Mary Queen of Scots
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
This embroidered canvas panel, dating to about 1569, was made by Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587) who was known as a skilled needleworker.
Mary has pictured a ginger cat with a mouse—set against a checkered floor. Her cipher is prominent. This piece, like much of the Queen’s needlework, was created between 1569 and 1584, during the period when Mary had fled from Scotland and was held captive in England by the Earl of Shrewsbury. Together with Shrewsbury’s wife, Mary Queen of Scots embroidered many such canvas panels which had been drawn out for her in black silk by an embroideress.
Mary based the figure of the cat on an image from a woodcut in” Icones Animalium” by Conrad Gesner--an illustrated tome of natural history which was published in Zurich in 1555. Some suggest that she picked the theme of “A Catte” to indicate that she saw herself as the mouse and Queen Elizabeth as her captor.