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Medieval Collection at the National Museum of Scotland

Mary Queen of Scots’s silver casket and the inscribed Book of Hours by the Queen

06 January 2022 | T. Russo

The National Museum of Scotland has a Scottish History and Archeology Department that holds Scottish material culture from the early period of the nation’s history to modern history. The collection is divided into four periods, ranging from the Prehistoric and Roman Archeology, to Medieval Archeology and History, Renaissance and Early Modern History, and Modern and Contemporary History.

Among its Medieval collection are items that belonged to Mary Queen of Scots. Scotland’s most cherished treasure is the rare early French silver Mary Queen of Scots Casket made in the late Medieval period. Objects like this casket were lost in the late 1600s as the French King Louis XIV ordered to have these objects melted down to pay for his armies. The museum curators assert that this casket was not melted down because it left France in the mid-1500s: “There are no other comparably fine French caskets known to exist from this period, making the Mary, Queen of Scots Casket particularly rare. It is likely that the belief in its association with Mary has kept it preserved for the past 450 years.”

The casket also contains a letter that reveals the function of the casket as the object that would hold letters transported between her and her third husband. In addition, the museum has a rare-illuminated Book of Hours that belonged to Mary Queen of Scots. It contains her own writing and a few verses written in French for her aunt. In addition, a few gems from the Queen’s collection are also located at the National Museum in Scotland. Explore the objects which are useful in teaching about this Queen and topics under Daily Life for nobility and rulers (Ancient Civilization curriculum) and even discussions of Women’s role in the Middle Ages in which this was a unique position for Mary Stewart while her cousin Elizabeth was queen in England.

The Mary Queen of Scots Casket compare to the AGO casket discussed JUne 2019

Resources for Teachers

The provenance note. It records that the casket “was the box that carried letters and tokens by messengers between Queen Mary of Scotland and the Earl of Bothwell”, who was Mary’s third husband.

An illuminated Book of Hours (Latin, 200 ff. vellum) in which Mary, Queen of Scots, inscribed an affectionate verse in French to her great-aunt, Louise de Bourbon. Written in 1550 in the Early Modern Period.

Penicuik jewels and a pendant, also part of the Penicuik jewels (said to have been given to one of her supporters during her captivity), and a locket. Jewels were useful gifts to bind supporters to the Crown.

How to cite this blog:

Russo, Teresa. "Medieval Collection at the National Museum of Scotland: Mary Queen of Scots’s silver casket and the inscribed Book of Hours by the Queen" Teaching the Middle Ages, January 6, 2022,

Verses written by the teenager Mary Stewart loctaed in the illuminated manuscript (c. 1550):

“Since you wish to remember me here in your prayers and devout orations, I ask you first that you remember what part you have in my affections.”

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