Mary, Queen of Scots (3 stars)

This article is from 2013

Mary, Queen of Scots

Exhibition of mixed artefacts fleshes out the story of the enigmatic Queen

Mentioned most often in the same breath as her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Stewart’s notoriety comes, of course, from the fixed eye she kept on the English throne – the obsession that got her head chopped off. Though it doesn’t ignore this reputation, this biographical exhibition shunts it to flesh out the full 45 years of Mary’s story.

In its attempt to engender sympathy for Mary’s many hardships and respect for her self-assuredness, the exhibition heavily relies on narrative panels – but it’s the assorted artefacts that lend tangible depth. Navigational tools, royal furnishings and handwritten letters lend era-specific aura, while jewellery and costumes conjure an image of Mary as an entrancing fashionista.

However, in the end her tragedy reigns: the Blairs Memorial Portrait of Mary as a martyr dominates the entrance, and a replica of her tomb overwhelms the exit, with the unassuming Marian Hanging (1570–85) providing the utmost poignancy. Though it plods along at times, Mary, Queen of Scots just manages to render a one-note queen into a full-fledged human being.

National Museum of Scotland, 0300 123 6789, until 17 Nov, £9 (£6–£7.50), U12s free.

Mary, Queen of Scots

  • 3 stars

Was there ever a monarch as unlucky as Mary, Queen of Scots? Her father dies when she's six days old, turning his infant daughter into a political football. Then there are the increasingly inappropriate marriages to increasingly obnoxious husbands; the rebellions, the betrayals, more stabbings than any 24-year-old should…