An Important set of carved oak armorial panels, from The Queen Regent’s House, Blythe’s Close, Edinburgh. Three probably 16/17th century, the fourth 18th century
Carved in low relief and showing (clockwise from top right), the arms of the King of France, the arms of the Duke of Hamilton and the arms of the King of Scotland impaling those of Mary of Guise and the arms of the City of Edinburgh.
The first panel shows the arms of the King of France and the monogram HR (Henricus Rex) is likely to refer to King Henry II 1547-1559. This armorial has a paper label pasted to the reverse which reads “From the roof of a staircase in the Queen Regent’s House, Blythe’s Close, left hand side”
The second panel shows the arms of the Duke of Hamilton and are accompanied by the monogram JH, they are likely to be the arms of James Hamilton (1606-1649) and from 1643 1st Duke of Hamilton and Earl of Cambridge. This armorial has a label pasted to the reverse which reads “From the roof of a room in the Queen Regent’s house, Blythe Close, Edinburgh, left hand side of the close, The Arms of Hamilton”
The third panel shows the impaled arms of the King of Scotland, specifically King James V (1512-1542) and Mary Guise Duchesse of Longville and the daughter of Claude Duke of Guise by Antionette Bourbon. They were married 1538 at Notre Dame. Their daughter Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587) would have displayed the same arms but after her death they would have ceased to be used, so the arms were in use for the period 1538-1587. This armorial has a paper label pasted to the reverse inscribed “From the roof of a room in the Queen Regent’s House, Blythe’s Close, it was not in its original condition when last taken down, being fixed (to) a plaster ceiling, the Queen Regents arms, g.d with those of Scotland”
The fourth roundel showing the Arms of The City of Edinburgh is clearly in different style to the remainder and was probably never intended to part of the set. The date of the patent is 1732 and they were registered at the Lyon Court in 1774. There is no image of these arms in the register and for this reason slight variations are found in early depictions. They have been viewed by a number of officers who consider them to be unusual and likely to be of the earliest date.
Queen Regent’s House was situated at the top of the Mound in Edinburgh, just below the castle and was built immediately after the burning of Holyrood Palace and the city by the English in 1544. James Grant writing in his 19th Century book Old and New Edinburgh, described how the widowed queen, whose husband died in 1542, “would naturally seek a more secure habitation within the walls of the city, and close to the Castle guns.” Following the death of James V, the couple’s infant daughter became Mary Queen of Scots with her mother Mary of Guise ruling Scotland as Queen Regent on the child’s behalf from 1554 to 1560.
Mary was the second wife of James V and it is thought that she probably lived in Queen Regent’s House from 1542 to 1554. From 1557 the house was occupied by Alexander Acheson of Gosford, a merchant and local landowner, and his wife Helen Reid. Their coats of arms were added to the door.
Accounts of the later years of the building detailed large handsome fireplaces, clustered pillars, high ceilings, fine stucco and elaborate recesses. A carved oak door is in the collections of the National Museum of Scotland. Robert Chambers, in his 1802 book Traditions of Edinburgh, said: “It was interesting to wander through the dusky mazes of this ancient building, and reflect that they had been occupied three centuries ago by a sovereign princess, and of the most illustrious lineage.
Grant wrote: “Since then it shared the fate of all the patrician dwellings in old Edinburgh, and became the squalid abode of a host of families in the most humble ranks of life.” The house and the close was demolished in 1845-46 to provide a site for the Assembly Hall and New College.