Francis de Zuleuta, Embroideries by Mary Stuart and Elizabeth Talbot at Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk, Oxford, 1923
Margaret Swain, The Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots, Carlton, Bedford: Ruth Bean, 1973
Donald King, ed, British Textile Design in the Victoria & Albert Museum, Tokyo, 1980, vol. 1, plate 20
Embroidered hanging of green velvet with an all-over interlaced pattern worked in red silk and silver-gilt thread. To the velvet are applied 25 panels of various shapes and sizes embroidered in coloured silks and silver-gilt thread in cross and tent stitches. In the centre is a large square embroidered panel bordered with grotesque ornament with the motto 'INGENII LARGITOR' (Bestower of wit). Four octagonal embroidered panels with emblems and monogram of Elizabeth Talbot Shrewsbury. Twenty smaller cross-shaped embroidered panels with birds, animals and fish, each with its name in a scroll beside it. The central panel is edged with silver and silver-gilt bobbin lace. Lined with green silk.
Now on permanent loan to Oxburgh Hall, in Norfolk, these embroideries were made between 1569 and about 1585. They are the work of Mary Queen of Scots during her imprisonment in England and Elizabeth (Bess) Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury. Bess's husband George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury was responsible for Mary and she stayed at one or other of the Shrewsbury estates.
This work is known as the 'Shrewsbury' hanging, as it bears several of Bess's monograms. It comprises individual panels of canvas work (stitching over the threads of a coarsely woven linen) in coloured silks, silver and silver-gilt thread, mounted on green velvet. The central panel bears the inscription INGENII LARGITOR (Bestower of wit). There are four octagonal panels (one with the monogram ETS - Elizabeth Talbot Shrewsbury) and 20 smaller, cross-shaped panels, depicting various plants, birds, animals and fish. Several are signed 'ES', while one bears Mary's monogram, the letters MA superimposed on the Greek letter phi.
Most of the motifs depicted were copied from the wood-cut illustrations of emblem books and natural histories by well-known authors such as Claud Paradin, Conrad Gessner, Pierre Belon. These often represented sentiments and morals from classical literature and contemporary folklore. Not all the panels were embroidered by Mary or Bess, as household accounts show that both had professional embroiderers on staff. The existing 'hangings' are not the original arrangement of the embroidery. They may have first served as cushion covers or smaller hangings for Bess's various houses, while Mary frequently sent embroideries as gifts to friends and supporters, as well as Queen Elizabeth.
The embroideries were given to Ann Dacre, Countess of Arundel, daughter-in-law of the Duke of Norfolk who was executed in 1574 for plotting to marry Mary and supplant Queen Elizabeth. It is thought that the current arrangement of wall hanging, two bed curtains and valance was put together in the late 17th century by Ann Dacre's daughter-in-law, Alathea Talbot, granddaughter of Bess, Countess of Shrewsbury. The hangings made their way through descendants of the Arundels to Cowdray Park. In 1761, the hangings came to Oxburgh Hall. They were purchased by the National Art Collections Fund in 1955. Unable to give them directly to the National Trust, the NACF donated the hangings to the V&A Museum, on condition they remain at Oxburgh.