This early 17th-century portrait is believed to be based on a work by Rowland Lockey. Lockey was commissioned to paint over 30 pictures by William Cavendish (later first Earl of Devonshire) for Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, including a portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots, the head of which relates to this work. Lockey’s original may be derived from a miniature, painted from life during Mary’s imprisonment at Sheffield Castle.
Mary, Queen of Scots was the only daughter of James V of Scotland. She became Queen as a small child and was educated in France and brought up a Roman Catholic. In 1558 she married Francis II, Dauphin (eldest son of the king) of France. After the death of Mary I, she laid claim to the English throne. Following her husband’s death, she returned to Scotland, determined to restore Catholicism. She attempted to negotiate reconciliation with the new Queen of England, Elizabeth I, but was rebuked and ill feeling lingered. However, Mary continued to assert her right to the English throne. By 1568 she had been detained as a prisoner by Elizabeth and, in 1586, she was tried for treason and later condemned to death.
Painter and goldsmith Rowland Lockey was born in London and probably began his apprenticeship with Hilliard in 1581. By 1590 he was working independently and painted a series of family portraits based on the painting ‘The Family of Sir Thomas More’ by Hans Holbein. He received several commissions from 1592 to 1613, including those from ‘Bess’ of Hardwick, and later her son William Cavendish, for Hardwick Hall.
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