About this artwork

The present-day title would suggest that this picture shows Mary's return to Edinburgh after her defeat at Carberry Hill, but Drummond actually portrayed Mary’s subsequent departure from Edinburgh at sunset on 17 June 1567 to be incarcerated in the island fortress of Lochleven Castle. She is shown encountering the banner with its hostile slogan, accusing her of Darnley's murder. The character of Mary fascinated many nineteenth-century writers and painters, and different views as to her guilt or misfortune were put forward. Drummond does not reveal his own attitude, but suggests by means of Mary's fallen glove (a glove or gage required a champion to pick it up and fight in its defence) the enigma and challenge which her story still poses.

  • title: The Return of Mary Queen of Scots to Edinburgh
  • accession number: NG 625
  • artist: James DrummondScottish (1816 - 1877)
  • depicted: Mary
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: Mary Queen of Scots
  • materials: Oil on canvas
  • date created: 1870
  • measurements: 86.40 x 125.10 cm (framed: 108.50 x 147.50 x 7.50 cm)
  • credit line: Bequest of the artist 1877
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

James Drummond

James Drummond

Drummond was an accomplished artist and antiquarian, who specialised in Scottish history paintings. He studied at the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh and made many fine drawings, reflecting his interests in arms, armour and architecture. He supported the preservation of Edinburgh's historic buildings, which often feature in his paintings. Drummond researched his subjects thoroughly and planned his compositions along strict academic lines. Detailed drawings of individual figures, figure groups and compositional sketches, in pencil and watercolour, preceded his final painting. Drummond was elected to the Royal Scottish Academy in 1852 and became curator of the National Gallery of Scotland in 1868.