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Chatsworth House, Queen Mary's Bower

Mary Queen of Scots was frequently held as a prisoner at Chatsworth House, a home of Bess of Hardwick and her fourth husband George Talbot, the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury. Talbot was Mary's guardian. J. Charles Cox, in 1915, noted that "the ill-starred Queen spent many hours of her long captivity at Chatsworth in uninterrupted seclusion"[1]. She was taken to Chatsworth five times; firstly in May 1560 and then in 1573, 1577, 1578 and 1581.

Alison Plowden has commented that Mary and Bess made a strange pair but had a "surprising amount in common" as both were "skilful, enthusiastic needlewomen"[2].

The house where she was incarcerated has been replaced by the present building, but Queen Mary's Bower has survived from that time.

J. B. Firth provided an account of how the Bower looked at the beginning of the twentieth century:

"It stands below the House, close to the bridge over the Derwent, a grey stone building, to which access is obtained by a flight of thirty steps rising over a moat of varying width. Two old yew trees growing within the bower throw their shade over the entrance gate, a third flourishes in a corner, and in the centre a fine sycamore with spreading branches. Over the gate and fixed to a stone shield is an iron plate displaying the arms of the Scottish Queen. The quarterings showing the lilies of France and the lions of Scotland and England. No spot could be more romantic, built up from the placid moat three or four feet at its deepest, surrounded with crowns of foliage and haunted by the memories of the Queen of Scots. It is said that the bower was built for her, and tradition speaks of an underground passage connecting it with the House. But this subterranean way is merely a drain, and as the Queen was allowed more liberty at Chatsworth than elsewhere, it is hard to see why she should have been shut up in this bower"[3].

Chatsworth is mentioned in the following on-site transcripts:
Derbyshire's Parishes, 1811, Parishes C, which has much more about Chatsworth..
Kelly's 1891 Directory

Illustration by Nellie Erichsen from Firth[1].
In the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] Cox, John Charles, (1915, 2nd edition, revised), "Derbyshire" - Illustrated by J. Charles Wall, Methuen & Co., London. First edition published in 1903.

[2] Plowden, Alison (1972) "Mistress of Hardwick", BBC Publications, Marylebone High Street, London ISBN: 0563106646.

[3] Firth, J. B. (1908) "Highways and Byways in Derbyshire" MacMillan & Co., London.

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