Shipwreck Yields Dress From 1642 Secret Mission

It likely belonged to an English noblewoman
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2016 11:49 AM CDT
Shipwreck Yields Dress From 1642 Secret Mission
The long-lost dress.   (Kaap Skil Museum/Facebook)

An amazingly well-preserved dress discovered by divers in Dutch waters likely belonged to a noblewoman on a "secret mission" in 1642 to sell the crown jewels, Dutch News reports. Marine archeologists found the silk gown and other items in August 2014, but officials at the Kaap Skil Museum kept the discovery a secret until this month to protect the discovery site from scavengers, Gizmodo reports. Part of the find was a book that bore the coat of arms of King Charles I, and based on that tip, historians were able to locate a letter that describes a baggage ship lost during the 1642 crossing. The king had sent his wife on a mission to raise money for war, and the dress is believed to have belonged to a member of her royal court, specifically Jean Kerr, the countess of Roxburghe.

"While 17th-century paintings give historians a good idea of how nobles dressed when they wanted to look their best, evidence of their everyday lives is much rarer," notes the Smithsonian. "Thanks to this discovery, historians have a better sense of how upper-class ladies dressed as they went about their days." The big find came when divers inspecting a shipwreck noticed a chest buried in the sand off the coast of Holland. Inside were the dress, other clothing, books, a metal ball that would be filled with fragrant leaves and flowers to mask body odor, and a lice comb, among other things. A history professor at Southampton University calls the find "hugely, absolutely, amazing," per the Sun. (A shipwrecked vessel associated with Vasco da Gama was discovered off Oman.)

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