Mary, Queen of Scots is Presented at the National Museum of Scotland
She played the lute, was an exceptional needlewoman, enjoyed card games long into the night, and loved hunting and hawking as well as masques, dancing and playing music. A range of objects represent these pursuits, including a gaming board with silver tablemen and gold dice said to have been presented by Mary to her friend and confidante, Mary Seton, one of the so-called 'four Maries', her closest female attendants. During this period, the reckless Mary is known to have taken to the streets of Edinburgh disguised as a young man and accompanied by the four Maries.
Renaissance maps and scientific instruments such as a 15th century French astrolabe and 16th century table clock show the context of Europe moving towards an era of rapid scientific advancement, exploration and discovery. And yet, elsewhere, the 1563 Witchcraft Act shows that this was not yet an age of reason. Her allegiance to her Catholic faith and her tolerance of her Protestant subjects drew her into dangerous waters. John Knox, a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation, took every opportunity to verbally denounce her and damn her in print. This is particularly illustrated by Knox's 1558 "First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women", in which he attacked the rise of female, Catholic rulers in Europe.
Supported by investment managers Baillie Gifford, the exhibition also explores Mary's complex and controversial later marriages. Under political pressure to produce an heir and advance her claim to the English crown, in 1565 she married Henry, Lord Darnley. The union was a disaster, with Darnley's immature behaviour making him a political liability, and Mary began to exclude him from affairs of state.
Sarah Whitley, Partner at investment managers Baillie Gifford said:
'Baillie Gifford is delighted to be supporting the National Museum of Scotland's major summer exhibition for the second year running. We have a strong track record in helping to promote events that send powerful messages to the people who live, work and visit this much-loved city. Edinburgh has always been home to some truly remarkable people. Mary's own story is yet more proof of this.'
Contemporary evidence is used to tell the story of Darnley's notorious murder: eye witness accounts, official documents, drawings, biographies of the prime suspects. The National Museum of Scotland sits virtually on the original site of the lodgings at Kirk o' Field where Darnley was killed, and a 1567 bird's eye sketch of the site will be on show, accompanied by an audio-visual display which recounts various versions of the events surrounding the murder and other key objects including the Darnley Memorial painting and the Darnley Jewel.
Mary's third marriage, to James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, shocked the Scottish nation, and the country spiralled into civil war. Mary was forced to abdicate in favour of her son, James. Pursued, hunted and defeated she sought sanctuary from her cousin Elizabeth I. She fled from Scotland to England, where she would face 19 years of captivity, at the age of only 26. The Marian Hanging from Oxburgh House, is a spectacular tapestry which Mary worked on during her period of imprisonment.
'In my End is my Beginning' is the motto that Mary embroidered on her cloth of estate while imprisoned in England, symbolising eternity after death. The subject and focus of numerous plots, Mary's life ended on the 8 February 1587. Dressed in crimson, the colour of Catholic martyrdom, she was beheaded at Fotheringhay castle on the orders of Elizabeth I. The exhibition includes the Book of Hours which was said to be in Mary's possession at the time of her execution and one of the most iconic images of Mary, the Blairs Memorial Portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots, which represents her in preparation for the executioner's block.
The exhibition will be supported by a series of public events, talks and lectures. There will also be a book to accompany the exhibition, featuring many of the stunning objects on display. Significant lenders to the exhibition include the V&A, Musée du Louvre, Bibliothèque nationale de France, National Gallery, National Galleries of Scotland, the National Library of Scotland, the National Archives at Kew, the Royal Collections Trust, the National Records of Scotland and Blairs Museum.
Admission: £9 adults, £7.50 concession, children (age 12-15) £6. Entry is free to National Museums Scotland Members and children under 12.