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  • Writer's pictureLilly

Mary Queen of Scots House, Jedburgh

Updated: Jan 10, 2020

Calling all MQoS fans! If you have even a passing interest in Mary Queen of Scots, I highly recommend a visit to the Scottish Borders town of Jedburgh. The Mary Queen of Scots House is a fascinating museum full of interesting displays, replicas and original items associated with stories of Mary, including a lock of what is said to be her hair, (reported to have been identified as her own in her own handwriting), a cannon she gave to the Kerr family, and a watch, thimble and shoe that she lost on her journey.

According to Visit Scotland, Mary spent a month in this Jedburgh house in 1566. She was apparently quite sick after visiting the Earl of Bothwell at Hermitage Castle and stayed in Jedburgh for a month to convalesce. Various artifacts associated with stories from her stay and the corresponding journey are in the house. (While it seems to be very widely accepted that she stayed here, there are some quiet rumblings that she actually stayed at Ferniehirst Castle. But it is pretty universally presented as fact that it was Jedburgh.)

One of the most well known items in the house is Mary’s death mask. The woman on duty at the museum told me that their death mask is a historic item and a copy made directly from the original death mask itself. The sign accompanying the mask says, “Mary’s death on the execution block at the hand of Queen Elizabeth was characterised by her dignity, bearing and composure it was common to strike a mask from the severed head as soon as possible after death. The original appearance of the mask would be white and unembellished. This example which was found by the late Dr. Charles Hepburn of Glasgow in Peterborough where Mary was first married has been hand painted.”

No doubt if you are an avid MQoS fan, you will be aware of the wax death mask at Lennoxlove House, which shows a different face altogether. There is an abundance of controversy surrounding the masks. Which one is real, was Lennoxlove actually of one of the Hamilton women who lived at the house and not Mary, was there even a death mask made of Mary at all, etc. Opinions vary widely, from her biographers to museum staff all telling different stories. To many, the Jedburgh mask has the edge if you compare it to the bust of Mary on her tomb at Westminster Abbey, and many of her portraits. Another argument is that the Lennoxlove mask looks far too young and small. Others feel that both are too perfect looking and therefore not realistic of how Mary was likely to have looked. Here is a photo of the Lennoxlove mask from their website ( so you can compare for yourself.

The house is stunning, and set in beautiful gardens. At the back of the gardens is an amazing 4 sided carved stone, but I will save that for another post :)


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