Professional Calligrapher and Miniaturist
Esther Inglis was a talented calligrapher and miniaturist at a time when both art forms were highly prized in England. She is one of the few women of sixteenth-century Europe who can be considered a professional writer and artist; in order to support herself and her family, she presented her illuminated manuscripts to various patrons in hopes of receiving some financial reward or further employment.
Inglis was born of French parents who had moved to Scotland in 1569; they were Huguenots, or Protestants of the Calvinist persuation, who left their homeland in the atmosphere of religious persecution that would lead to the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572, the killing of thousands of Protestants in Paris. Esther's father, Nicholas Langlois, and her mother, Marie Presot, established a French school in Edinburgh, for which they received a small yearly pension from King James VI of Scotland. Though we have little information about Esther's childhood, we do know that she received an education from her parents; she also learned calligraphy, most likely from her mother, whose accomplished hand is evident in a surviving manuscript.
When she was in her twenties, Esther married a minister, Bartholomew Kello. Kello's father was also a Presbyterian minister who had killed his wife in 1570 and was then executed. With no financial support from their families, Esther and Bartholomew always suffered financial problems even though they both worked very hard. They left Scotland in 1604 and moved to London; in 1607 Bartholomew was appointed rector at a parish in Essex. In addition to his ministerial duties in England, Kello supervised the copying of government documents; Esther often worked as his scribe. There is some evidence that prior to the death of Queen Elizabeth of England in March