Mary's Hand


Friday, 15 February 2019

We are delighted to welcome McCaldin Arts to the Society of Antiquaries to perform excerpts from their acclaimed production Mary’s Hand. A unique performance which brings to life one of England’s most fascinating monarchs. 

Dr John Cooper FSA will introduce the performance with a talk on Mary I as England’s first female ruler, focusing on her priorities, her power, and why she has had such a bad press.


Eclipsed by her younger half-sister, Elizabeth, Mary Tudor lies ‘in the shadow hand of Time’ – confused with Mary Queen of Scots, vilified as ‘Bloody Mary’ or forgotten. Hailed at her funeral as ‘a King’s daughter’ (first child of Henry VIII) and ‘King also’ (first Queen of England to rule in her own right) the hand that Fortune dealt her was a tricky one. She lies beneath Elizabeth in Westminster Abbey, awaiting resurrection in the afterlife and in the popular imagination.

Marys Hand Image

It’s a little-known fact that Mary loved games of chance. At the beginning of Mary’s Hand Mary invites the audience to help tell her story in a game of cards. The cards (Court Cards – Royals only!) represent the key players in her life. For the show to begin the audience must choose a card. The choice of that and subsequent cards determines the order in which she will sing her story and reflect upon influences and events: her father Henry VIII, her mother Catherine of Aragon, her Catholic faith, as well as the perceived causes of her troubles; her half-brother Edward, half-sister Elizabeth, the ever-stronger Protestant faith, and her desperate desire for a child.

Above all, Mary was driven by the wish to be a good monarch and her deep conviction that she needed to restore England to the Church of Rome. Her marriage to the Catholic Philip II of Spain promised to resolve many of these issues at a stroke, but Mary played her cards badly and paid a high public and personal price.

With words by Di Sherlock and music by Martin Bussey, Mary’s Hand is performed by solo mezzo-soprano Clare McCaldin and is scored for cello, trumpet and oboe/cor anglais.

Mary’s dress is a replica of the dress worn in her portrait by Hans Eworth, in the collection of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

When Caxton published Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur, he listed in his preface a number of relics which in his view showed that Arthur was real. Richard Barber looks at these and other supposed objects from Arthur’s court, suggests sources for them, and places them in the context of the British passion for the Arthurian legend.

Booking Information:

Booking essential. Click here to book on the Society of Antiquaries website.


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