MARY, Queen of Scots’ silver casket goes on display at the National Museum of Scotland this morning after being bought for the nation for £1.8 million.
Made in Paris, probably between 1493 and 1510, the museum believes the casket was given to Mary by her first husband, François II of France, and came to Scotland with her in 1561, following his death the previous year.
The museum thinks this is the casket that played a dramatic role in Mary’s downfall when, in December 1568, a similar box was produced at a hearing ordered by Elizabeth I of England against Mary at Westminster.
That box contained what have become known as the “Casket Letters”, a series of love poems and letters, allegedly from Mary to her third husband, the Earl of Bothwell, which implicated them both in a conspiracy to murder her second husband, Lord Darnley.
Described as “one of Scotland’s national treasures”, the museum bought the casket from Lennoxlove House, which has owned the box since the 1950s.
For three centuries, it was owned by the family of the Dukes of Hamilton, following its acquisition, around 1674, by Anne, Duchess of Hamilton.
According to a handwritten note stored with it since the late 17th century, the Duchess bought the casket – previously owned by Mary, Marchioness of Douglas – on the understanding that it had belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots.
Chris Breward, director of National Museums Scotland, said: “This extraordinary casket is truly one of Scotland’s national treasures.
“Venerated as a relic of Mary for centuries, it is believed to represent a momentous and disastrous moment in her turbulent life.
“Beyond this, the magnificence of the piece speaks to a queen at the height of her powers, wealth and position.
“I am delighted that this beautiful object has been acquired for the nation and I am grateful to the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund, and all the individuals whose generosity has made this acquisition possible.”
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