Karen Strang
Keep (detail)

Karen Strang
Keep (detail)

Eight caskets are placed behind a curtain in one of the original window recesses of the Solar, an area where ladies would retreat to do handiworks, read and gossip. Each casket displays a title.

When the boxes are opened, each reveals its secret, depicting scenes, part imaginary, part historical fact, from the life of Mary, Queen of Scots, up until her visit to Alloa Tower in July 1566. Each box acts as a “flashback” to her already turbulent life as she broods on her fate, with an estranged husband, a new-born son, and the dramatic experiences she has already witnessed.

The images within the boxes are part inspired by the French Court painters of the time and heraldic devices as well as reflecting the various contemporaneous artefacts in Alloa Tower. Barely discernible whisperings and herbal scents are also to be discovered behind the curtain. It is up to the viewer to put the contents of the boxes into context, as if putting together the pieces of a psychological jigsaw, as Mary Queen of Scots would surely have done in weighing up and making sense of her situation.