Esther Inglis

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Esther Inglis in a 1595 portrait.

Esther Inglis (married name Kello) (1571 – 1624) was a Scottish miniaturist, embroiderer, calligrapher, translator and writer. Of Huguenot origin (her surname was originally spelt Langlois, i.e. "English"; Inglis being the Scots word for "English"), her family had escaped to Scotland to escape persecution. Learning calligraphy from her mother, she served as official scribe to her husband.

Inglis produced about 60 known calligraphic manuscripts. These were bound as miniature books.


She was born in France, probably at Dieppe; her father, Nicholas Langlois, and her mother, Marie Prisott, with their infant children, fled from France to England after the St. Bartholomew massacre in 1572. In 1578 Nicholas was settled at Edinburgh, where he was master of the French school. On 16 December 1581, Nicholas was granted a pension by James VI for his teaching in Edinburgh. The royal letter mentioned his work forming his pupil's "hands to a perfect shape of letter."[1] Esther was instructed in the art of calligraphy by her mother, and is said by Thomas Hearne to have become nurse to the young Prince Henry. Her patrons included Queen Elizabeth and her ministers, as well as the royal family of Scotland and David Murray.

She married about 1596 Bartholomew Kello of Leith, a minister. John Kello, her father-in-law, was minister of Spott, Haddingtonshire, in 1567; and was hanged for the murder of his wife, Margaret Thomson, on 4 October 1570, writing a confession published by Robert Lekprevik at Edinburgh. Bartholomew was collated to the rectory of Willingale Spain, Essex, on 21 December 1607. Esther Kello died on 30 August 1624; her husband survived her, dying on 15 March 1638.


She left two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary. Samuel Kello (died 1680), her only son, was educated at Edinburgh (M.A. 1618). Afterwards he was admitted to Christ Church, Oxford, and became rector of Spexall, Suffolk.


  1. ^ Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland, vol. 8 (1982), 98, no. 591, ("forming of thair handis to a perfyte schap of lettir")

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Kello, Esther". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 

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