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Embroidered Eyes and Ears

Mary Queen of Scots would stop at nothing to win the English throne from her cousin, Elizabeth I. She even masterminded a plot to assassinate Elizabeth. Writing letters to her conspirators in secret code, Mary thought no one would discover her scheme.

But Elizabeth had a secret weapon in battling her archrival: Sir Francis Walsingham, chief advisor and spymaster extraordinaire. Walsingham intercepted Mary’s letters and hired an expert cryptographer to decode them. The letters gave Elizabeth the proof she needed to silence her enemy once and for all. Mary was convicted of treason and beheaded in 1587.

In The Rainbow Portrait, the artist painted Elizabeth I wearing a splendid gown embroidered with eyes and ears. This artist’s invention was an allegory to represent the spycraft necessary for the Queen to keep her throne.

 

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