Blacks in Tudor England

Marika Sherwood reveals the state of our knowledge – and ignorance – about a period of our multi-racial past.

In 1577 Elizabeth I issued an order for a ‘Garcon coate of white Taffeta, cut and lined with tincel, striped down with gold and silver … pointed with pynts and ribands’, for her ‘lytle Blackamore’. But was the Queen alone in having a Black servant, or were there black people in other princely households, and maybe even in the households of the less exalted? Were all black people in Tudor England servants? Were black people, however defined, a relatively common sight in England in the sixteenth century?

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