In the Inventories of MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS, published by the Bannatyne Club (1843), we have some curious particulars of the jewels of that sovereign, which, in the momentous events of the royal career, passed into different hands, sometimes under sad and romantic circumstances.
Like Queen Elizabeth, Mary was lavish in her display of jewellery. The splendour of her attire at her marriage with the Dauphin of France, in 1558, is mentioned in a Rouen contemporary of the ceremonial, as "so glorious in its fashion and decoration, that it is impossible for any pen to do justice to its details." Her regal mantle, of marvellous length, was covered with precious stones. On this occasion Queen Mary wore a crown royal composed of the finest gold, and of the most exquisite workmanship, set with diamonds, pearls, rubies, and emeralds of immense value, having in the centre a pendant carbuncle, valued at 500,000 crowns. About her neck hung a matchless jewel, suspended by chains of precious stones, which, from its description, must have been that known in Scottish history as the "Great Harry." This was not one of the crown jewels, but her own personal property, having been derived from her royal English great-grandfather, Henry VII, by whom it was presented to her grandmother, Queen Margaret Tudor.
On the death of her husband, Queen Mary left France, and arrived in Scotland (1561), bringing with her a multitude of splendid dresses, etc., and, says Bishop Lesley, "mony costlie jewells and goldin wark, precious stones, orient pearle, maist excellent of any that was in Europe."
In the inventory above-mentioned there is no trace of the diamond heart which was sent by Mary, soon after her arrival in Scotland, to Queen Elizabeth, with some French verses, written, it is said, by the Scottish Queen herself.
Almost all the portraits of Mary Queen of Scots represent her adorned with jewellery, nearly as abundant as those which distinguish the portraits of her jealous rival, Queen Elizabeth; the dresses also are very similar, only the ruff of the Scottish Queen is of less imposing height and amplitude.
An inventory of Queen Mary's wardrobe, besides a large number of costly dresses, includes a rich variety of hoods, coifs, cauls, bonnets, and cornettes of velvet, silk, damask, crape, and other costly materials, embroidered with gold, silver, silk, and pearls. With these she wore her regal frontlet of jewellers' work and gems. Her veils, mostly of crape, were adorned with pearls. Mary's wardrobe included fifty dresses of great richness and elegance; but she was eclipsed in this particular by Queen Elizabeth, who had two thousand magnificent dresses.
"In a testamentary document," observes Miss Strickland, "executed by Mary Queen of Scots before the birth of her son, when under the melancholy impression that she would die in childbed, reference is made to the disposal of her jewels, that were her own personal property. She has written against each of them, with her own hand, the name of the person to whom it was to be given after her death, in case her infant should not survive her. Among the bequests to her husband, the unfortunate Darnley, are a 'Saint Michael, made of forty diamonds; a chain of diamonds and pearls, formed of twenty-four pieces each, decorated with two diamonds and twenty-four cordelieres of pearls; twelve great buttons, decorated with twelve roses of diamonds; twelve other great precious stones, ballas rubies; four hundred and four buttons of Venetian work, enamelled white, every one set with a ruby; seventy-one buttons, great, middle-size, and small, every one set with a ballas ruby; twenty-seven buttons, each set with a sapphire; sixteen little chatons (cats'eyes), every one set with a sapphire; a watch decorated with ten diamonds, two rubies, and a cordon of gold. The first bequest in her will was for the honour of the crown she had inherited. She leaves to it the 'Great Harry;' another jewel of the same fashion; a grand diamond cross; a chain enriched with rubies and diamonds; a necklace of diamonds, rubies, and pearls; and a large diamond, set in an enameled finger-ring. These seem to have been among her most precious jewels; and she desires that an Act might be passed, annexing them to the crown of Scotland, in remembrance of herself and of the Scottish alliance with the House of Lorraine. Seven jewels, containing what appear to have been her largest diamonds, she bequeaths for ornaments to the Queens of Scotland, under injunction not to change the setting, nor to give the pieces away, but to keep them with the crown for evermore."
In the same inventory are two costly ruby chains, formed of twelve pieces, every one set with two rubies, two diamonds, and twenty-four pearls; one for the king, her husband, and the other for her godson, Francis Stuart, "a diamond fashioned like a face, and a pointed diamond set in black enamel, for her mother-in-law, the Countess of Lennox. To Bothwell, a table diamond set in black enamel; and another mourning jewel, set with eleven diamonds and one ruby; to Lady Bothwell, a coif, collar, and pair of sleeves, decorated with rubies, pearls, and garnets.
The dispersion of Queen Mary's jewels and treasures would seem to have began, like other graver misfortunes, with her infatuated passion for Bothwell. Before the middle of June, 1567, when they parted on Carberry Hill, never to meet again, she had lavished upon him jewels valued at more than twenty thousand crowns, or six thousand pounds sterling. These, and the distribution of jewels as personal gifts, with others, that served, very opportunely, in the various emergencies in which the unfortunate Queen found herself; will afford some idea of the extraordinary quantity of precious articles in her possession. "They have, moreover" (remarks Madame de Barrera), "acquired great historical celebrity, from the frequency with which they were claimed, in her appeals for mercy and justice during her long captivity, and the rapacity with which her royal jailer, and other enemies, sought or retained the possession of these glittering spoils."
A few days before Mary effected her escape, the Regent Moray had sent a costly parure of pearls Mary's personal property, which she had brought with her from France, with a choice selection of her other jewels, very secretly to London, by her trusty agent, Sir Nicholas Elphinstone, who undertook to negotiate their sale. As the pearls were considered the most magnificent in Europe, Queen Elizabeth was complimented with the first offer of them. "She saw them yesterday" (writes Bochetel la Forrest, the French ambassador at the court of England, to Catherine de Medicis) "in the presence of the Earls of Pembroke and Leicester, and pronounced them to be of unparalleled beauty." He thus describes them:-"There are six cordons of large pearls, strung as paternosters, but there are five-and-twenty separate from the rest, much finer and larger than those which are strung. These are for the most part like black muscades" (a very rare and valuable variety of pearl, having the deep purple colour and bloom of the Muscatel grape). "They had not been here more than three days, when they were appraised by various merchants, this queen wishing to have them at the sum named by the jeweller, who would have made his profit by selling them again. They were first shown to three or four working jewellers and lapidaries, by whom they were estimated at pound 3,000 sterling (about ten thousand crowns), and who offered to give that sum for them. Several Italian merchants came after them, who valued them at twelve thousand crowns, which is the price, as I am told, this queen (Elizabeth) will take them at. There is a Genevese who saw them after the others, and said they were worth sixteen thousand crowns, but I think they will allow her to have them for twelve thousand. In the meantime I have not delayed giving your Majesty timely notice of what is going on, though I doubt she will not allow them to escape her. The rest of the jewels are not so valuable as the pearls." Mary's royal mother-in-law of France (observes Miss Strickland)-no whit more scrupulous than her good cousin of England-was eager to compete with the latter for the purchase of the pearls, knowing that they were worth nearly double the sum at which they had been valued at London. Some of them she had herself presented to Mary, and especially desired to recover, but the ambassador wrote in reply "that he had found it impossible to accomplish her desire of obtaining the Queen of Scots' pearls, for, as he had told her from the first, they were intended for the gratification of the Queen of England, who had been allowed to purchase them at her own price, and was now in possession of them."
When (as Miss Strickland relates) Mary fled from her capital to begin the disastrous campaign which closed at Carberry, most of her jewels were in Edinburgh Castle, and they remained there after the fortress surrendered to the Regent Moray. He gave it in keeping to Kirkaldy, of Grange, and when that mirror of Scottish knighthood, yielding to his own chivalrous impulses, and to the persuasive eloquence of Lethington, passed over to the queen's side on the death of Moray, the castle and its contents remained with him. During the three years it was held for the queen, her diamonds were the garrison's chief source of credit. In 1570 when Grange was straining every nerve to strengthen its defences, he seems to have sent some of the queen's jewels, dresses, and hangings to be sold in London. But the watchful ministers of the English queen not only stopped the sale, on the pretext that (as they affirmed) it was without Mary's consent, but ordered the articles to be detained. The English market being thus closed against him, Grange turned elsewhere. It is related that his brother appeared in Leith Roads, in a little bark, laden with munitions and stores bought in France with the price of a parcel of the queen's diamonds.
About a twelvemonth afterwards, another parcel seems to have been sold to a secret agent of Queen Elizabeth for pound 2,500. Other parcels were, it is said, at different times given in pledge to Edinburgh merchants, goldsmiths, and others, for money advanced by them, to supply the needs of the garrison. When, at length, the English cannon without, and want and mutiny within, forbade all hope of further resistance, and terms of capitulation began to be debated, one of the articles was that Grange should account for all the queen's jewels and other moveables. But the implacable Morton, who had now succeeded to the regency, would agree to nothing but unconditional surrender, and rather than suffer what remained of the jewels to fall into his hands, the garrison seem to have hidden a part of them in a crevice of the castle rock, and to have delivered others to Sir William Drury, the commander of the English troops. It was whispered that Grange carried some away concealed on his person, but this he indignantly denied. (James Mossman, the faithful old jeweller of Mary Queen of Scots, who was taken on the surrender of Edinburgh Castle (May 29th, 1573), had endeavoured to preserve some of the most valuable royal jewels from the greedy clutches of the Regent Moray, by delivering them in pledge for Queen Mary to Lady Home, Lady Lethington, and others. Sir Robert Melville took possession of some, and Sir William Kirkaldy, of Grange, whose besetting sin was covetousness, before he surrendered his sword to Sir William Drury, secreted a most choice collection of precious jewels in his hose, or nether garments. Mossman was compelled to confess, either by the torture of the boot, or the terror of it, and ladies and gentlemen were forced to relinquish whatever they had taken, either for their royal mistress or themselves.
The jewels hidden in the castle were discovered without much difficulty, and among them were the "Honours," as the crown, sceptre, and sword of state were fondly called among a people to whom they were dear as the visible signs of a hardly-won national independence. It was not, however, so easy to recover the spoil which had passed into the hands of the English commander. But Morton addressed himself to the English court, and, although he had to contend against the claim of the Queen of Scots, he succeeded, except the detention of some diamonds on which monies had been advanced, and of one jewel which had found its way into Queen Elizabeth's possession.
Parliament had given the new regent powers for the recovery of the Queen's diamonds and moveables which had fallen into private hands, and he hastened to proceed against all who had jewels and household stuff in their keeping, whether by gift, by purchase, in pledge for monies lent, or otherwise. He recovered six jewels which had been pawned with the Provost of Edinburgh for 2,600 marks, and a pearl necklace, and fifteen diamonds which had been pawned to Lady Home for pound 600. The "Great Harry" was recovered from the widow Moray, after fruitless endeavours to obtain it. This jewel survived James's accession to the English throne, when its large diamond was taken to adorn a new and still more splendid jewel, the "Mirror of Great Britain," which is thus described in the "Inventory of the Jewels in the Tower of London, March 22nd, 1605," in ancient calendars, and in the "Inventories of the Treasury of the Exchequer" (vol. ii. p. 305), "A greate and ryche jewell of golde, called the Myrror of Great Brytayne, conteyninge one verie fayre table diamonde; one verye fayre table rubye; twoe other lardge diamondes cut lozengewise, the one of them called the stone of the letter H (h) of Scotlande, garnyshed with small diamondes, twoe rounde perles, fixed, and one fayre dyamonde cutt in fawcettis, bought of Sauncey."
We find what remained of the "Great Harry," the gold-setting, the chain, and the ruby, among the jewels for which the king gave a discharge to the Earl of Dunbar in July, 1606; "The jewell callit the H, with the chaine thairof, and als with the rubie of the samyn." (Thomson's "Collection of Inventories.")
The widow of Moray had baffled Queen Mary, Huntley, and Lennox, and did not yield to the Regent Morton without an obstinate struggle, in which the English Queen had to interpose again and again. On February 3rd, 1573-4, the Regent Morton and the Lords of the Council gave judgment against the countess and her second husband, the Earl of Argyle, for refusing to restore, or even to produce, "thre greit rubyes and thre greit dyamontis, with ane greit jewell in the forme of an H set with dyamontis." An appeal was at once taken to Parliament. On July 18th, 1574, Killigrew writes to Walsingham as to the need of Queen Elizabeth's interference for my Lord of Argyle and his lady. On August 12th we hear of the conditions upon which the Regent of Scotland, at the request of the Queen of England, will agree that the Earl and Countess of Argyle shall retain in their hands certain jewels belonging to the King of Scotland. Seven days afterwards the earl and the countess write to Queen Elizabeth thanking her for her intercession with the regent. On the same day the earl writes to Killigrew that he means to agree to the conditions proposed to him and the countess in respect of the king's jewels, in regard of which they had been so extremely handled. A conference took place between the regent and the earl, but the result was unsatisfactory; and on September 10th the countess writes once more to Queen Elizabeth complaining of further demands made by the regent respecting the king's jewels, and requesting that her majesty will again write to him. Nine days after, there is a letter from Robert Fletcher to Killigrew urging the necessity of the English Queen's intercession. At length, on March 5th, 1574-5, the Earl of Argyle appears before the regent in council, and delivers up "ane greit H of diamont, with ane rubye pendant thairat; sex uther jowellis, thairof thre dyamontis and the uther thre rubyis intromettit with and kepit bi the said Dame Agnes and hir said spous, sen the deceis of the said umquhile Erll of Moray."
There are many curious and deeply-interesting relics of Mary Queen of Scots in the possession of favoured individuals, of undoubted genuine character. Amongst these Miss Strickland mentions a watch of French workmanship belonging to the Rev. Mr. Torrance, minister of Glencross, which, together with an elegant little jewel called a solitaire, were given, or bequeathed by Mary, the night before her execution, to a French lady named Massie, the ancestress of the late possessor, Dr. Scott. The watch itself is small and circular, in a black shagreen case, studded with gold stars, with a central cross formed of fleurs-delys. The dial plate is of white enamel, somewhat larger than a shilling, with antique Roman figures in black. The maker's name is Etienne Hubert, of Rouen. A thread of catgut supplies the place of the chain used in the works of modern watches. The catgut is not found in watches later than those of the sixteenth century. The solitaire is one of those light elegant triangular jewels, with which the portraits of Mary are sometimes adorned, having a tiny enameled Cupid in the character of a court fool, with his cap, bells, and bauble. This jewel is of the most delicate workmanship, and of purest gold, the gems are tablecut diamonds, and garnets, and pendant pearls. On the back of the straight bar, under the little figure, is a Latin motto, signifying, "He looks simple, but he is not."
Another affecting relic of Mary Stuart is her harp, now in possession of the Stuart family of Dalguise, Perthshire, which was originally adorned with a portrait of the queen, and the arms of Scotland, in solid gold, enriched with several gems, two of which were considered of great value, but these were stolen during the civil wars. This was her favourite harp, and at a music meeting she proclaimed it as the prize of the best performer. It was adjudged to Beatrice Gardyn, whose delivery of a simple Scotch ballad enchanted the queen. It is on this incident that Hogg founded his charming poem of the "Queen's Wake."
The harp was strung anew, tuned, and played on, in the year 1806.
You are here:
JJKent Home >>
Precious Stones Vol 11
>> About Mary Queen of Scots and Her Lavish Display of Jewels
|<<How Sir Christopher Blount Got Rid of His Wife's Jewels||About King James I and an Inventory of the Crown Jewels >>|