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Panel - The Oxburgh Hangings
  • The Oxburgh Hangings
    Talbot, Elizabeth Countess of Shrewsbury, born 1527 - died 1608
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The Oxburgh Hangings

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Sheffield (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1570 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Talbot, Elizabeth Countess of Shrewsbury, born 1527 - died 1608 (maker)
    Mary, Queen of Scots, born 1542 - died 1587 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embroidered linen with silk, gold and silver threads

  • Credit Line:

    Presented by Art Fund

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 57, case 5

Object Type
Making up large decorative hangings from a number of smaller panels which were then applied to a sympathetic background material, was a popular pastime of well to do ladies in the 16th century. This allowed for a group of women to work on individual panels at the same time. If required, the hanging could be dismantled at a later stage and the panels re-used.

It is very rare to be able to identify surviving embroideries as having been owned or worked by royalty. Unfortunately for the doomed Mary, Queen of Scots, she had plenty of time while imprisoned to work on numerous embroideries, some of which have her initials or cipher. This activity must have both filled her time and occupied her mind and many of the emblems or mottoes used have more significance than is immediately apparent.

Materials & Making
Although relatively costly silk, silver and gold threads are used in the Oxburgh embroideries, the tent stitch used is one of the simplest to work. The result was a set of both serviceable and decorative panels which when mounted together would produce a functional and hardwearing hanging.

Physical description

Textile panel of embroidered linen with silk, gold and silver threads in cross stitch.

Place of Origin

Sheffield (probably, made)


ca. 1570 (made)


Talbot, Elizabeth Countess of Shrewsbury, born 1527 - died 1608 (maker)
Mary, Queen of Scots, born 1542 - died 1587 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Embroidered linen with silk, gold and silver threads

Marks and inscriptions

Embroidered on scrolls


Height: 26 cm maximum, Width: 28 cm, Depth: 1 cm

Object history note

Made by Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury and members of her household. Originally all the panels were applied to a green velvet background, parts of which survive on the central panel and on several of the smaller panels. Probably made in Sheffield Castle where Mary was imprisoned. The Oxburgh Hangings. Hanging with applied panels of embroidery, formerly at Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk.

Descriptive line

Textile panel 'The Oxburgh Hangings' of embroidered linen with silk, gold and silver threads, possibly made by Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth Talbot, probably made in Sheffield, ca. 1570

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587)

Mary Queen of Scots' troubled reign in Scotland ended in 1568 when the Scottish Lords forced her to flee across the border into England. As Elizabeth's cousin Mary had long claimed the English throne, leading Elizabeth to see Mary as a threat and place her in the custody of the Earl of Shrewsbury. Mary was held captive in various English country houses for 19 years. She was finally executed in 1587.

Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587) embroidered these panels with Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury (Bess of Hardwick) and ladies of the household, during her imprisonment. Mary may have intended the large central panel as a cushion for Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel (1557-1595), an English Catholic courtier imprisoned in London by Elizabeth I. Mary's emblem of the marigold turning towards the sun (lower right) has been combined with various coats of arms and emblems representing courage in adversity. Many other panels from the same group are now at Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk. [27/03/2003]

Subjects depicted

Sea monster


Wall coverings; Textiles; Embroidery; Royalty; British Galleries; Scotland


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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