The Douglas Archives

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Mary, Queen of Scots casket acquired for the nation - from the Douglases!

The Mary, Queen of Scots Casket stands as one of Scotland's most revered and enigmatic treasures. Its allure lies not only in its exquisite craftsmanship but also in its enduring connection to the controversial queen herself.

For over 300 years, a handwritten letter telling the casket’s history has been stored within it. This note records that the casket was bought by Anne, Duchess of Hamilton, having been told by its previous owner, Mary, Marchioness of Douglas, that the casket had belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots. It is this long-attested association with one of Scotland’s most famous historical figures that gives the casket its special significance.

Handwriting analysis has shown that the letter found in the casket was written by David Crawford, secretary to Duchess Anne, before the duchess’s death in 1716. Crawford wrote that “the Duchess of Hamilton being told that by my Lady Marquis that the said box did once belong to the Queen Her Grace bought the same from the goldsmith” after the marchioness’s death in 1674. The Marchioness of Douglas had left it to her younger son, James, who promptly sold it. On hearing this, the Duchess of Hamilton, who had married the marchioness’s older son William, retrieved it from the goldsmith.

The note shows, therefore, that the casket has been believed to have been owned by Mary since at least the mid-1600s. Ever since, it has been carefully preserved by the Dukes of Hamilton who have treasured it as a relic of the queen.

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