Panel with links to Mary Queen of Scots bought for nation in ‘attic sale’

National Museums Scotland has acquired the items.

Lucinda Cameron
Wednesday 08 December 2021 12:14
Conservators are working on the panels (National Museums Scotland/PA)
Conservators are working on the panels (National Museums Scotland/PA)

Armorial panels with links to Mary Queen of Scots which were found hidden in castle attics have been acquired for national collections.

The oak panels came from a house in Blythe’s Close, in Edinburgh’s Old Town, where Marie de Guise, mother of Mary Queen of Scots, lived from around 1543 to 1554.

One of them carries the combined coats of Marie and her husband James V which were later used by their daughter.

They were acquired by National Museums Scotland (NMS) at a sale of a treasure trove of objects found hidden in the attics and cellars of Dunrobin Castle in the Highlands during a “decluttering” of the building.

The panel shows the combined arms of Marie de Guise and James V (National Museums Scotland/PA)

Anna Groundwater, principal curator for Renaissance and early modern history at NMS, said: “These armorial panels are a fantastic addition to the national collections.

“We are very pleased to have been able to acquire them and look forward to putting them on public display in the future.

“They are important pieces in their own right, and complement our existing collection of material associated with Marie de Guise already on display.

“We are particularly pleased to add these marital coat of arms of Mary, Queen of Scots’ parents.”

Bonhams said the set of four carved oak armorial panels sold for £17,750 at its sale in April, well above the estimate of £4,000-£6,000.

Armorial roundels were frequently included in the elaborate decorative schemes of royal and noble houses in the past.

They were used to promote the elite status of those who lived in the apartments and to demonstrate their relationships with powerful people.

King James V and Marie de Guise (National Trust for Scotland, Falkland Palace/PA)

News of the acquisition of the panels coincides with the anniversary of the birth of Mary Queen of Scots at Linlithgow Palace on December 8, 1542.

Her parents had married in June 1538 in a liaison intended to secure the “auld alliance” of Scotland with France against England and Henry VIII.

However her father James V died six days after her birth.

The coats of arms on the other three roundels also suggest the royal connections of the house in Blythe’s Close.

One carries the crowned fleur de lis of Henri II, king of France from 1547 to 1559, who had helped to orchestrate Marie’s marriage with James, while another bears the arms of the Hamilton family.

The “Queen Regent’s House” in Blythe’s Close no longer exists as it was demolished in 1846 after deteriorating.

The roundels have now joined other decorative objects from the house in NMS collections including carved oak doors salvaged when it was demolished, as well as 16 oak medallion panels.

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