The Spanish Tudors
: Fashioning the Anglo-Spanish Elite through Dress, c.1553-1603, and beyond

  • Bethany Pleydell

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Spain loomed large in the hearts, minds and wardrobes of England’s elite classes during the sixteenth century. It represented both a cultural model of worldliness and wealth, emulated and envied by its European neighbours, and a global leader in sartorial sophistication; its fashions bought and worn by Englishmen and women, even during times of Anglo-Spanish conflict. This thesis examines the dissemination, consumption and reception of luxury Spanish fashions, textiles and household furnishings amongst the English elite classes during the reigns of Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I, c.1554-1603. It uncovers the role played by Spanish garb in the self-fashioning agendas of the English aristocracy and nobility – most notably Mary and Elizabeth, members of the so-called ‘Spanish Faction’ and select elite families – which has been overlooked in previous scholarship on Anglo-Spanish diplomatic affairs and material exchanges.

This thesis marries archival and object-focussed research, as based on a close-hand analysis of a range of manuscript and printed primary sources, portraiture and objects, to: examine the making of the ‘Spanish Model’ of fashion; investigate the Spanish textile and fashion diaspora in Tudor England, as analysed through the lens of the lucrative leather and wool trade; and, consider the politicised dress habits of Mary and Elizabeth, whose inventories and warrants are scrutinised to reveal a larger quantity of Spanish garb in their wardrobes than previously acknowledged. It also analyses the twin phenomenon of Hispanophilia and ‘pseudo-Hispanophilia’ – defined here as a disingenuous love of Spain, exhibited by the individual for personal and political gain – amongst the English nobility and members of the political ‘Spanish Faction’ who displayed ostensibly pro-Spanish sentiments and wore Spanish fashions. Finally, it examines how the circulation of anti-Spanish pamphlets and plays contributed towards the ultimate demise of Spanish fashions in England in the 1580s as diplomatic relations soured and widespread Hispanophobia increased. This thesis thus offers an original contribution to art and social historical studies of Anglo-Spanish relations, as well as the material culture of Spanish fashions more broadly, by using English dress habits to analyse elite attitudes to Spain, first as England’s ally, and later as its political and religious rival.
Date of Award23 Jan 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorMaria Hayward (Supervisor) & Alexandra Hoare (Supervisor)

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