Sunday, February 27, 2011

More Embroideries at the V&A - Mary Queen of Scots

File:Mary, Queen of Scots in Captivity.png
Mary, Queen of Scots in captivity. Source Wikipedia
 I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in December and came across canvas work embroideries in the English Galleries done by Mary Queen of Scots. She embroidered them during her 19 years of house arrest before finally being beheaded by order of Queen   Elizabeth I on charges of treason.

I couldn't help wondering what thoughts were going through her mind while she sat working at her embroidery. I had just read Phillipa Gregory's historical novel The White Queen which vividly brought home to me how ruthless those early kings and queens were when it came to ensuring there positions on the throne.

Below are two links to panels embroidered by Mary Queen of Scots and her ladies in waiting between 1570 and 1585. The pieces form part of the Oxburgh Hangings, a group of panels worked mainly in tent stitch and then stitched together to form large hangings. They are worked on linen canvas in gold, silver and coloured silk threads. The first panel is of a Quail and it is on display as part of the large hangings in the British galleries at the V&A. I rather like the unusual stripey background.

The second panel we can be sure was worked by the Queen herself because it contains her cipher.  I can see the 'M' above the dog, but the rest -  an A with the Greek letter phi superimposed - is unclear to me. The dog in the panel is thought to be her pet dog Jupiter. Although the picture is available to us on the V&A website, this precious piece of embroidery is in storage. I guess there are not too many embroideries around that are known to have been embroidered by royalty, and then too an incarcerated queen awaiting an uncertain fate.

Next at the museum I came across a beautiful cutwork piece used for swaddling a baby. More on that in my next post.