Mary, Queen of Scots was a prolific letter writer throughout her life. Most of her surviving letters date from her period of imprisonment in England from 1568 until her execution in 1587. Letters were Mary’s primary means of communication at this point, both for keeping in touch with supporters, friends, and family, and of course for maintaining her involvement in political schemes for her restoration to the Scottish crown and, towards the end of her life, gaining the English crown, too. Some of the most poignant letters are in fact earlier examples; those written by Mary to her mother, Marie de Guise. These were written when Mary was in France from 1547 and after her marriage to the dauphin of France in 1558. A number of these are held in the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, and they offer insight to the preoccupations of a young woman negotiating the French court.
Re-enactment and Living History experiences have become a major vehicle for heritage organisations to present the past to a demanding audience and, therefore, to inspire children, families and those with a passing interest into the further study of history. Almost all of us have attended a historical re-enactment event at some point in our lives, bringing history to life in a way that no book or classroom ever could. My own fascination with history began when I was twelve years old with a school visit to see the Sealed Knot re-enact the 1642 Battle of Edgehill. Now, after years of visiting schools and historic sites myself with my partner, dressed as King Robert the Bruce and his Queen, Elizabeth de Burgh, we are always amazed at the reaction of children.
When I first began my research on the royal seals of Scotland, I had to repeatedly convince friends and family that I wasn’t studying semi-aquatic marine mammals. Instead, my work focused on wax impressions that might have been attached to documents such as charters. Less cute but, to my mind, incredibly interesting. So, why did I want to study seals? What fascinated me was the way in which a seal was both a practical object, used almost as an alternative to a written signature, and a symbolic object, which could embody the presence of the sealer and assert something about how they wished to be perceived.