These beautiful, individually made embroideries were worked in gold and silver thread over three hundred years ago. The intricate designs of roses, thistles, harps, crowns and lions symbolised the newly formed kingdom of Great Britain in 1707 and highlighted the royal connection of the throne canopy’s former owner, Ambassador Townshend.
The silk of the outer valances has been damaged by light over the years. In order to conserve these, we needed to remove the emblems in the same way that we did for the cloth of state . Our main challenge was to secure the loosely hanging metal and silk threads which we encased in a fine net, painted beforehand to subtlety enhance the original detail – as textile conservators, it is important for us to consider how to strengthen and stabilise an object as well as how to preserve its original appearance.
On the front valance you can admire the whole set of emblems but unfortunately two have been lost from the sides; a rose and a crown. After discussion with the project curators about how this should be displayed , we commissioned a set of replicas which will enable our visitors to see the canopy in all its former glory. A specialist embroiderer was appointed to study the originals and recreate them using traditional techniques. Watch the video at the end of the post to learn more about the process of constructing the replicas and conserving the emblems.
Once the original emblems were conserved and the replicas delivered they were reattached to the valances, now packed away until next year when the throne canopy will be installed at Kensington Palace.
By Viola Nicastro and Kaori Motaung, Textile Conservators
Watch the video
In our next post: We test a life-size mock-up of the throne canopy at Kensington Palace – all in a day’s work!
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.