Royal Silk Embroidery is the debut design in Schumacher Masterpieces, our exclusive collection of limited-edition patterns made with age-old techniques. It took 25 artisans 30 weeks and 58 hand-dyed colors to embroider 100 yards of silk linen with this exquisite menagerie modeled after a gown worn by Queen Elizabeth I. What better way to kick off our luxurious new collection than with a fabric made for royalty?
Royal Silk History
This exquisite menagerie of mythical sea creatures, exotic flora and birds in flight is inspired by the intricately embellished gown in the famous Hardwick Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I.
Elizabeth had one of the most extensive and lavish wardrobes of all time. Scholars believe this gown was commissioned by her friend Bess of Hardwick as a New Year’s gift, and that the queen thanked her with the life-size likeness of herself wearing it. Produced in the 1590s by the studio of Nicholas Hilliard, who’d painted the queen many times before, the Hardwick Portrait is over seven feet tall and still hangs in Hardwick Hall, Bess of Hardwick’s Derbyshire estate.
A Token of Friendship
The friendship between the two most influential women in Tudor England wasn’t without its dramas. Tensions arose when Bess arranged a marriage between her daughter and the son of the Countess of Lenox, strategically giving her grandchildren a line to the throne—without first asking the queen’s permission.
Their bond was further strained when the queen made Bess’s fourth husband, George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, the custodian of Mary Queen of Scots. This outwardly prestigious job was in fact incredibly expensive and onerous. As the married couple began to buckle beneath the stress, Elizabeth I tried her best to help them reconcile.
When her marriage ended, Bess inherited a fortune and built Hardwick Hall, completed in 1599, around the same time as the famous Hardwick Portrait. Presumably, the construction of the gown and the commissioned portrait of the queen marked a harmonious period between the two friends!
Behind the Fabric
The array of highly stylized flora and fauna featured on Royal Silk Embroidery is an example of Jacobean work, a style of crewel, silk or metal embroidery inspired by the “Tree of Life.” Recognized across a variety of cultures, the motif symbolizes the connection between the heavens and the earth.
Queen Elizabeth I’s gown was rich with meaning. The lilies represent purity, the swans mean virginity, and the dragon symbolizes England’s eternal fortune. The arrangement of the figures all in one fabric makes a strong statement of power, influence and lavishness.
A Modern Masterpiece
Today, the legacy of Queen Elizabeth I’s famous gown lives on through Royal Silk Embroidery. It took more than two dozen artisans and nearly six months to create a silken fabric that we are proud to call a masterpiece. Just as the original fabric was woven with friendship and dedication, the modern interpretation of Royal Silk Embroidery continues to dazzle with its impressive craftsmanship and wondrous final product.
We are excited to continue building our Masterpieces Collection following the launch of this lavish, recording-breaking and exquisite fabric!
Pillows & Accessories
Royal Silk Embroidery Pillow
What Makes This Special
This pillow features Royal Silk Embroidery with a Knife Edge finish. With its lavishly embroidered mythical sea creatures, exotic flora and fanciful birds—each painstakingly hand-stitched on a fine pearl-hued silk-linen ground—the fabric captures the elegance and eccentricity of the original dress. Remarkably, it takes a team of 25 artisans—including weavers, dyers, embroiderers and more—a total of 30 weeks to produce just 100 yards of this exquisite fabric that contains 58 distinct, hand-dyed colors. We think it’s still a design fit for a queen! Back of pillow is Venetian Silk Velvet. Pillow includes a feather/down fill insert and hidden zipper closure.
Royal Silk Embroidery
What Makes This Special
In 1599, Nicholas Hilliard painted an iconic portrait of Queen Elizabeth I wearing an intricately embellished gown, a gift from Bess of Hardwick that demonstrated her unwavering support of the Queen. It is that gown that was the inspiration for Royal Silk Embroidery, the debut design in our Schumacher Masterpieces collection, which focuses on creating the most rarefied patterns in an effort to support age-old techniques. With its lavishly embroidered mythical sea creatures, exotic flora and fanciful birds—each painstakingly hand-stitched on a fine pearl-hued silk-linen ground—the fabric captures the elegance and eccentricity of the original dress. Remarkably, it takes a team of 25 artisans—including weavers, dyers, embroiderers and more—a total of 30 weeks to produce just 100 yards of this exquisite fabric that contains 58 distinct, hand-dyed colors. We think it’s still a design fit for a queen!