A SILVER casket once owned by Mary, Queen of Scots, has been secured by National Museums Scotland for £1.8m.

It is thought to have been made in Paris between 1493 and 1510 and will go on display at the National Museum of Scotland.

Inside were love letters and poems between Mary and her third husband, the Earl of Bothwell, implicating them both in a plot to murder her second husband, Lord Darnley.

National Museums Scotland’s director Dr Chris Breward said: “This extraordinary casket is truly one of Scotland’s national treasures.

“Venerated as a relic of Mary for centuries, it is believed to represent a momentous and disastrous moment in her turbulent life.

“Beyond this, the magnificence of the piece speaks to a queen at the height of her powers, wealth and position.

“I am delighted that this beautiful object has been acquired for the nation.”

It is thought Mary received the casket from her first husband, François II of France, and that she brought it with her to Scotland following his death in 1560.

Inventories from this time highlight several precious jewels and valuable objects.

It was ultimately brought before the Scottish Privy Council where it was broken into to reveal its contents. What they were at the time remains unknown.

A year later, however, when the Earl of Moray produced the casket at Westminster, it contained the letters which led to Mary’s imprisonment.  

For three centuries, the casket was owned by the family of the Dukes of Hamilton, following its acquisition, around 1674, by Anne, Duchess of Hamilton.

The cost was supported by the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund, the Scottish Government as well as a range of trusts and individual donors.

You can view a 3D model of the casket here.