About P.R.E.

Príncipe Real Enxovais celebrates the 106th anniversary of its founder Maria Cristina de Castro who made this fine establishment become one of the leading providers of high-quality fine linens and embroideries in Europe. From the Royal Houses of Europe to the youngest trendy newlyweds who buy their first set of bed linens, Príncipe Real Enxovais has affirmed the talent, dedication and dependability on executing the most detailed and customized “trousseaux”. 

Noted by architectural digest, wallpaper, uncrate and many other fine global publications for its bespoke masterpieces and seasoned fine linens workmanship, Príncipe Real Enxovais delivers quality and client centric service that continues to please its most discerning and sophisticated customers. 

Since 1938, Maria Cristina de Castro and her beloved Príncipe Real Enxovais has been one of Europe’s most elegant and noted fine linens establishments. Born in Lisbon in 1914, Maria Cristina lived the first 24 years  of her life in her family’s townhouse located in Chiado, the well known cultural heart of downtown Lisbon. Just like many other cosmopolitan young girls at the turn of the century in Western Europe, Maria Cristina began her schooling at “Colégio Particular de Lisboa” in 1920 at the tender age of six years old. Life in downtown Lisbon was very culturally stimulating to young Maria Cristina who always loved the city while often visiting the family’s country villa near Óbidos castle. 

Soon after completing her 10th birthday, Maria Cristina asked her dear mother if it would be possible to begin taking “lavores” classes at school. Mother said yes with an understanding smile and Maria Cristina quickly became very passionate about fine linens and the centuries old art of handmade embroideries and lace making. Upon completion of her 13th birthday, Maria Cristina began spending her summers at the country estate where she was further exposed to the masterpiece art of “Bilros” lace making. 

Whenever the family traveled to their country house near Obidos Castle, the still very young Maria Cristina would clearly become very excited about observing and learning from the expert Bilros lace making artisans in nearby Peniche, Caldas da Rainha, and Atouguia da Baleia execute their masterpiece lace creations. Maria Cristina continued her studies in downtown Lisbon dedicating most of the free time available to her most passionate hobby: fine linens embroideries and Bilros laces. Shortly after finishing her studies Maria Cristina began teaching children at the nearby convent in Lisbon about reading and the fine art of embroidering and lace making. A few years later, in 1938, Maria Cristina decided to marry her sweetheart Agostinho Eustáquio de Castro, beginning a new stage of her life and moving from her family’s townhouse in Chiado to the Príncipe Real area where she resided throughout the rest of her long life. 

In Maria Cristina de Castro mind this would best assure that their life carry on in the heart of Lisbon, the city where beautiful architecture, cultural events and city gardens made her happiest. Shortly after the marriage, Maria Cristina decided to make a bold statement about the subject she was most passionate about and founded her own fine linens business. Soon it began growing and within a few years already catered to over 300 loyal and noble customers who kept insisting she further expand the business to best meet the European and international demand for delicate fine linens. 

European Fine Linen History
Egypt is often credited with the earliest mastery of the techniques of growing and weaving fine linen, historians are however certain that widespread use of household and personal fine linen embroidered with individual & family monograms emerged with the Greek & Roman civilizations.
Up to 17th Century

Traveling back in time to ancient Egypt, Greek and Roman civilization empires, one often notices fine linen masterpieces embroidered into beautiful tablecloths, bedsheets, towels, gowns and intimate apparel as described in texts, paintings, pottery and stone carvings. However, only after the 12th Century do we begin to capture detail information of the fine linen pieces created and owned by royal houses, nobility families and later on the wealthy bourgeoise. The royal inventories of fine linen carefully describe every piece of embroidered linen with great detail notes on the origin and quality of the cloth, its sizes, decorative embroidery custom ordered by its owner, and finishing touches at times with silver or gold. Even items with tears or holes were often listed, attesting the importance fine linen was given in terms of royal family assets. From the Middle Ages to late 18th Century the most used fiber was flax and hemp. For more important individuals the choice was often very fine linen fabrics, damask weaves and pure silk on their bedsheets, tablecloths and towels. These were often hand embroidered with their family monogram and other decorative symbols, patterns or decorative designs like the classic Greek key that were important to its VIP owner.

18th Century

In the beginning of this period, we start seeing aristocracy begin to build larger and more splendid palaces furnished with high quality household goods including the finest tablecloths, bed linens, and towels embroidered with much elegance and attention to quality. During this time the demand for luxury fine linens used daily in the bedroom, dinning room, and bathrooms truly takes a greater dimension. It is also during this period that weavers and master embroiders began developing ever finer household linens that expand into intimate and sexy lingerie with handmade lace. It is also during the 18th Century that fine damask weaves with silk are truly perfected to create royal patterns and monograms playing "hide and seek with light" for personal and intimate details only captured with the right light. The secret of fine damask linens reside in the weaving technique allowing the fabric to truly become reversible. originally this type of linen was reserved only to the table of kings and nobility, usually white on white. The 18th century Trousseaux of wealthy brides truly takes luxury to another level with high quality fine linen preparation with expensive bed linens with the bride and groom monogram, tablecloths with family crest embroidered, intimate silk  lingerie with lace, and other fine linen pieces ordered.   

19th Century

In the beginning of the 19th Century we see the explosion of cotton roll into Europe. The plant had been known in the continent since the time of Herodotus, but unlike flax, hemp and even silk, it could not be cultivated in temperate European climates.  For centuries no one placed much attention to cotton as a plant that grew somewhere else and it was not as long lasting and anti-bacterial as pure linen. However, with the industrial revolution in Europe, cotton became the cloth of choice to make household linens cheaper and within reach of all. This led to the spectacular success of large department stores well-stocked bridal and bedroom departments. After the second world war, inexpensive and easy to care cotton mixed with synthetic fibers like polyester truly cheapen household linens into low quality and short lived items. Brides no longer took passion into a carefully designed and handmade fine linen Trosseaux, representing a one of a kind luxury item for the bedroom.   The average household simply bought their polyester blend bedsheets and tablecloth in department stores and a few years later toss them into the garbage. Late 19th Century was truly the low point of traditional high quality fine linens handmade for the bride and the family household.   

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Principe Real Enxovais is passionate about your bespoke fine linens. If you have a question or would like assistance creating or repairing a fine linen masterpiece, please contact us...
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21st Century - Modern Fine Linens

Europeans are beginning to reaffirm sustainable household values with a focus in nature and the environment. High quality organic handmade fine linens with natural fibers that last a lifetime are starting to resurface again. Our clients are becoming more interested in learning how to order bespoke fine linen created with natural fibers that allow their family to have something of value that will last, as opposed to cheap and disposable synthetic items manufactured in mass that continue to pollute our planet. At Principe Real Enxovais we are more passionate than ever to continue creating one of a kind organic fine linens meeting the individual and unique needs of our client.


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