[Musings on Cultural History ~ Clothing, chiefly]

Mary, Mary, quite contrary?

I have just finished a chapter for an edited book that examines how monarchs are remembered (for good and ill) after their reigns. My contribution focuses on nineteenth-century interest in Britain’s Stuart dynasty (1603-1714) through the medium of fancy dress costume. I suggest that the tumultuous lives of these rulers – particularly that of Mary Queen of Scots (r. 1542-1567) and her grandson Charles I (r. 1625-1649) – when re-enacted through costume, enabled people (and especially women) to construct new public identities at a time of social instability, chiefly the result of industrialisation. This is not the place to re-write the chapter, but I thought it could be the place where I include images of the various people who dressed as Mary Queen of Scots (MQS), and people associated with her, during the nineteenth century (that I know of!). [more images to follow..]

Lady Londonderry’s Ball, 1844


Mary Lowther Ferguson as MQS


The Waverley Ball, 6 July 1871


Alexandra, Princess of Wales as MQS


Punch, 1885


A satire on the prevalence of MQS costumes at nineteenth-century fancy dress entertainments.


The Earl of Dufferin’s Grand Fancy Dress Ball, Ottawa, 23 February 1896

See: Cynthia Cooper, Magnificent Entertainments: Fancy Dress Balls of Canada’s Governors General 1876-1898 (New Brunswick: Goose Lane Editions, 1997), 44-46.


The Countess of Dufferin as Mary of Guise, MQS’s Mother


The Earl of Dufferin as James V of Scotland, MQS’s father


The children of the Earl & Countess of Dufferin dressed as MQS and her eventual husband, Lord Darnley.

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