- Material: Sardonyx Shell, 18k gold tested.
- Size: brooch 2 2/8" by 1 7/8" only cameo is 1 5/8" by 1 2/8" , earrings 2" by just over 5/8" at the widest point, the size does not include the earrings hook which is 2/8".
- Date and Origin: Circa 1860 Italy.
- Conditions: Immaculate, original fitted case marked with the name of the Edinburgh jeweller who sold the set, "Aitchison - Goldsmith - 23 Princess St. Edinburgh".
A fantastic More than Museum Quality cameo set depicting Mary Stuart the Queen of Scots. This set is simply outstanding, highest Museum Quality. Mary Stuart, the most beloved Queen of Scotland, is fully celebrated here, her head is carved on the brooch and twice on each earring. No words are necessary to speak about the beauty of these cameos. Look at her cheek, it is not white it is a bit rosy just like a cheek of real person should be, isn't it incredible? From this you can understand the skill of the carver. The rich and elaborated Etruscan style frames is just the right complement to the out of this world set. This is a rarest set in immaculate condition, even the fitted case is in almost mint conditions, just a smallest discoloration outside on the leather. Surely the set has been never worn and for sure it has been always stored in its case. The gold is so bright and brilliant that seems just new. The back of the brooch has a glazed compartment lined with blue silk fabric. The pin is curved just to wear to brooch even on very thick clothes. The carving on this set is truly amazing, look at the care which the carver had for the details of the dress which is spectacular. The collar, typical of the Elizabethan era, is so intricately carved that it seems real and it is three-dimensional. The beautiful decorations engraved on the dress and the rich necklaces centered by a cross pendant complete the perfect Elizabethan look of the dress. Her hairstyle is so magnificently made and her hair adorned with a typical small hat and a veil, all superbly carved. We can find the same care for the details on the earrings, which have the same highest quality carving of the brooch. Queen Mary is beautiful, her expression is so sweet and her facial features very pretty. Her perfect nose and her face are superbly made. Her expression is serene and happy. Everything is perfectly rendered. I have never seen a so wonderful Queen Mary cameos set. This is a real glorification of Queen Mary of Scots, perhaps commissioned by someone who loved her and her sad story deeply. An absolute beauty, a perfect set carved by a true artist. The stunning and heavy gold frame, which is a real artwork, completes this set and makes it unique. A fantastic cameos set to not to be missed.
A bit of history:
Mary Stuart was born at Linlithgow Palace on 7th (or on 8th as others say) December 1542, the daughter of James V of Scotland and Mary of Guise. Six days after her birth her father died, and she became Queen of Scotland. From her infancy, Scotland's rival pro-English and pro-French factions plotted to gain control of Mary. Her French mother was chosen as regent, and she sent Mary to France in 1548. Mary lived as part of the French royal family. In April 1558 she married the Dauphin Francis; she secretly agreed to bequeath Scotland to France if she should die without a son. In July 1559 Francis succeeded his father becoming King Francis II and Mary became Queen of France as well as of Scotland. In addition, many Roman Catholics recognised Mary Stuart as Queen of England after Mary I died and the Protestant Elizabeth I succeeded her to the throne in November 1558. Mary Stuart's claim to the English throne was based on the fact that she was the grand-daughter of Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII--Elizabeth's father. To the Roman Catholics, Mary's claim appeared stronger than Elizabeth's because they viewed Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn as illegal. Mary's young husband Francis II died in December 1560 after a reign of 17 months. Mary, who was about to become 18 years of age, was left in a difficult position. Unwilling to stay in France and live under the domination of her mother-in-law Catherine De Medicis she decided to return to Scotland and take her chances with the Protestant reformers.
On 19th August 1561, Mary landed at Leith and immediately took the advice of the moderates James Stuart (her half-brother, later earl of Moray) and William Maitland of Lethington. She recognised the Reformed (Presbyterian) church and allowed it a modest endowment but not full establishment. The Protestant reformers, including John Knox, were horrified because she had Mass in her own chapel, and the Roman Catholics were worried about her lack of zeal for their cause. For the next few years Mary tried to placate the Protestants and befriend Elizabeth while at the same time negotiating a Catholic marriage with Don Carlos, the son of Philip II of Spain. When refusals came on both the English succession and the Spanish marriage Mary accepted a marriage of love rather than a purely political match. She married her first cousin Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley on 29th July 1565.
This marriage was unacceptable to the Protestants, and Moray, with the aid of other nobles, raised a rebellion which Mary quickly suppressed. Nevertheless she felt betrayed by her Protestant advisors and withdrew some of her support from the Reformed church. Her marriage with Darnley soured and she refused him the right to succeed if she died without issue. Alone and disappointed, Mary turned to her Italian secretary, David Rizzio, for comfort and advice. The Protestant lords disliked Rizzio's influence because they suspected him of being a papal agent, and Darnley openly stated that the Italian was too intimate with the Queen. On 9th March 1566 a group of Protestant lords, acting with the support of Darnley, murdered Rizzio in Mary's presence at Holyrood Palace. Mary, who was six months pregnant, survived the horrible ordeal. In Edinburgh Castle on 19th June 1566, estranged from her husband and his allies, she gave birth to a son James (later James I of England). By the end of 1566 Mary had befriended James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, and was seeking a way to dissolve her marriage with Darnley. Various schemes were concocted; it seems unlikely, however, that Mary was aware of the actual plot to eliminate her husband. On 10th February 1567 Darnley was murdered at Kirk o' Field; the circumstances of his death to this day remain a mystery. At the time, Bothwell was believed to be the chief instigator. Nevertheless he was acquitted after an all too brief trial. In April, Mary went off with Bothwell (perhaps a victim of abduction); early in May he obtained a divorce from his wife, and on 15th May 1567 he and Mary were wed according to the Protestant rite. These events alienated even some of Mary's closest supporters. The nobles, many of whom disliked Bothwell, banded together to face Mary and her new husband at Carberry. The Queen was forced to surrender, and Bothwell fled. Mary was imprisoned at Lochleven Castle and on 24th July 1567, she was compelled to abdicate in favour of her son who became King James VI of Scotland. With the help of a few brave friends, Mary escaped from the castle and immediately rallied a large force behind her. They engaged in battle at Langside on 13th May 1568, and were soundly beaten by the army led by the Protestant lords. At this point Mary decided to leave Scotland and go to England to beg support from her cousin Elizabeth.
Mary crossed the Solway into England and nearly 19 years of captivity; she never returned to Scotland. While she was incarcerated in England, numerous plots by English Roman Catholics and foreign agents evolved around her. These plots were frustrated by English agents, but serious alarm was raised concerning the safety of Elizabeth. The Babington plot, which called for the assassination of Elizabeth, was formed to trap Mary. Mary was found guilty of complicity and sentenced to be beheaded. Although reluctant to execute her cousin, Elizabeth gave the order that was carried out at Fotheringhay Castle on 8th February 1587.
Mary did not retire until two in the morning on the last day of her life. She spent her final hours making a will and generously providing to those who had served her faithfully. Early on the morning of 8 February 1587, dressed in black satin and velvet, she entered the Great Hall of Fotheringhay Castle. She commanded her servant, Melville, to go to her son and tell him that she had never done anything to compromise their kingdom of Scotland. Mary was calm and composed before the several hundred spectators present; she listened while the execution warrant was read and then prayed aloud in English for the Church and her son. She also mentioned Queen Elizabeth and prayed for her to continue to serve God in the years to come. Mary comforted her weeping servants, her friends and supporters to the last. They helped her undress; beneath her all-black gown, she wore a red petticoat and bodice. Her women helped her attach the long red sleeves. Mary thus died wearing the liturgical color of Catholic martyrdom. She gave them her golden rosary and Agnus Dei, asking them to remember her in their prayers. Her eyes were covered with a white cloth. While her servants wept and called out prayers in a medley of languages, she laid her neck upon the block, commended herself to God and received the death-stroke. But the executioner was unsteady and the first blow cut the back of her head; Mary whispered, 'Sweet Jesus', and the second blow descended. When the executioner lifted her head and cried out, 'God save the Queen,' a macabre surprise occurred. Mary, queen of Scots had worn an auburn wig to her execution. It was left in the executioner's hand as her head, with its short, grey hair, fell to the floor.
Mary was buried first at Peterborough; in 1612, after he had ascended the English throne, her son James had her interred in Westminster Abbey, London, constructing a magnificent tomb which rivaled Elizabeth I's. In herEssay on Adversity
, written in 1580 while she was imprisoned, Mary had written of rulers: 'Tribulation has been to them as a furnace to fine gold - a means of proving their virtue.' It was a fitting epitaph for her own infamous life.