The Royal Beasts are unexpectedly freed to experience the joys of life beyond The Tower walls.

As the true tale goes, widely reported in 1830, the animal warden at the Tower of London is in the process of cleaning the pens when he unwittingly raises the partition between two stalls, rather than the door of an empty stall as intended, thus allowing a Barbary lion and a Bengal tigress to meet. They set upon each other at once and a vicious battle ensues, leading to a rather tragic and unpleasant end. Today I will be telling a rewritten narrative of events; a story of what could have been.

As he absent-mindedly operates the pulley system, the young warden is distracted and tired. The iron-barred doors begin to creak and raise, and before he can fathom his mistake, all the beasts of The Tower are released. A cacophony of excited cries and shrieks rings out, reverberating around the stone courtyard. The warden swiftly flees, fearing the animal’s wrath for their years of misery at the hands of The Crown. The King’s lion lets out an almighty roar, before setting off over the cobbles at quite a pace, lashing out at any object in his path. He is closely pursued by the tigress, bewildered and confused, but ecstatic and elated to be free. The zebra is a little more cautious in her approach; She gently steps out of her enclosure, sniffing and pawing at the ground. The reason for her apprehension becomes apparent when, from behind her flank, a set of unsteady, spindly legs appear. She has a foal in tow, and she knows this release may be his only chance of safety.  With a toss of the head and a flick of the tail, she bravely leads her young into the unknown. Above their heads, bursting forth from the aviary, the parrots sing and squabble. Confined to their enclosure for many years since their capture, they have been too cramped to fly or even fully stretch out. Now, they swoop and twirl about in sheer joy at their situation, calling to those too afraid to leave their stalls. Their jewel colours glimmer and shine, and they fly low through the passages of The Tower, seeking their escape. The beasts of the menagerie follow the parrots’ song and are lead dancing through the halls to The Jewel House. They crash their way through the precious artefacts, gathering adornments as they twist and twirl, out through Traitor’s Gate and on into the parks of London town.

Inspiration

This collection is focused around the true story of The Royal Menagerie housed at The Tower of London (1200-1835). The illustrations reference many of the astounding and unusual zoological tales recorded from The Tower, and encompass much of the history and legend of the building itself. The Crown Jewels are still housed within The Tower today. The fantastical paintings of artist Walton Ford were also a major influence, alongside the botanical illustrations of British artist Jane Loudon (1807-1858) and original posters advertising the wild and exotic beasts of The Royal Menagerie. The studio moodboard for The Tower Menagerie has a palette of soft, floral pastels combined with rich jewel-like hues. Discover key elements of Sabina’s research here, and view some of the images which inspired her designs.

Process

View the collection illustrations in progress, and see how the drawings transform into detailed and intricate scarf designs. Sabina creates a story for each collection, as shown below, which is then illustrated and narrated through her elaborate handiwork.

The Campaign

Welcome to our our Spring / Summer 2020 Campaign, The Tower Menagerie.

Photographer: Kurtiss Lloyd
Location: The stunning Hilles House in Gloucestershire

Shop the Collection

A range of beautiful fabrics are available for each design, from classic silk twill to our sumptuous signature wool and silk blend. Each piece is printed and hand finished by the renowned artisans of Como, Italy.

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