Royal History in Cross Stitch

A couple of weeks ago Barbara Bailey brought in this large cross stitch to be photographed for the Members Gallery.

Cross Stitch of British Kings and Queens by Barbara Bailey

I’m in awe of people who can do complex counted cross stitch pieces with this level of precision and skill.

Barbara’s piece is called Kings and Queens of England since 1066  and is a kit by Bothy Threads. It immediately caused a stir of interest with its droll take on the Kings and Queens of England. Some of the monarchs are well known and others more obscure. Each is shown with a particular motif and it was this feature that intrigued people. We were all trying to work out what they meant and this gave me the idea for this blog post.

So we’re going to explore the royal history in this cross stitch over three posts. This first post will focus on the first two rows of Kings which show the Norman, Angevin and Lancastrian lines:

First two rows Kings and Queens x-stitched by Barbara Bailey

They go from William the Conqueror to Henry VI and cover some of the most tumultuous periods in English history including the War of the Roses.

William the Conqueror to Henry I

William I and II and Henry I x-stitched by Barbara Bailey

William I (r. 1066-1087) was of course William the Conqueror who won the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The story of this battle is told in the Bayeaux Tapestry. William I was Norman, illiterate and spoke no English yet he had one of the greatest impacts on the English language by introducing a huge number of French and Latin words. He also commissioned the first census of the English population and property – the Domesday Book. He’s regarded as a great warrior king and that’s how he’s depicted here.

William II (r. 1087-1100) was the son of William the Conqueror and spent most of his reign consolidating Norman control over England. He was killed by an arrow while out hunting and this is how he’s shown here.

Henry I ‘Beauclerc’ (r. 1100-1135) was also a Norman king and had several chronicles/histories written about him during his lifetime and this may explain the way he’s shown here – reading the story of his life?

Stephen & Henry II

Stephen and Henry II x-stitched by Barbara Bailey

Stephen (r. 1135-1154) was the last Norman king. He was the nephew of Henry I and spent most of his reign fighting a civil war with his cousin Matilda (daughter of Henry I) for control of the throne of England. Maybe that’s why he’s shown in a rather aggressive stance??!

Henry II (r. 1154-1189) was a competent and powerful ruler who was famous for his energy and drive. He was the first of the Angevin kings.

Richard I & John

Richard I and John

If you’ve heard of Robin Hood then you’ve heard of these two kings.

Richard I was better known as Richard the Lionheart and ruled from 1189-1199. I was surprised to learn that he didn’t speak English and only spent 10 months of his 10 year reign in England. For the most part he was off fighting in the Crusades.

John (r. 1199-1216) was the last of the Angevin kings and has been judged harshly by history. He was forced to sign the Magna Carta and that’s what we see here.

Henry III to Edward II

Henry III Edward 1 and II X-stitched by Barbara Bailey

 Henry III (r. 1216-1272) was only 9 when he became king. He gets a mixed report card from historians  for his extravagance and tax demands which were balanced by his funding of important building projects (such as the rebuilding of Westminster Cathedral) and the establishment of a Parliament. We were really curious about the way he’s portrayed in the cross stitch but it turns out that he kept a menagerie in the Tower of London including a leopard!

Edward I ‘Longshanks’ (r. 1272-1307) was very tall and that’s how he got his nickname and why he’s shown here with long skinny legs. He’s famous for his military skill, energy and vision and very bad temper.

Edward II (r. 1307-1327) seems to be generally regarded as an extravagant and incompetent king who was eventually forced to renounce the throne in favour of his son.

Edward III & Richard II

Edward III and Richard II

Edward III (r. 1327-1377) was crowned king at the age of 14. He’s regarded as an inspiring leader who restored royal authority after the dissolute rule of his father. His military success made England the most formidable military power in Europe.

You might also be interested in the fact that he created the Duchy of Cornwall to provide the heir to the throne with an income independent of the sovereign or the state.

Richard II (r. 1377-1399)

He succeeded to the throne at the age of 10. Highly cultured and one of the great royal patrons of the arts. He was deposed by Henry of Bolingbroke (later Henry IV). Shakespeare recounts some of the complicated history of this period in his play Richard II.

The Lancastrian Kings: Henry IV to Henry VI

Henry IV to Henry VI x-stitched by Barbara Bailey

Henry IV (r. 1399-1413) Following the murder of Richard II, Henry IV had difficulty defending his legitimate right to be king. He had to deal with a rebellion from the Percys of Northumberland & Glendower of Wales. He defeated them at the Battle of Shrewsbury and Shakespeare dramatises these events in his play Henry IV Part I.

Henry V (r. 1413- 22) needs no introduction – he was a brilliant general who defeated the French at the Battle of Agincourt. This triumph is immortalised in Shakespeare’s Henry V.

Henry VI (r. 1422-1461 and 1470-71) He came to the throne as King of England and France. His hold over France was weakened by the attacks of the Dauphin and Joan of Arc. He was interested in education and established Eton and King’s College Cambridge. His reign was marred by periods of insanity which led to instability and the War of the Roses. He was defeated by Yorkist forces at the Battle of Towton and imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1465.

His restoration to the throne in 1470 was short-lived when Edward IV regained the throne after the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471.

Who knew a piece of cross stitch could generate so much interest and information??!! This design is a very clever mix of humour and insight.

Have a good weekend!