To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Union of the Crowns, some of the most exceptional artefacts from the Stuart dynasty will be shown in the Drawings Gallery at Windsor Castle. Following the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, James VI of Scotland claimed the English throne and became the first Stuart king of England. The Stuarts held the throne for over 100 years, until the death of Queen Anne in 1714. The exhibition of drawings, miniatures and books from the Royal Library reflect a period of flourishing court culture and great political upheaval.
The 17th century saw the development of a sophisticated visual arts culture in England, encouraged by Charles I and Charles II. Both were both passionate collectors, and the display includes several of the finest Old Master drawings acquired by Charles II, such as Leonardo da Vinci's A pointing lady in a landscape and Michelangelo's The head of the Virgin.
One of the most notable documents selected from the Royal Library is a rare copy of the Treaty of the Union of 1706, which paved the way for the creation of the unified Parliament of Great Britain the following year. It is signed and sealed by the Earl of Seafield, Lord High Chancellor of Scotland, and Thomas Tenison, Archbishop of Canterbury, and their fellow commissioners. Also on display is the marriage treaty between Charles I and Henrietta Maria of France, signed in November 1624, four months before Charles became king on the death of his father, James I. Among the sumptuously bound and decorated books from the Stuart monarchs' private libraries are a copy of James I's Counterblaste to Tobacco (1604), his tirade against the recently imported practice of smoking tobacco, and Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories and Tragedies (1632), annotated by Charles I.
Exquisite miniatures of the Stuart monarchs commissioned by their royal sitters as keepsakes and personal gifts, are included in the display. Among these are a rare profile portrait of Anne of Denmark, wife of James I, and a portrait of Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, eldest son of James I and Anne. This miniature of Henry Frederick was the likeness by which Charles I wished to remember his elder brother and is regarded as the finest and the most ambitious portrait of the Prince by court artist Isaac Oliver.
Other material depicts the turbulent political and social upheaval of the era. Contemporary prints show the battle of Naseby, the crucial military conflict of the Civil War, and the execution of Charles I; broadsheets proclaim the abolition of the Monarchy and the establishment of the Commonwealth; and propaganda engravings mock Oliver Cromwell's presumption to the throne.
Windsor Castle is open daily. As the Castle is a working royal palace, opening arrangements may change at short notice. It is advisable to check before planning a visit. Details of admission and tickets are available from www.royal.gov.uk or 020 7766 7304.
Further press information is available from Public Relations and Marketing, the Royal Collection, telephone: 020 7839 1377, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Images are available from the Royal Collection's folder in the Arts section on PA's Picselect at www.picselect.com