Fashionably Late…A New Image of a Tudor Monarch

Old Government House, Parramatta, NSW:  A new article examining the double portrait of Henry VIII’s sister, Mary Tudor, is shedding light on fashion in the early years of this infamous king’s reign. 

Traditionally dated to 1515, the double portrait of Mary and her second husband, Charles Brandon, had been assumed to date to the year of their marriage.  However, new research proposes that the fashions they wear shows the portrait is of a later date, a theory supported by a previously little known woodcut of Mary printed in 1515.

‘Portraits and woodcuts can provide some of the best insights into what clothing looked like in the sixteenth century but can be notoriously difficult to date.’  Said Rosalind Mearns, author of the article “Material Messages: A Reassessment of the Double Portrait of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon” published in Textile History on Monday.  ‘A wide variety of methods are used to try and determine when an image was created and one of these methods is to use the fashions the sitter wears.  I was lucky that I am able to read a little French and found the woodcut of Mary which had been printed in Paris in 1515.  It is quite unusual to have such a firm date.  It was also a complete surprise to find myself looking an image of one of the infamous Tudors that isn’t widely known about.’

When she is not researching the fashions of the early sixteenth century, Rosalind works for the National Trust of Australia (NSW) as their Regional Manager, Western Sydney.  A role which has some surprising links to the sixteenth century.

‘Almost no items of clothing survive from the sixteenth century.  What we do have, the studier objects of everyday life, tend to have ended up in the strangest places.  For example, at Old Government House, Parramatta, where I am based, we have on display a sixteenth-century cradle.  What is its connection to an eighteenth century Australian governor’s home?  The cradle was brought out by Caroline Stewart, the daughter of Governor Fitzroy, who came to Parramatta with her young family after her mother died.  They lived at Old Government House while she performed the role of vice-regal hostess for her father.  The cradle is part of our exhibition Women of Distinction which tells her story, and others, and is on loan from the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.  I think it’s fascinating that, if you didn’t know about this connection, you may never think to look for a sixteenth century cradle here in Australia.’


Exhibition Details

Women of Distinction is on until 16 August 2020 and is open Tuesday – Sunday, 10am to 4pm with last entry at 3.30pm.  Rosalind will be presenting a talk on her research at Old Government House soon.

Women of Distinction at Old Government House is open Tuesday – Sunday, 10am to 4pm with last entry at 3.30pm. Admission to the house is free for National Trust members or $15 Adults, $10 Concession and $35 for families.

Please note the exhibition is only accessible via a flight of stairs.

Old Government House is located in Parramatta Park, corner Pitt and Macquarie Streets, Parramatta 2150.

Plan your visit

Fashionably Late…A New Image of a Tudor Monarch


Parramatta Park, Pitt Street Entrance, Parramatta NSW 2150


Thursday and Friday 10am - 4pm, last entry 3:30pm
Saturday and Sunday 11am - 4pm, last entry 3:30pm


Good Friday, Anzac Day, King’s Birthday, Labour Day, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day

(02) 9635 8149
Entry Fees:

National Trust Members – FREE
Adult - $15
Concession* - $12
Family - $42
Child (under 5 years) – FREE
* Concession applies for full-time students, seniors, pensioners and children aged 5-15 years.

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