolutely gorgeous. Thank you so much got posting so many great pictures. Clothing and portraiture from history both fascinate me.

  • Anabel

    This is amazing! Thank you very much for sharing this exhibition with those who are a bit far from London like me. The quality of the pictures is stunning!

  • Michelle

    What a great post! Well done you:)
    I actually want to go to this exhibit so much it physically hurts!! Bit of a trek from bonnie Scotland but I might just have to go before it closes, and take my mother dearest with me. She started my history obsession so that seems fitting.
    Anyway, if you would see fit to let me be one of the lucky two who receives a copy of “robe” I’d be beyond vous plait?!
    Oh and I especially loved the pictures of the princess Elizabeth painting. One of my absolute favourites too. Such lovely details and she looks so much like her mother in it; hauntingly pretty and proud.

  • Charis

    Thanks for taking all these photos and sharing – looks stunning! THink I might have to go there myself….so amazing! And yes, can I entre the draw too, magazine looks stunning

  • Laura Carr

    These photos are fantastic! I will have to introduce my students to your wonderful pictures next school year. :)

  • Laurie

    Thanks for all those great close-ups! I wish I could teleport myself to London for a day just to visit it, (as well as the exhibition on Queen Victoria at Kensington Palace) for I live in Canada. Have a nice day!

  • Lisa Misak

    Love the pictures! Wish I could have seen the exhibit and I am going to say I hope I win :)

  • lemonicricket

    The Man In Red portrait is rather, erm, ostentatious. Thank you so much for these gorgeous pictures; I’ve just spent an hour poring over all the sumptuous details. Also, as I’ve been lurking on this blog for over a year, I think it right that in my first ever comment, I thank you for all the amazingness that you supply for us lucky readers. Your blog is such an inspiration!

  • Eric

    I want one of the magazines soooooooo bad. Love your blog and all of your pics.
    Thanks for so much of what you do!!!!

  • Charlene Collins


    We’re you able to photograph any of the actual clothing they had on display??? It’s amazing to think this was all handmade……..

  • Annie

    Since I live in the US I’m always so thrilled when you take a trip somewhere. Your photos are always fantastic and detailed and make me feel like I’m really there. This exhibit I find particularly fascinating because I love fashion (always have) and for the past year you’ve gotten me interested in the 17th century. I can’t wait to see more photos!!

  • Mary Villa

    Simply splendid my dear! Delicious eye candy and filling to say the least. Loved every bit. Thank you!

  • Jenny

    Love this and am so jealous as I won’t be able to see it! Also, love the magazine, what a clever idea! If we don’t get the giveaway can we purchase them do you know?

  • janice

    i so much appreciate the small details you share, such as the sleeves being special. i thought so much of the clothing being heavy because the weather was cold. what would they do on hot days? i wonder what became of the majority of these clothes? where did all the pearls and gems go that decorated the clothing? i realize it was reused, but this seems over abundant.
    i am amazed how the painters portray the finest details of the clothing. can you talk about that some time?

    could you do an article on just the crowns? i am currently interested in them.
    thank you.

  • Alison

    Portrait and fashion heaven! I will try and get to see in when I’m in London in July.

    You know how much I adore the magazine too :)

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