Et in Arcadia ego or is it Et in Acadia ego?

by Carolyn Shield


Many researchers have placed different interpretations of the mysterious Poussin so let me add some thoughts. Nicolas Poussin is said to have placed a mystery in his artwork.

The Shugborough relief, adapted from an engraving of Poussin’s second version resides in Shugborough Estate in England home to the Anson family. The park was constructed by James Stuart. He was a very talented and was elected in theFellow of the Royal Society. He was from a poor Scottish family. He traveled all through Europe and Greece. James became a talented painter.

Nicolas Poussin painting Et in Arcadia ego

The Stuart/Stewart family play an interesting part in the mystery. Mary Stuart  Queen of Scots whose  son James I became King of England and Scotland after Queen Elizabeth’s death. Queen Mary of Scots use to sign her letters with Marie R. She had learnt to spell her name with French as a little girl in France and continued with it all her life. The R may have a interesting importance concerning Nova Scotia history. He took an interest in the colonization of Acadia which is known today as Nova Scotia.

The name “Arcadia ” was used   in 1524 by the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano. He had landed in what is known today as Washington DC, Maryland, and Delaware. The land was green,fertile, and filled with wildlife. He named the area “Arcadia” after the Ancient Greek paradise filled with shepherds and shepherdess tending their flocks in peace.

The “r” was later dropped in the later century and that is how Acadia became the name. The Acadians were the people who settled the lands of what is known as Nova Scotia. The original residents were the MicMac Indians who lived peacefully with the settlers. In 1621 King James I changed the name from Acadia to Nova Scotia ( New Scotland). He granted the territory to William Alexander. The French still called the land Acadia but the Scots called it Nova Scotia.

Under Scots Law, baronets had to “take sasine” by symbolically receiving the earth and stone of the land of which they were baronet. To make this possible, since Nova Scotia was far distant, the King declared that sasine could be taken either in Nova Scotia or, alternatively, “at the castle of Edinburgh as the most eminent and principal place of Scotland.”(1)

The Esplanade of Edinburgh Castle, in Scotland, legally is part of Nova Scotia in Canada. Charles I declared it to be Nova Scotia territory so that Nova Scotian baronets might receive their lands there. The decree has never been revoked. (2)



The Acadians are the people who refused to swear allegiance to the King of England and were expelled from their land. Many escaped to Quebec, Maine, France, Magdalena Islands, Maryland, and New Orleans.

What is interesting about Poussin’s painting is that the one shepherd on his knees is pointing to the “R” in the word Arcadia. A shadow is cast over it so the viewer far away can not see the letter. It is as if Poussin is trying to cover it up in shadow. If the R disappears then the saying on the tomb would be Et in Acadia Ego. He painted it in the 1630’s. French colonists had settled in the land of Arcadia (Acadia) in 1604.

Cardinal Richelieu was a patron of Poussin and promoted the French colonization of the New France.

The Poussin painting and Shurborough Monument  share the pointing out of the “R” in Arcadia. On the tomb is carved the Latin text Et in arcadia ego (“I am also in Arcadia” or “I am, even in Arcadia”) I believe the possible message maybe that I am also in “Acadia” or I am ,even in Acadia” Nova Scotia was a fertile land where the Acadians tended their flocks of sheep and cattle. The Acadian ancestors traveled throughout the New World some became Canadians and others became the Cajuns les Acadiens.

The Stuart family lost the title of King of England and for many years the Jacobites tried to reclaim the title they lost. The Scottish Stone which is the Esplanade at Edinburgh Castle is legally part of Nova Scotia. What a coincidence? Poussin’s message “I am also in Acadia/Arcadia or I’m even in Arcadia/Acadia is true when looking at the “Esplanade of Scotland at Edinburgh Castle” a stone of Nova Scotia resides there. The stone that the shepherd points may symbolize the “sasine” of the Scots. It emphasizes the Scots love for the earth and why the Stone of Scone is so important to them. Jacob Stone and the Lia Fail are the coronation stones of the Kings of Tara.

Princess Diana of Wales was a Stewart and who knows her son Prince William may be the Stuarts return to the lost title of King of England.

What do you think?


Most recent posts by Carolyn Shield

All posts by Carolyn Shield