The real Mary Queen of Scots

A rare and frank portrait of the teenage Mary Queen of Scots goes on display at Hever Castle on Friday, February 8, the anniversary of her execution in 1587.

There are few surviving likenesses of the queen made in her own lifetime, and this one, believed to be from the studio of Francois Clouet (.c1510-1572), was recently rediscovered in France and has been acquired by Hever Castle, the childhood home of Elizabeth I’s mother, Anne Boleyn.

It is to be unveiled by the historian David Starkey. “In Scotland, which she ruled in person as queen-regnant from 1561 to 1568" he said, "there were few painters of talent; while in England, where she spent the rest of her life, she was a political prisoner - though in 1578 she did manage to sit for an important portrait miniature by Nicholas Hillyard, which is the basis of almost all her subsequent images”. He believes the painting shows Mary aged 19, the age when, as the young widow of the French king Francois I, she returned to Scotland, She is dressed in light mourning.

Hever Castle’s portrait had been thought to date from the 17thcentury and was unidentified, but a dendrochronological examination of the oak panel on which the portrait is painted showed that it was painted after 1547 (Mary was born in December 1542). Stylistic analysis confirmed it to have been made in the mid-16th century, making it a highly significant addition to her visual historical record. Clouet was a French Renaissance miniaturist and painter, particularly known for his detailed portraits of the French royal family.   


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