The Shroud of Margareta Trolle

The shroud of Margareta Trolle - the oldest surviving bobbin lace - was found in Österlen. To bring some light on the history of lace-making, we would like to tell the story of a piece of lace worn here in Österlen 500 years ago

The oldest known bobbin lace made in Sweden, possibly in the whole of Scandinavia, is a piece of the shroud of Margareta Trolle who died in 1522. She was the second wife of Councillor Jens Holgersen Ulfstand who commissioned Glimmingehus castle in south-east Scania, completed in 1505.

A skilled amateur lace-maker

The fragment is a reticella needle lace on linen with a 2.5 cm wide flax yarn bobbin lace border. It is made freehand, and the lace nearest the sleeve is designed like a traditional Scania lace. The middle section consists of a flower motif, not entirely symmetrical, and the point edging is relatively complex. The lace was probably made by a skilled amateur, perhaps one of Margareta’s ladies in waiting, according to textile historian Britta Hammar. However, this lace is very similar to another 16th century lace found in Antwerp, Holland.

Was the one found on Margareta Trolle’s shroud imported? Or was it made in Sweden, influenced by the Dutch tradition? The somewhat amateurish execution seems to point in the direction of a locally made lace, but it is hard to determine exactly where it was made. Margareta Trolle and Jens Holgersen Ulfstand were buried at Vallby church near Glimmingehus.

The lace fragment is part of the Kulturen museum collection in Lund.

Jens Holgersen Ulfstand, the powerful lord of Glimmingehus

Sweden’s best preserved private castle was built in south-east Scania (then Denmark) between 1499 and 1505. Today, it is known as Glimmingehus. The man who commissioned the building, Jens Holgersen Ulfstand, was one of the most powerful men in Denmark at the time, and he was well connected with the court in Copenhagen. In his capacity as rear-admiral as well as governor of Gotland he was not always a very popular person. Many considered him too keen on exercising his authority. It was important for such a powerful man to marry into the right family, and both his marriages were well planned. He was first married to Holgerd Axelsdotter Brahe of Tosterup and Krageholm and then to Margareta Trolle from Bergvara in the county of Småland, daughter of Councillor Arvid Trolle.

Souvenir hunting

According to Catholic custom, Margareta Trolle – here depicted on a stone tablet placed above the entrance door to Glimmingehus – was buried in her night dress. The lace fragment kept at Kulturen was probably part of the collar or one of the cuffs.

The church at Vallby, where Margareta was buried, has undergone many changes since the 13th century. The Ulfstand family grave, placed under the floor of the medieval sanctuary, was opened in conjunction with the latest restoration in 1870–71. The two coffins that were found there were opened, and the contents, Jens Holgersen Ulfstand and his second wife Margareta Trolle, were examined.

Someone took the opportunity to cut off a piece of Margareta Trolle’s shroud. The following text was written on the envelope in which it was found:

“Lace from the lady, Mrs Ulfstand, who died … taken from the corpse at the restoration of Wallby Church on May 5, 1870.”

It was very common at the time to take a small souvenir from a site such as this. You simply cut off a piece of shroud, garment or a lock of hair. The following is from the notes of another descent into the crypt in 1929:

"The woman’s grave was immediately in front of the steps. This coffin was shorter than the other. Everything indicated that the body was that of a woman. The face was smaller than the one in the other grave, but of a lighter build and the eye sockets were large. One tooth remained in the lower jaw. The lady was buried in a cap, of which only the lining remained, a pulp that resembled cotton; and tiny fragments of a heavy, yellowish silk fabric were found."

There is no mention of any lace. The piece that is now kept at the Kulturen museum in Lund was removed from Margareta’s shroud in 1870.