Camilla & Birgitte enjoy visit to the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court

Today, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester, were at Hampton Court Palace to visit the Royal School of Needlework. Birgitte is currently the school’s president, while Camilla took over as patron in January 2017, when The Queen reduced her number of patronages.

TRH Duchesses of Cornwall and Gloucester meet RSN Stitchers who worked on The Duchess of Cambridge’s Wedding Dress (C/ RSN)

The Royal School of Needlework was established in 1872, when it was located above a bonnet shop on Sloane Street in London. Since 1987, the school has been operating from Hampton Court Palace, the historic royal residence best known for being home to Henry VIII.

The Royal School of Needlework currently offers the only bachelor’s degree in Hand Embroidery in Europe, with a programme that combines traditional skills with modern arts and fashion.

During today’s visit, the Duchesses spoke to students from the school and admired some of their work, with Birgitte something of a keen needlewoman herself. They also viewed the current exhibition, entitled “Embellishment in Fashion”, which includes a range of 18th to 20th century pieces.

The Duchess of Cornwall is taught hand embroidery by the Royal School of Needlework (C/ RSN)

Camilla even received a lesson in hand embroidery and showcased her skills while being watched by Jacqui McDonald, one of the tutors. After a quick attempt, the Duchess handed back the needle and thread, joking that she would be best to “leave it to the experts”.

Ms McDonald said: “I taught the Duchess fly stitch, which is one of the stitches used in Jacobean crewelwork and the first technique we teach our certificate and diploma students. HRH was a quick learner and would make a natural stitcher. I very much hope she returns soon for a full lesson.”

The Duchess of Cornwall meets RSN degree student Eleanor Latham during a visit to the Royal School of Needlework (C/ RSN)

Birgitte, 71, and Camilla, 70, also spoke to some of those who helped to work on the lace which was used to create The Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress, shoes and veil in 2011. The Duchess of Cornwall spoke to Mandy Ewing, who worked on Catherine’s iconic look, who revealed that the team had to sign a confidentiality agreement before they could participate in what she described as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall is joined by The Duchess of Gloucester, President of the Royal School of Needlework, meeting staff and students and see the innovative and beautiful hand embroidery work being created. Picture by Andrew Parsons / i-Images

The Royal School of Needlework has also worked on other important projects, including Queen Victoria’s funeral pall and the balcony hanging used at Buckingham Palace for The Queen’s Golden Jubilee. They also take commissions for custom work including restoring historical fabrics, and have international clientele.

The Duchess of Cornwall at the RSN’s Embroidery Studio with RSN Chief Executive Dr Susan Kay-Williams (C/ RSN)

Before departing, the royal guests were presented with gifts to mark the occasion. To commemorate the first visit of their new patron, the school presented Camilla with a velvet hatpin cushion embroidered with acorns from the Cornish oak tree, reflecting her position as Duchess of Cornwall.

Meanwhile The Duchess of Gloucester received a limited edition strawberry shaped needle cleaner, which had been embroidered to mark 30 years of the school being based at Hampton Court.

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