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Shipwreck: Old rags turned out to be a very historic find

Ian Harvey
The exhibition Diving into Details gives visitors a sneak peek at the intriguing research focussing on the unique discoveries from the Palmwood Wreck www.kaapskil.nl
The exhibition Diving into Details gives visitors a sneak peek at the intriguing research focussing on the unique discoveries from the Palmwood Wreck www.kaapskil.nl

The ocean floor is a mystery and holds many secrets unknown to man. In fact, there may be items on the ocean floor that will never be found due to the oceans’ currents and the sea life that may be hiding them.

Just recently, there was a ball of rags found in the bottom of the North Sea.  So why is this a big deal if they were just “rags”? Well, it just so happens these rags turned out to be what used to be an astounding wardrobe that could have belonged to one of Charles I’s female courtiers.

A group of Netherlands divers had found the treasure on a shipwreck that had been exposed after a major storm.  The ship had been covered in sand and silt for four centuries until this storm exposed it for humans to view.

When the divers had separated the loot from the wreckage, they realized it was more than just a bag of rags; that they had most likely found an important piece of history.  They found a rather well-preserved dress that could be linked to the Stuart Dynasty.

After finding the dress, researchers had begun looking for some documents to prove whether or not this dress belonged to one of the Stuarts.  They found some documentation for one of these ships having carried Queen Henrietta Maria, the wife of Charles I.  She had been traveling to Holland in 1642 when her ship sank in the same area as where the wreckage was uncovered.

The researchers have gone as far as suggesting that the gown belonged to Jan Ker, a Countess of Roxburghe.  She had been known as one of the controversial Catholic advisers to the queen, and had gone along on the journey with Queen Henrietta Maria during the early years of the English Civil War.

Divers that found the dress and ship were from the Dutch island of Texel.  This isn’t the first ship they have stumbled across; the particular area where the wreckage was found was used as a safe harbor in the North Sea.  Many of those ships had gotten into trouble either leaving or entering the harbor.

The dress was actually found almost two years ago, but this is the first time the discovery has been announced to the public.  It took a while because the treasure had to be preserved and analyzed to ensure that it would not be damaged in the process.

 

The project leader, Rob van Eerden, said that he believed the divers’ finds were merely a bunch of dirty, muddy rags and nothing more.   Even though he speculated the find was worthless, they looked a little closer and examined the so-called rags.  After carefully analyzing the find, it became clear that in the pile were several antique dresses – one of those dresses was almost totally intact.

One of the experts working on the examination had excitedly said that this dress was actually the first complete dress or piece of clothing from this particular era to have been found in the country.

The dresses had been made of silk and were embroidered with silver and gold threads, indicating that these dresses were most likely owned by someone wealthy or powerful.

Other items that had been found in the shipwreck were boots, a comb, and even a velvet purse.  Again, experts were able to tell that the ship was carrying wealthy people because of the items found, especially the velvet purse.

One particularly interesting clue was a Bible that was stamped with the arms of the Stuart family.  This had suggested that the owner was not only aristocratic, but also had some connection to the royal dynasty.

DIVING INTO DETAILS: HIDDEN TREASURES FROM THE PALMWOOD WRECK www.kaapskil.nl

Follow the link to view the photos.  In one picture is the dress that was found in the wreckage.  In another photo is the woman who had supposedly owned the dress.  In fact, she had been painted in a dress that looked similar to the one discovered.