Mary Queen of Scots was a keen
needlewoman and whiled away much of her 19 years of
imprisonment in England at her stitching. Surprisingly,
a great deal of it survives to this day housed in the
collection of the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh,
the Queen's official residence in Scotland and Mary's
home between 1561 and 1567.
Mary probably learned needlework as a young girl at the
French Court. Her mother-in-law, Catherine de Medici was
noted for her skill. Later, as Queen of Scotland, she
would sit embroidering at her Council's meetings. However,
it was while imprisoned in England that she had most time
to devote to her needlework. In her first years of
imprisonment at Tutbury Castle she spent much of her time
stitching with Bess of Hardwicke, the wife of her jailer
the Earl of Shrewsbury.
As with many of her tapestries, a
deeper political message lies beneath the simple scene
of a cat and a mouse. The ginger cat is the red headed
Elizabeth I of England, the mouse Mary, her captive
plaything. Mary's cypher is also prominent.
The collection was designed for The Royal Collection and
is now on sale at The Palace of Holyroodhouse.