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Mary's Elephant, Elizabeth's Spinet

Ruth Padel


Mary's Elephant, Elizabeth's Spinet

Ruth Padel


Poem introduction

This poem came out of a commission I had from the VA museum to write about an object in its British galleries. And I asked for two objects because, extraordinarily, a tapestry which Mary Queen of Scots made over seventeen years in captivity, until she was executed by Elizabeth I, her cousin, has ended up in those galleries very very close to a spinet which that cousin, Elizabeth, had commissioned for her in Venice and played on. And I imagine in this poem that if you and I actually held hands, one of us touched the tapestry and one of us touched the spinet, we would actually be joining these two women who obviously in many ways had a great deal in common, they both turned to art when they were in pain. One thing you need to know is that the last wolf in Britain was shot in Scotland in the 18th Century. What you also need to know is that Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth's mother, had a logo of a falcon holding on to a sceptre. The tapestry is a very big tapestry, and I have focused on one little bit of it at the bottom, a little elephant that Mary copied from an old book.

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