Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Three Faces of Mary

“She is not what you would describe as a classic beauty.”

-From "Mary, Queen of Scots: Dundee University Create Facial Reconstruction"

No, seriously, tell us what you really think! This remark by Professor Caroline Wilkinson (you might remember her from such facial reconstructions as Richard III) concerns a new 3D virtual sculpture of Mary, Queen of Scots. The rendering was created, under Wilkinson’s guidance, for an exhibit on Mary’s life at the National Museum of Scotland.
If you’re rusty on your Elizabethan history, Mary was Queen Elizabeth I’s first cousin once removed (read the chart, still confused), queen regent of Scotland, queen consort of France, and rival for the English throne. She braved numerous tragedies during her short life-her 1st husband Francis II of France died roughly two years after they wed, her 2nd husband Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley was murdered, and following her indictment in a plot against Elizabeth, beheaded at age forty-four.

Employing portraits and historical descriptions, a team of experts recreated her face to depict how she might have looked during her early-mid 20s. Notably, these historians also sought to display Mary’s anxiety by giving the sculpture forehead creases and dark circles under her eyes. Girlfriend just can’t catch a break!

Though Wilkinson concedes, “the paleness of her skin, red hair, and strong features meant she had a very striking appearance,” you can’t deny the accuracy of her first statement-this Mary looks frumpy. Conversely, death masks supposedly crafted shortly after her death, portray Mary as bearing a definite resemblance to Elizabeth Taylor. This jibes more with biographer Antonia Fraser’s description of Mary as, “the quintessential queen: statuesque, regal, dazzlingly beautiful.” So, what do you think?

Personally, I’m not sure it matters, though it’s fun to ponder. Regardless, of her physical appearance Mary was a fascinating and tragic woman who captivates historians (and podcasters) even today. Besides, not everyone can be a historical hottie… 

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