A Crucifix in the Walter Scott Collection at Abbotsford – did it belong to Mary?

In this vlog Kirsty Archer-Thompson, Collections and Interpretation Manager at the Abbotsford Trust, discusses a crucifix in the collection that supposedly belonged to Mary.

Amongst the 2,000 or so objects relating to Mary that the project has found in Scottish heritage collections, a substantial proportion have – or claim – a direct personal link to her. Some of these, such as Mary’s embroideries in the Royal Collection Trust, have a strong and verifiable provenance, while others, like several objects in the National Museums of Scotland collection, do not, but have historically been claimed as Marian anyway. Many such ‘ambiguous’ objects were purchased in the eighteenth and nineteenth century by collectors like Sir Walter Scott, who owned a crucifix that supposedly belonged to Mary and a gruesomely fascinating portrait of Mary’s severed head, and had a cast of Mary’s death mask inserted in his ceiling! Dr William Hunter, founder of the Hunterian collection at Glasgow, also had a personal interest in Mary, and actively sought out books and texts about her.

Mary Queen of Scots’ deathmask as featured in the ceiling decoration of Abbotsford’s library

As Kirsty explains, the object in question – a gilt crucifix – has an attractive story attached to it. But do its materials and construction bear out the tale? Watch to find out!

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