Friday 12 July 2013

Mary Queen Of Scots * National Museum Of Scotland, Edinburgh * Until 17 November 2013

I love the marvellous depiction of lace and embroidery that was accomplished by early stone carvers and spend quite a bit of free time examining tombs for examples. This one of Mary Queen of Scots is so beautifully made and this summer you can enjoy it too as National Museums Scotland presents a major exhibition on the life of Mary Stewart (1542-87), Queen of Scots. The exhibition traces Mary’s story through the dynastic alliances at the heart of Renaissance Europe, following her life from birth in Scotland, childhood in France, to ruling both France and Scotland as Queen, her imprisonment in England and eventual execution. Mary’s legacy is also considered: through her son, King James VI and I, she is the direct ancestor of the present royal family. Showing only in Edinburgh, the exhibition explores the myth and reality that surround one of the most enigmatic and romanticised figures in Scottish history through a unique gathering of paintings, jewellery, textiles, furniture, drawings, maps and documents.

Significant loans from major public collections in Scotland, England and France and from private collections build on the Scottish history collections of National Museums Scotland to create a rich and detailed picture of Mary, Queen of Scots. Visitors are able to view documentary evidence, from the earliest surviving letter written by Mary to the warrant for her execution signed by Elizabeth I, which is on display in Scotland for the first time since it was acquired by Lambeth Palace in 2007. Other key documents include examples of the “Casket letters”, which were used to incriminate her in the Darnley murder, and a letter with secret cipher, which were presented as proof of her association with the Babington plot to assassinate Elizabeth I and thus led eventually to her execution in 1587.

Some of the finest pieces of jewellery associated with Mary are also on show. She owned a spectacular collection of jewellery and a gold necklace and pendant locket, known collectively as the Penicuik jewels, are on display. These were said to have been given to one of her supporters during her captivity, jewels being useful gifts to bind supporters to the Crown.

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