Throne Canopy at Kensington Palace: almost there!

These past few months we’ve been busy finishing the Queen Anne throne canopy conservation; tying together all the loose ends ready for its display at Kensington Palace.

Cloth of State Conservation: Final Stages

A lot has happened since our last post, but below is an update on the Cloth of State which after being separated out for treatment is now back altogether as one whole piece. The 16 emblems, fully supported, needed to be re-stitched to the damask. Our preparation work was crucial here, with detailed tracings and photographs taken before conservation acting as guides for returning each embroidery to their exact previous position.

Left: Before conservation, Right: During conservation

To keep them flat my colleague Viola and I took it in turns stitching one above table height and one below on a flat trolley (a bit like a car mechanic!)  The strong cotton support stitched to the damask doubled its use here, taking the 5.5kg weight of the emblems to reduce strain on the historic damask fabric. The coat of arms now back in place; the lining was reattached and we could move onto the finishing touches.

Reassembling the Coat of Arms

The New Frame and a Damask Extension

Last year, you may remember we successfully trialled a new frame to hang the canopy from. Due to the room measurements however, the frame needed to be longer than the cloth of state. We had a couple of options for dealing with this damask deficit; (1) extend the length of the cloth of state (2) do nothing.

After consultation with the curators, it was decided that we do something and Gainsborough Silks were commissioned to make a newly woven replica extension. They made copies of the Hampton Court pattern and dyed numerous silk samples red for us to check against the object. This process is always rather tricky: suddenly you realise there is an extensive variety of red hues and matching these to a single one is actually quite hard!

Finally, we settled on a colour and the new damask was woven. The next challenge being to check the seam between the old and new damask was well aligned. Even with the pattern replicated, small inconsistencies are common with historic hand weaving. Add this to any stretching of the fabric over the past 300 years and it is clear that a perfectly aligned new damask extension is not possible: the fullness of the design did however mean inconsistencies were not eye-catching and we were very pleased with the finished result.

Preparation for Kensington

Extension now on and we have just finished the hem: the final step in the whole project before shipping the throne canopy to Kensington Palace. Look out for our post next month with details of the installation and a celebratory cheer as the project reaches its conclusion!

Fully conserved cloth of state

By Charlotte Gamper, Senior Textile Conservator

Acquired with the assistance of the Art Fund. Conserved with assistance from Lord Barnby’s Foundation, Idlewild Trust, The Radcliffe Trust, The Leche trust, Broadley Charitable Trust and the Worshipful Company of Tin Plate Workers alias Wire Workers. We are grateful for their support.

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