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Brooch gifted by Mary, Queen of Scots to her close aide and personal hairdresser goes on display

Release date: Monday, 7 January 2019

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A brooch given by Mary, Queen of Scots to one of her closest lady attendants, who had a particular flair for hairdressing, has gone on display at the Palace of Holyroodhouse for the first time. 

Mary Seton was a devoted assistant and friend of Mary, Queen of Scots and lived with her at the Palace from 1561–6.  She was one of the four attendants known as the ‘Four Marys’ who spent many years in France with the exiled Queen.  Mary Seton continued to accompany Mary, Queen of Scots during her captivity in England.  Sir Francis Knollys, an English courtier charged with the care of the Queen, noted that Mary Seton ‘did set such a curled hair upon the Queen…every other day she hath a new device of head dressing, without any cost, and yet setteth forth a woman gaily well’.

The brooch dates from c.1580 and is made from enamelled gold and studded with pearls and rubies.  It can be seen in the Outer Chamber of the Mary, Queen of Scots apartments at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Mary, Queen of Scots lived at the Palace following her return from exile in France in 1561.  In 1565 she married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, in the Palace chapel; just a year later her Italian secretary, David Rizzio, was murdered by Darnley in front of the Queen, in her private apartments.

The private apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots have recently been re-presented as part of a £10 million investment by Royal Collection Trust to enhance the visitor experience at the Palace, including the re-display of the historic spaces to tell the stories of the Palace's famous inhabitants.  A royal residence for more than 500 years, the Palace of Holyroodhouse has served as home to both Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie. 

Other projects that form part of the investment, collectively called Future Programme, include the creation of a public physic garden and a Learning Centre within the restored Abbey Strand buildings, and new ticketing and welcome spaces.

Sally Goodsir, Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts, Royal Collection Trust, said, 'Through new displays of the Royal Collection our visitors will be able to explore the Palace's close association with some of Scotland's best-known historic figures.  We want everyone to gain a deeper understanding of Edinburgh's royal palace and of its continuing role as the official residence of the Sovereign in Scotland.'

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