Antwerp, Churches and Tourism
Tourism Pastoral, Diocese of Antwerp (TOPA vzw)

Saint Andrew's Church, Antwerp

Funeral monument of Mary Stuart’s ladies in waiting

Alabaster, Robrecht and Jan de Nole, ca. 1620; portrait, Frans II Pourbus, ca. 1620.

Among the church’s visitors there are a lot of British ones who want to admire the funeral monument of Elisabeth Curle († 1620) and her sister in law Barbara Moubray († 1616: both were ladies in waiting of Mary Stuart, queen of Scotland. This catholic monarch, who also claimed the English throne, was decapitated by order of queen Elizabeth I,  in 1587, after 19 years of imprisonment. Like many catholic compatriots, the two ladies in waiting fled their country and arrived in Antwerp about 1589. They found refuge close to this church, devoted to the same patron saint as Scotland.

According to the last will of the ladies Hippoliet Curle, Barbara Moubray’s son, commissioned a funeral monument in 1620. It was put near their now lost tombs. This alabaster funeral monument is often attributed to the Colijns de Nole workshop, but without any proof. The patron saints of the two ladies, Saint Barbara with an open book and Saint Elisabeth of Hungary distributing bread, flank the Latin memorial slab and the oval portrait of their queen. She is wearing a ruff, fitting the fashion of those days, a wreathed crown and mourning weeds. Above the portrait her patron saint sits enthroned: the Virgin and her Child. Underneath her portrait, engraved in brass we can read: ‘Mary, queen of Scotland and France, mother of king James of Great Britain.’

The small commemorative tablet tells the story of Mary Stuart:

In the year 1568 she took refuge in England, by taking up residence with her in-law Elisabeth, who reigned there. By the senate’s perfidy and the heretics’ envy she was beheaded for her religion after 19 years of imprisonment; she accepted martyrdom at the age of 45 in the year of our Lord 1587.”

The large text tells the story of the two ladies:

To the very good, great, and holy God.

Traveller, you see the memorial to two royal ladies from Britain.

Thanks to the protection of the catholic king they fled their native country because of the orthodox religion, and rest here in hope of resurrection.

In the first place (the memorial) to Barbara Moubray, daughter of baron John Moubray, who, as a lady-in-waiting of the illustrious Mary Stuart, queen of Scotland, was given in marriage to Gilbert Curle, who was the queen’s secretary for more than 20 years, and they lived peacefully together for 24 years. They had eight children, of whom six were given up to heaven. The two surviving sons received a distinguished education:

James joined the order of the Jesuits in Madrid, Spain.

Hippoliet, the youngest, wanted to enter into the service of Christ in the Franco-Belgian province of the order of the Jesuits.

The latter is desolate for his dear mother Barbara Curle, who exchanged the transient life for the eternal one on the 31st of July 1616 AD, at the age of 57.

Also (the memorial) to Elisabeth Curle, the aunt from the same noble line of the Curles, also lady-in-waiting to queen Mary, 8 years long faithful companion to her cousin, to whom in dying she gave the last kiss; for all times unmarried, most chaste in morals and most pious.

Hippoliet Curle, the son of her brother, has placed this memorial here from a thankful heart and a feeling for his family.

She (Elisabeth) ended the last day of her life in 1620 AD, on the 29th of May at the age of 60.

May they rest in peace, Amen.”