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The Art of Monarchy

A collaboration with BBC Radio 4 to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

? Scotland

The Darnley Jewel or Lennox Jewel c. 1571-8

Gold, enamel (émail en ronde bosse, émail basse-taille), Burmese rubies, Indian emerald and cobalt-blue glass | 6.6 x 5.2 cm (whole object) | RCIN 28181

Mary, Queen of Scots' Outer Chamber, Palace of Holyroodhouse

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The Lennox or Darnley locket is one of the most important early jewels in the Royal Collection. It is said to have been commissioned by Lady Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox (1515-78), for her husband Matthew Stewart, Earl of Lennox and Regent of Scotland, who fell in battle in 1571. Theories vary for which occasion the jewel was made. Generally it is believed to have been a memorial piece following the Earl’s death.

Lady Margaret was the granddaughter of Henry VII, half sister of James V of Scotland and first cousin of Elizabeth I. Through her elder son Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, who married her niece Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1565, Lady Margaret was the grandmother of James VI of Scotland and I of England.

The heart-shaped locket, or ‘tablet’ in the language of the 16th century, was intended to be worn around the neck or on the breast. The complex iconography of memento mori motifs and symbols of profane and sacred love relate to the Earl and Countess’s life together - the salamander is the crest of the house of Douglas and the heart its device and three fleurs-de-lis on an azure field form the first quarter of the Lennox arms. The jewel also reveals their ambitions for their grandson, the future James VI and I and provides him with the series of admonitions, which are written around the edge of the pendant in enamel.

James I of England succeeded Elizabeth I in 1603, and secured the Protestant line of succession.  He was conciliatory towards Catholics who took the Oath of Allegiance, denying the Pope’s authority over the King. In 1604, James I authorised new translation of approved books of the Bible, to ensure a consistent and understandable rendering of the text. The Authorised, or King James version, as it is now known, was completed in 1611 and is considered a masterpiece of Jacobean prose.

  • Creator(s)

    ? Scotland (place of production)

  • 6.6 x 5.2 cm (whole object)

  • The Lennox Jewel

  • Probably made for Lady Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox; Horace Walpole (d. 1797); by descent; sale of the contents of Strawberry Hill, George Robins, 11 May 1842 (lot 60); purchased by London dealer Farrar of Wardour Street (£136.10s); from whom purchased by Queen Victoria in 1843 (130 guineas)

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