May Day and the crowning of the Queen of the May has deep mythological roots in English culture going back to our European ancestors and even to the ancient Classical world. The May Queen was chosen, for her beauty, from the pretty girls of the village to reign over the May Day festivities. Crowned on a flower covered throne, she was drawn in a decorated cart by young men or her maids of honour to the village green where she was set in an arbour of flowers. Through the ages it has been many a young girl’s dream to be chosen as the May Queen and today it is still considered to be a great honour to be crowned the Queen of the May. Each year Hands Across the Sea Samplers will be choosing a sampler from our collection which we consider to be not only beautiful but outstandingly so and worthy to be crowned our Queen of the May.
We are pleased to present to you Sarah Braizear 1829 our Queen of the May for the year 2018 ~ a 44 page limited edition release celebrating the Kings and Queen of Great Britain
Sarah’s sampler, a particularly charming and striking one, is worked in softly coloured silks predominantly in cross and satin stitch. There is so much to delight the eye. The sampler constructed in two sections is contained within a distinctive and unusual border. Sarah made good use of her linen and her sampler is crammed with: numerous pots, baskets, shrubs, trees, flowers, all kinds of birds including peacocks, butterflies, squirrels and deer, all charmingly out of scale with one another.
The main point of interest in this whimsical sampler is the magnificent hart that rests under a beautiful bower. The word “hart” is not now widely used, it is an archaic word used in medieval times to describe a red deer stag more than five years old and comes from the Old English heorot, “deer”. They are gentle and timid, noted for their branching horns, for the elegance of their form, and for their surprisingly swift and graceful motion. The stag is a symbol for Christ, who tramples and destroys the Devil. Early bestiaries describe the stag as a relentless enemy of snakes. Because the snake is a symbol of Satan, the stag’s war against them made the stag a symbol of Christ. In the Old Testament King David makes the stag a symbol of the soul’s longing for God: “As the hart pants after the fountains of water; so my soul pants after thee, O God” (Ps 42:1). Due to this passage, in Christian art the stag and deer became associated with the soul’s desire for purification through Baptism and it is often found on baptismal fonts, communion rails and chalices.
Sarah’s bower can be directly compared to two other samplers in our collection. One of those samplers, Elizabeth Farr came with an extensive family history and we know that she was born in the village of Sawtry, Cambridgeshire, England. Focusing our research on this area we found the maker of the second sampler in Sawtry and Sarah Braizear, daughter of William and Martha, being baptised in the village of Little Shelford, Cambridgeshire. Sarah can be found in the 1851 and 1861 census returns in middle age, unmarried and living with her parents.
Sarah records after her name “Mills” and this could have been the colloquial name for the village Milton. It seems probable that all three girls stitched their samplers under the same teacher at one of the schools that flourished in and around the market town of Huntingdon.
Sarah stitched her sampler with cross stitches over 2 threads and straight satin stitches. The lowercase letters of her name, date and short verse are stitched with cross stitch over 1. There are 2 eyelet stitches. Whilst a large sampler with some 70,000 cross stitches (we haven’t counted the satin stitches!) she is suitable for all levels of ability.
Sarah Braizear has been brought to you in collaboration with Jacqueline Morris who has lovingly stitched the model. At the very core of Hands Across the Sea Samplers is a team of needleworkers who are passionate about antique samplers and being able to share those samplers with you.