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Monday, 1 May, 2000, 13:52 GMT 14:52 UK
Historical treasures unveiled
Bonnie Prince Charlie
Bonnie Prince Charlie "that most romantic of rebels"
Priceless treasures belonging to the Catholic Church in Scotland, including the memorial portrait of Mary Queen of Scots, have gone on display for the first time.

The artefacts, housed at the former Catholic seminary at Blairs on the outskirts of Aberdeen, also include a ring with a lock of Bonnie Prince Charlie's hair and a portrait of James III, the Old Pretender, painted by the artist Trevisani.

The collection of objects and paintings spans more than five centuries of the Catholic Church in Scotland's turbulent history.

Mary Queen of Scots
Treasured portrait of Mary Queen of Scots

Blairs, on the South Deeside Road, in Aberdeenshire, was established as a school in 1829 and over the years became the place where Catholic treasures were stored for safe keeping.

When the school closed in 1986, the Blairs Museum Trust was set up to ensure the preservation of the treasures and organise their exhibition.

As the exhibition doors open for the first time, it is expected that the museum's treasures will attract huge international interest.

Officials say the most famous items on display are those relating to the House of Stewart.

French Revolution

The life size portrait of Mary Queen of Scots was commissioned by one of her ladies-in-waiting, Elizabeth Curle, prior to her execution in 1587 and shows her dressed in the robes she wore on the day she was beheaded.

It also includes vignettes of the queen preparing for execution and her grieving ladies-in-waiting.

When Curle died the painting was bequeathed to the Scots College in Paris but was hidden up a chimney when the college and other church establishments were threatened during the French Revolution.

James III
James III - The Old Pretender

Scottish church authorities eventually secured the portrait's return following negotiations in 1815.

Huge interest is also expected in the portrait of James III and items belonging to "that most romantic of rebels" Bonnie Prince Charlie.

As well as the ring and lock of hair, the museum also has a snuffbox which he presented to one of his supporters and an enamelled watch featuring a portrait of his daughter, Charlotte, Duchess of Albany.

Museum curator Jackie Miller said: "The museum is important because it records our common cultural heritage and is also the sanctuary for the treasures of the Scottish Catholic Church.

"The collection really breaks down into three related parts. Those items relating to Mary Queen of Scots, items belonging to members of the House of Stewart and the vestments and silver and gold pieces that were used by the church."

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Scottish Monarch - your initial reaction
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