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Pendant with a serpent coiled around a tree and two skull cameos late 16th cent. with later additions

RCIN 51008

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When this pendant was presented to Her Majesty The Queen in 1977 it was reputed to have belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots. Some elements, for example the skull cameos and the rubies in box settings, appear to be of that period. The opal cabochons with claw settings are also found on Elizabethan and Stuart jewellery. Although there is no contemporary documentary evidence to support the connection with Mary, Queen of Scots, the pendant was inherited, according to family tradition, with other Stuart relics through Frances, daughter of Hon. William Erskine son of the 3rd Lord Cardross, who was the great-great-grandson of John Erskine, 18th Earl of Mar, Regent of Scotland 1571-2 and Guardian of James VI and I. The association was perhaps made during the nineteenth century when relics of the Queen were much sought after. The French inscription ‘vie et mort’ and the skull cameos are a memento mori. The serpent in the Tree of Knowledge symbolises Sin and the pendant may symbolise the vanquishing of sin.