The TRC has just acquired a large linen serviette (115 x 88 cm) that has a fascinating history. It is made from a damask weave and was designed to celebrate the marriage of King Philip V of Spain and Maria Luisa of Savoy in 1701. The cloth depicts the King and Queen, as well as the arms of both royal houses. The representations on the right hand side are a mirror image of those on the left hand side.
At the top of the cloth is the text VIVANT ET REGNENT PHILIPPUS V HISPANIARUM REX ET CONIUX EIUS LUDOVICA REGINA ('MAY PHILIPS V, KING OF THE SPANISH, AND HIS WIFE QUEEN LUISA LIVE AND REIGN LONG') set inside a laural wreath.
The reason why serviettes in this period were so large is because women's dresses were particularly grand and a large piece of cloth was needed to protect the garments during meals.
Philip V (1683-1746) was the grandson of Louis XIV of France. His accession to the Spanish throne in 1700, which led to close dynastic links between France and Spain and the shifting of the balance of power in Europe, resulted in the War of the Spanish Succession, which was concluded in 1713 with the Treaty of Utrecht (and the occupation by Great Britain of Gibraltar, and the port of Antwerp being permanently blockaded by the Dutch). His wife was fourteen years old when she married. She died in 1714 of tuberculosis.
Gillian Vogelsang, 10th May 2017