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New discoveries about the old displays: A Hidden Pocket

During work to take the items off display in the old costume gallery, we have made some exciting new discoveries about some of the items. One of these was a doll which the accession register tells us was dressed by Marie Antoinette for her daughter Marie-Therese during her imprisonment.

Marie-Therese (19th December 1778- 19th October 1851) Madame Royale was the eldest child of Louis XV1 and Marie Antoinette. She was the only one of their children to survive into adulthood. She was married to Louis Antoine, Duke of Angouleme, who was the eldest son of future Charles X, her father’s younger brother; thus, bride and groom were first cousins.

After her marriage she was known as Duchesse of Angouleme. She became the Dauphine of France upon the accession of her father in law to the throne of France in 1824. Technically she was Queen of France for just twenty minutes on 2nd August 1830 between the time her father in law signed the instrument of abdication and the time her husband, reluctantly signed the same document.

On August 4th 1830 Marie Therese and her husband and entourage went into exile -. they lived in Edinburgh until 1833.

The doll, I believe (I can’t check the detail while the museum is closed) was passed by her lady in waiting to a Dorset family who eventually donated her to the museum.

Now, back to our doll and the pocket.

Firstly, a description of her attire starting inside and working outwards. The wooden doll is painted white and to my non- doll expert eyes quite finely made with joints and long slender fingers. She wears a pair of white wool stockings held by garters above the knees and green silk socks. A plain white under skirt then a green silk quilted petticoat, a very fine linen, beautifully stitched shirt whose long sleeves and frill show beneath the tight sleeves of the red silk open fronted overdress. The dress is decorated on the bodice front, sleeves and lower skirt edge with cloth of silver. The lace around the bodice neckline and her cap is fine Flemish bobbin lace with pink silk ribbon bows in the lace, at her throat and on her green Bergere hat, which colour co-ordinates with the quilted petticoat and sock/booties. 

After taking the doll off display I was doing a condition survey before she was to be packed and put back in the stores. Luckily, I didn’t find any nasties – no wood worm in her wooden body or insect damage in her fine attire, but, great excitement, I did find hidden under her overdress a tie-on pocket, embroidered with a floral motif containing a plain white handkerchief.

The tiny tie-on pocket

Before the invention of reticules and handbags pockets or even pairs of pockets were separate items tied around the waist, often a slit in the side seam of the skirt allowed access, sadly not only to the wearer but at times to thieves as well. 

Barbara Burman who has undertaken extensive research into these pockets and writings related to them, has discovered what a wealth and variation of treasures they held, sewing items, love letters, bibles and much more besides including in one report two live ducks. 

In her first publication ‘The Pocket’ written to accompany an exhibition at the Fashion Museum in Bath there is a picture of a pocket from the collection in the Salisbury Museum. I am looking forward to reading her new publication ‘The Pocket: A Hidden History of Women’s Lives 1660-1900’

Pompi Parry


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