Joint iconography for joint sovereigns: Mary Queen of Scots, James VI, and the Campaign for the Association, c.1578-1584, 6 June

08 March 2023
Professor Paulina Kewes explores a little-known Stewart image-making campaign that aimed to promote the scheme for joint sovereignty of Mary Queen of Scots and her son James VI in the crown of Scotland.

6 June 2023, 6.30pm UK time


In this 45-minute illustrated talk, Professor Kewes provides a novel view of the iconography of Mary Queen of Scots and her son James VI of Scotland and its political function.

Unlike traditional scholarship which concentrates on solo depictions of Mary, this talk will  demonstrate a surprisingly overlooked element of her (self-)presentation in the late 1570s and early 1580s. In those years, there appeared a possibility (or so she hoped) of Mary acquiring joint sovereignty with James in the Scottish crown through a settlement negotiated with Elizabeth I of England and the French.

A campaign for joint sovereignty

Mary’s principal diplomatic agent and publicist bishop John Leslie propagated this scheme, known as the Association, in his historical and polemical writings in both English and Latin. The campaign involved engraved depictions of Mary and James, their changing stature reflected in size and positioning of their busts. There is also the striking double portrait (shown here) of Mary and James at Blair Castle in Scotland, dated 1583, with the closed imperial crown floating between them – a powerful visual emblem of shared sovereignty.

Stewart image making

Bringing together the perspectives of political history, material culture, and histoire du livre, this paper elucidates the significance of the iconographic campaign in favour of the Association. It thus reveals a dimension of Stewart image-making which has hitherto been lost from view.

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Event details

Join Professor Paulina Kewes for a live c.45-minute illustrated online talk on  6 June, followed by approximately 30 minutes of questions from the audience. The registration fee includes on-demand access to the event recording (released the following day) for 7 days after the broadcast.

The event will be chaired by Dr Allan Kennedy, Lecturer in History at the University of Dundee and consultant editor of History Scotland magazine.

Registration fee: £10 - includes 7-day access to the event recording. Starts 6.30pm UK time. To find the start time in your time zone, visit TimeAndDate. Got a question about booking? E-mail Rachel Bellerby. 

Speaker details

Professor Paulina Kewes is Helen Morag Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Jesus College and Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford. She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and serves on the editorial boards of the Huntington Library Quarterly and Postgraduate English.

She is a co-investigator on 'The Stuart Successions', a major AHRC-funded project exploring succession literature in Britain from King James I to Queen Anne.