ONE OF the great tragic heroines of history is brought back to life in a new exhibition at Lyme Park.
When an executioner’s sword cut off the head of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1587 on the orders of her cousin, Elizabeth I, there began a fascination with Mary and her story which has lasted over 400 years – and still intrigues us today.
The National Trust property, near Disley, has joined forces with the National Portrait Gallery to bring Mary, Queen of Scots: Fact and Fiction, which will be on show at Lyme throughout the 2011 season, which begins on Saturday.
James Rothwell, curator at Lyme Park, said: “Mary is reputed to have visited Lyme Park while taking the waters at nearby Buxton, and if she did, it would have been during the 19 years of imprisonment imposed on her by Elizabeth, who was keen to prevent Mary being a focus for the Catholic faith in England.
“Under her rule, Elizabeth had returned the country to the Protestant faith and to considerable stability. To preserve this state of affairs, she was determined to avoid a Catholic monarch returning to the throne.
“Mary was therefore viewed as a threat, and it was only after Elizabeth’s government spent many years concocting charges of treason against her, that Elizabeth reluctantly signed the death warrant of a cousin and fellow monarch.”
The National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition at Lyme Park will look at the ways in which Mary has been depicted during her lifetime and since her execution.
On display will be some wonderful examples of prints of Mary from the gallery’s reference collection, together with a replica 19th century bust taken from her effigy in Westminster Abbey.
Catharine MacLeod, Curator of Seventeenth-Century Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, added: “We are delighted that this display, which reflects this fascination both during her own time and over the course of subsequent centuries, is going to be seen in such an important and evocative historical setting as Lyme Park.”
Also on display at Lyme alongside the exhibition will be two other items with personal connections to Mary, Queen of Scots.
The first is a devotional plaque depicting the mystic marriage of St Catherine to the Infant Christ kindly loaned for the exhibition by Lord Newton. The embroidery on the plaque is reputed to have been worked by Mary and given to Sir Piers Legh following Mary’s visit to Lyme Park.
Later in the season the display will include Mary’s ‘Book of Hours’ – her small, exquisite and very personal prayer book – which contains her handwriting and is something she most likely carried with her wherever she went. The book will be on loan from the John Rylands library in Manchester.
Mary Queen of Scots: Fact and Fiction will be on display throughout 2011.For further information, call 01663 762023 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.