Mary Queen of Scots, at the National Museum of Scotland: 28th of June-17th November 2013

On my last trip to Edinburgh I paid my traditional visit to the fantastic National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street.  Every time I visit Edinburgh I have to stop by and wander around this fantastic place.  This time was different however, as I was a man on a mission and I made a beeline for the third floor and its new, exciting exhibition on Mary Queen of Scots. Mary Stewart (aka Queen of Scots) is probably one of the most famous figures in Scottish history. As the only child of King James V of Scotland, Mary ascended to the crown at the tender age of six days, yes days! So Mary was born to rule. Her reign lasted a tumultuous 25 years and ended in 1567 with her forced abdication in favour of her infant son James VI (later James I of England).  Mary was distraught after this, and she sought help form her cousin Queen Elizabeth I of England.  But instead of receiving help to win back her kingdom, Mary was imprisoned for 19 years until her execution for treason on the 8th of February 1587.
Poor Mary!

Poor Mary!

The exhibition is laid out in a chronological order in nine sections, from her birth till her death. It details her dramatic life in-between, including her marriage to the Dauphin of France and her position as Queen Consort of France, which ended a year later on the death of her husband King Francis II. It also details her return to Scotland, her marriage to Lord Darnley. He was later murdered, and it is not known if Mary had a hand in that!  Finally it details her escape to England and subsequent imprisonment.

All the way through the exhibition you get tantalising glimpses into her life, from personnel effects of the Queen and her Court, to correspondence written in her hand and affixed with her seal. The exhibition offers an insight into the 16th Century world she lived in too.  For me however there was one item on display that captivated me the most, and that was the original death warrant for Mary signed by Elizabeth. It was quite surreal to be standing before this document and one can almost feel the power coming from it, the signature of one Queen ending the life of another.  What is quite interesting about the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth is that Elizabeth ordered her execution to prevent her laying claim to the crown of England , but upon the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603 the crown of England passed to Mary’s son James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England.  And as a result every British Monarch since the has been a direct descendant of Mary Queen of Scots.

There are many more fantastic pieces in this exhibition however, so many I couldn’t possibly cover them all here, and do them justice.  There is so much more to learn about this tragic Queen that I can’t cover so I recommend, if you are in Edinburgh to go to the museum and soak it all up.

Admission is £9 or £6 for a child, under 12 goes free.  You can book your tickets online at

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