Firenze Centro by ypsylon_
Giovanni Baglione c. 1602
Sacred and Profane Love (detail)
Sandro Botticelli, Primavera.
Alexander McQueen, spring, 2018.
Hieronymus Bosch c. 1503-1504
Garden of Earthly Delights (details)
The family feud between England’s Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603) and her cousin, the Scottish Queen Mary (1542–1587)—not “Bloody” Mary, Elizabeth’s half-sister—has fascinated people since the 16th century. In 1568, Mary crossed the border into England after being forced to abdicate the Scottish throne. Mary’s grandmother, Margaret, was the sister of England’s King Henry VIII (1491–1547), which gave Mary a royal Tudor bloodline.
Ultimately, Elizabeth had Mary arrested and placed under house arrest after letters surfaced that made it seem as though Mary was making a play for the English throne. House arrest in the case of a queen meant a comfortable life in a secluded castle, under constant watch. It was during this period that Pope Pius V (1504–1572) allegedly sent Mary a beautifully illuminated prayer book to comfort the Catholic queen as she languished away in Protestant England.
After Mary spent 20 years as a royal prisoner, Elizabeth signed the death warrant calling for Mary’s execution, when news of yet another plot against Elizabeth surfaced. On the morning of Feb. 8, 1587, a devout Mary approached the scaffold. In her hands, she clutched the prayer book, and her final words before she lowered her head to the executioner’s block were prayers in Latin.
After Mary’s execution, her clothes were removed from her body and burned to prevent supporters turning them into relics. But her prayer book was preserved and ultimately returned to her royal family. There is an inscription on the front cover, viewable now only under blacklight (see above), that was allegedly written by her grandson, King James II (1633–1701): “This Book belonged to Queen Mary of Scotland And shee used it at her death upon the Scaffold.“
15th century Florence (click on image for greater detail)