Tudor Costume Dolls by Peggy Nisbet

Antiques Roadshow, Cawdor Castle.

Earlier this year, one of On the Tudor Trail’s readers, Dawn, was filmed for the new series of Antiques Roadshow at Cawdor Castle, with a small part of her collection of Tudor costume dolls, made by Peggy Nisbet.

Dawn’s impressive collection ranges from dolls made in the 1950s to the early 1990s and includes standard dolls, those where all faces are the same, and portrait dolls, where the creator has tried to capture a likeness of the person.

Dawn has been collecting for over six years now and has many of the big names of Tudor history in her collection, including Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth of York, Catherine of Aragon, Cardinal Wolsey, Jane Seymour, Catherine Howard, Katherine Parr, Mary Tudor (Henry’s sister) and Elizabeth I.

Photograph of an original ‘working copy’ print of a costume designed by John Bloomfield, for the BBC Series ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’, worn by Elvie Hale as Anne of Cleves. (May not be reproduced without prior permission)

Apart from the Tudor dolls, there are two other wonderful items worth noting; the first is an original ‘working copy’ print of a costume designed by John Bloomfield, for the BBC Series ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’. Australian actor Keith Michell, who played Henry VIII in this series made in the early 1970s, wore it.

The second is as above, but this time the costume is for Anne of Cleves, worn by the English actress, Elvi Hale.

Designer, John Bloomfield, spent many months researching Tudor costumes and used some ingenious methods to achieve the ‘Tudor look’.

“The authentic appearance of the court costumes was achieved by the ingenuity of designer John Bloomfield, who used painted cheap fabrics, glass and household washers to achieve the sumptuous period effect. Such was the interest in the programme that the costumes went on tour. The international success of Henry VIII led to the making of Elizabeth R, and established the BBC’s position as the pre-eminent producer of period drama.”

How I would love to own such wonderful items!

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  1. What a sweet collection of dolls, thank you Dawn for sharing. I look forward to seeing you on the new series and putting a face to a name, well done for being chosen.

    • Thanks Debbie,
      I’m afraid although I was filmed doesn’t guarentee I will be shown, they let me know October time…from a personal point of view I won’t be upset if I’m not, because the whole experience of being part was great, from going into make-up, meeting the experts and film crew. I felt like a Film Star 🙂 But it would be nice for these dolls to be recognised and appreciated because of the work that went into them, dolls, generally only seem to get acclaim if they are the Victorian porcelain type and over 100 year old. I like to think these are ‘Modern Antiques’.
      Thank you too, Natalie, for putting this on your site I feel very honoured, and you have given me my 2nd ’15 minutes of fame’ in one year wow!! 🙂

  2. Who is the doll on the left in image #13? I just saw the same Nisbet doll in my local antique store, but I wasn’t sure who it was supposed to be.

    • Hi Mer,
      If you mean the close up of the doll in white dress and brown fur sleeves, it is a portrait doll of Jane Seymore.

  3. Sorry Mer, counted wrong. The doll on the left is still Jane Seymore, but a standard doll. Any idea what price they are asking, out of interest.

  4. Gilly Owen says:

    Really interested to see your dolls Dawn. I have a a large collection of costume dolls some Peggy Nisbet including Henry and his wives. I also have four of the Bloomfield prints, two different Henry’s , Anne Boleyn and the same Anne of Cleves as yours. I believe that there were eight in the limited edition set. Do you have any others? I would love to know who the other three were of!
    Really hope to see you on the “Roadshow” later in the year.

    • Hi Gilly, seems we have a lot in common…
      You lucky lady having 4 Bloomfield prints, especially Anne Boleyn. When you say there were 8 in the limited edition set, was you referring to these prints?. Because apparently, according to the ‘expert’ there was lots and lots of these, of every costume that appeared in the series, and not worth much, sadly. Where did you find yours, out of curiosity?
      No I don’t have anymore prints, 🙁 (not from the lack of looking though), have the museum booklet that was issued when they went on tour though, and loads of dolls, some that are doubled up and will be selling on to finance the other ones in the Tudor range that I would like to get, Edward VI, Mary, HenryVII, these seem to be hard to come by and tend to be expensive…
      Bit apprehensive of seeing myself on TV if it happens if the truth be told, but as I said the experience was smashing.

  5. tracie phillips says:

    mom has 1957 henry 8th doll and 2 of his wives, in original clothing, have u any idea how much they would be worth, thankyou

    • Hi Tracie,
      They are fairly early ones those, and are more collectable because they differ in a couple of ways, such as quality of costume fabric, the way the faces are painted/look in some cases, the material that the doll itself is made of.
      One of the main things to remember is that Henry and his Queens were a very, very popular dolls to buy, and there are still loads of them about, so their value is basically what some one is willing to pay I’m afraid.
      But here’s a few pointers that might make them more valuable:
      Have they got their hand tags.
      Have thet got their box.
      Are they a standard doll….will have an H in front of number in tag.
      Portrait doll….will have a P in front of number.
      Limited Edition doll….will have L/E in front of number, these ones are rarer and do fetch the highest price, usually.
      I usually get mine from ebay, sometimes I find them in charity shops, boot sales etc. But its like I said it depends on what people are prepared to pay, I have seen dolls go for £200+, but these are rarer models, and well beyond my price range.
      I have just bought 3 of the earlier Queens in boxes £27 for all 3…that was very cheap…I was lucky, maybe other buyers didn’t notice how old they were, and didn’t up their bid.
      But don’t be dis-heartened, yours have the advantage of being early and will be wanted by collectors.
      Check out ebay, type in peggy nisbet and you will see for yourself, it’s a shame I can’t have a look at them for me to be more helpful.
      Out of curiosity which Queens do you have, because that can reflect on price too.

  6. I recently found a print of Anne Boelyn costume design board that has The six wives of Henry Viii as title by John Bloomfield. on back side it says First edition Jan 1971

    • You lucky lady Kimberly, I would to have that one to hang besides Henry and Anne of Cleeves. If you ever want to sell it, give us a ring..lol… 🙂

      • Iam willing to sell my print You can call me on 1-661-822-4283. Iam in California. How much is this print worth?? Thank you for responding Kimberly Kirk

        • Well, I got Anne of Cleeves for £2 framed, is that about $3 or $4, and Henry was 99p, less than $2, so not a lot really, I had them valued by the guy on the Antiques Road Show too, with the dolls, and he said they are not worth much because there is alot of them and prints, not originals. Sorry to disappoint. You can check this out with another source if you like. if I give Natalie my email address, maybe she can find time to forward it, and you do the same, we would be better discussing this privately, rather than on here. Thank you for your offer. Hope to hear from you soon.

  7. Hi Dawn.

    Just wondering if you’ve had any more news from the Antiques Roadshow about whether or not you’ll be involved. My wife and I just moved into Peggy Nisbet’s Scottish home and I understand they did a lot of work from here. We’re quite interested in finding out more about her.

  8. Merry Christmas Derek,
    How lucky are you living in the same house that Peggy Nisbet did.
    Unfortuately I received a nice letter from the BBC saying that my dolls won’t be featured on the programme from Cawdor Castle, which is a shame for the dolls as I don’t think they, or Ms. Nisbet get enough credit, not for me though I was dreading seeing myself on the ‘box’…. I think they were too English, even though, as you said, many were dressed by out workers around your area, those dolls always had red wrist labels on. But the vast majority were made in England, and the subject I had with me was English too, the Tudors, they maybe wanted things of a more scottish flavour or a lot higher price tag, or they weren’t deemed interesting enough. But never mind, as I said in a previous post, it was the being part of it all that was the best thing for me, it’s a very complex procedure this filming lark, takes an age to get a few minutes of usable footage, I enjoyed every second. Anyway, there is a book called ‘The Peggy Nisbet Story’ by her, good photos and plenty of info in it. Thats the only one I know of, there is on on ebay at minute, type in Peggy Nisbet Dolls, bit pricey though, there are also some on amazon UK, at a more reasonable price. There is a lady called Christine Poulten, an expert on Peggy Nisbet, and has a massive collection which she exhibits, or did. I used to be in contact with her some years ago, I will have to see if I can find her email address again, got it on a letter she sent me. Have seen old photos and postcards of your home before, I would love to see what it looks like now. There are one or two in the book, her husband used to stay there a lot when he was very ill, and she would commute, she must have been exhausted, she went to America on many occassions to promote the dolls, they had hugh amount of collectors out there. I will have to get the book out and read up on the Scottish bit again, so if I can help with anything else ask Natalie for my email address. I received 3 more dolls as a Christmas gift, old ones too…. I wish you and your family a wonderful New Year Derek, in your new ‘Doll (maker) House, and hopefully hear from you again.

  9. sylvia elliott says:

    Hello Dawn, I just read all about your Peggy Nisbet dolls. I have over 100 of her dolls,and have had the pleasure of meeting with her at her “tower” home in Weston-Super_Mare. My mother was a member of her doll club and has her photo in the book. I have some dolls that are not complete, but have Peggys instructions written for the next worker to do.I am also fortunate to have a signed book, a personal letter and a gift of “Jock”signed by her. It sounds like you are a fan of her work and I would enjoy keeping in touch with you and hearing more about your dolls. I live in Pennsylvania U.S.A.(46yrs),but hail originally from Newcastle/Tyne. I look forward to hearing from you, Sylvia

    • Hello Sylvia,
      I would love to keep in touch with you, that would be great. Sounds like you have some interesting things in your collection. Natalie has my email address, if you get in touch with her I am sure she would be kind enough to pass it on to you, when she has time.
      Since this post went out I have managed to get another costume print, it was another Henry VIII one, this time a design for the young Henry, ‘The Student’ costume, for £2…only 5 more to go…. 🙂

      • I’d be more than happy to connect you ladies, just drop me an email to remind me! Dawn, I would love to see a photo of your latest print if you had the time to email me one. Thanks! Natalie

        • Thank you very much Natalie.
          Will get a photo done as soon as and send it on, it looks very ‘posh’ cos I’ve just had it framed, also had the other Henry print framed too (at last), so he looks posh as well….haha.

    • Sylvia,
      The lady I mentioned under Derek’s post, Chris Poulten, has just launched her web site dedicated to the maker and these dolls. It is still in the developement stage, but with promise of many good things to come, the address is, http://www.peggy-nisbet-dolls.co.uk
      Hope to hear from you soon.

  10. I have a Peggy Nisbet doll but cannot seem to figure out who HE is. He has a long blue coat, with like a short cape. Also has a black hat on. Like a historical figure. Outfit and hat are trimmed in gold. Can you help me identify. Thanks so much Lauri

    • Hi Lauri

      I’m afraid I can’t tell you who he is by your description, as some dolls can be quite similar in how they are dressed. Perhaps you could send me a photo to my email, Natalie is a nice Lady she will give it to you if you email her…or, there is a new website been set up by an expert on the dolls, with lots of info and photos were you may be able to get an I.D. on the doll from there.
      Hope this helps.

  11. Hello, I have a Queen Mary I P/623 doll that was just given to me, along with a King Henry VIII H/218 and a Shakespeare P/617. I haven’t been able to find any pictures or mentions of the Queen Mary doll online. Is she rare? All of the dolls are tagged and boxed. Thank you!

  12. Hi Katie,
    Lucky you having Mary I, she is not one of the common ones. Wish I had her in my collection.
    Last month one on eBay went for about £44. She had a different number than yours, maybe be a doll made to commemorate a special time in Mary’s life, there’s a limited Edition one of her in her wedding dress, that’s a ‘big bucks’ one usually. If you go to the website I mentioned above your comment you will get photos of her on there. You can also get in touch too. They are really clued up on dating your doll, the earlier it is the more value she will have, early ones have better quality clothes.
    Henry in the H range is a very common one with small value, Shakespeare too is fairly common and not worth a lot unless both are early models, have an unusual variation of dress or Limited Editions like the Henry pictured above, I have 2 of those, was very lucky when I found those, Charity Shop finds.
    Your dolls will have more value because they have their tags and boxes.
    Do you like the dolls, are you going to become a collector? Hope this helps.
    Keep in touch

    • Dear Dawn,

      No, I’m not a collector, but I have been fascinated reading about the dolls, which I had not heard of before now. I’m in the USA, and I’m not sure if they are nearly as popular over here, but they should be! I’m actually looking to sell mine to someone who will appreciate them more than I can. I wanted to send you a picture of the Queen Mary I doll, but I have no idea how to do that on here, only through email. Oh well 🙂 Have a lovely day and take care!

      • Hi again Katie,
        You may be surprized to know that these dolls had a massive following in the US. Peggy went across to the States quite often to promote and meet people who where in the collectors club. And ‘Jetting’ off to America in the 60s and 70s was quite an adventure then, lol. I bought off eBay a ‘Peggy Nisbet Ltd.
        Doll Collectors’ Club’ leather look folder full of news letters about her US trips, catalogues, postcards, sales leaflets and promotion offers etc., from someone in America in 2008, I think it was Milford, some Doll dealer called Alyciateeny’s Doll Oasis. This folder had belonged to someone called Mrs Zelda Cushner from Marblehead, Massachusetts. This Lady was paying $90 and more for some of the special dolls, an awful lot of money in those days, it is now-a-days really for a small doll. So Katie, your country loved her dolls, and I often wonder about who what Mrs Zelda Cushner and her collection was like, it would be great to find out about her. It’s like Natalie says on her new site every collectable has a story behind it, often a secret never to be found out.
        I have had a couple of dolls from the US too, the only thing that stops me buying more from your country is the postage, sometimes a lot more than the doll, never mind.
        Anyway Katie if you still want to send me a picture of your dolls to my email, please do I would be interested to look at her. Natalie has my address, and I am sure she will be kind enough to pass it on if you ask. I will leave it up to you. You have a good day too.. Dawn.

  13. Val Birss says:

    I am going through some of my Mother’s dolls and found a few Peggy Nesbit dolls. Do you know where I can buy them? I would like to get King George VI and the Queen Mother. I cannot seem to find a website where they sell the dolls. Thanks for your help.


  14. Hi Val,
    The main place I get them is eBay, just type in Peggy Nisbet and the list of dolls will come up. There has been few of the two you would like on this year. There are a few models of the Queen Mother in different outfits state robes, special occasions dresses etc. There are a few of the royal family on there now, but not those two. Keep on checking you will come across them eventually.
    The only other thing I can suggest is go to the doll site I mentioned 6 comments up and send Christine an email she may be able to help you contact a seller.
    I would be interested to know which ones of your Mum’s you found.
    Anyway happy hunting.

  15. Val Birss says:

    There are not very many. Henry the VIII and his six wives; Queen Elizabeth I; Queen Elizabeth II and Phillip, Diana, Charles and William as a baby; Lady Grey, Beefeater; Mary Queen of Scots; Winston Churchill; Rhett Butler and Scarlet O’Hara (her favourite actors and movie!) She also has the Royal State Coach. Not by Nesbitt but adds to the theme. The reason I wanted Edward VI and the Queen Mother was it would give me the five heirs to the throne. Are they still making Nesbit dolls because I was hoping to get Kate, William and Baby George by her. Thanks for all you help – I think you are right about ebay.

  16. Sadly the dolls are no longer made Val.
    The Peggy Nisbet Company was sold in 1987, then again in 1988 with a reduced range of the dolls but under the same name. In 1999 the owners retired and could find no one to carry it on, so I’m sorry to say you wont be able to buy the ‘New Royals’. But good luck with finding the Queen Mother and Edward VI.

  17. I’m jumping for joy!!! Today I have managed to find and buy 2 more of the Costume Prints!
    Anne Boleyn and Katherine of Aragon…3 more to go.

  18. I have a Peggy Nisbet Model H/216 9″ day Queen of England. Does it have any value. This is not a porcelin doll. Was purchased around 1967 – 1970.

    • Hi Cam
      This doll is Lady Jane Grey, the 9 day Queen, if you look at picture number 28 above there is one there, is she like that one? you may get £25-£30 for her. If she is earlier looking than mine she will have bigger painted on eye lashes, possibly red hair, though her clothes will be roughly the same. What shape is the label? book like, single piece of card hanging as a diamond, if is the latter she could fetch more. If the label is red, she was dressed in Scotland, in my experience that sometimes that adds a little valve. Box adds value, and of course condition. She isn’t as common as other Queens, which is a good thing, but not as rare as Queen Mary Tudor and some others. So not a great value really, at the end of the day its what you value her at, and what others are willing to pay. It is quite a fickle market for these dolls, and have been shocked at what some dolls have fetched e.g. too little/too much for who they are. Hope this helps.

  19. Joey Calahan says:

    I have found limited editions costume dolls by Peggy Nisbet of England . One is King Charles II , Not sure how much they are worth. All have their hang tags and in good condition. Another one is Trio of Beauty from famous portraits. LE88 Rubens , any info would help and of value, Thanks……..

  20. Hi Joey,
    Your King was sold in a set of 4 dolls, limited to 500 worldwide in 1978. These dolls came with a signed certificate by P.Nisbit. The set was Special Collectors Set No. 15 called ‘The Merry Monach’ the other 3 were his Mistresses, Nell Gwyn, Countess of Castlemaine, and the Duchess of Portsmouth.
    Your Lady, was sold in a set of 3, limited to 500 in 1979, with signed certificates. set No. 16 .
    Reuben’s-The Straw Hat, thought to be his sister-in-law Susanna Lundent.
    Gainsborough-The Honourable Mrs. Graham.
    Renoir-The Box, the subject being someone who caught his eye in a private theatre box.
    These dolls have probably become separated from their companions over time.
    These sets were only offered to the Peggy Nisbet Doll Collectors Club, and were very pricey!! I have the price list of this time, and your King with his Ladies were £31.30 each…very, very expensive in 1978…
    You do not see Limited Edition dolls very often on eBay, though I did get my 2 Trio of Beauty’s for only £4 and £6 each, I was extremely lucky. These too had the same price tag as your King in the 70’s.
    Its the old cliché of they are worth what some one is willing to pay for them, but they are rare, are becoming thin on the ground and were only 500 of each. I wouldn’t let them go for less than £100 each, especially Charles, male doll tend to fetch more, and I think they would attract a lot of interest on eBay, there has been some big buyers on there of late.
    Hope this helps.

    • Sorry Joey, I read your King to be a Limited Edition as the other doll, if this is not the case and is a Portrait doll P639, then he wont be as collectable as the L.E. one. There is one on the auction site at the minute if you are curious to see what it goes for.

  21. Jannie Stijntjes says:

    I am a collector on everything concerning the Tudors I am and very interested in the Bloomfield costume prints of The six wives of Henry VIII. Is there anyone who has one or more of these costume prints and wants to sell them? I will pay a very good price.

  22. I have several PN dolls for sale. Please contact me if interested. They are QEII and immediate family, mainly. I can give you a whole list. I am moving and need to sell soon. Thank you grkfrk@gmail.com

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