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The Royal Stuarts: A History of the Family That Shaped Britain

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Overview

"Compelling...A masterly feat...A magnificent, sweeping, authoritative, warm yet wry history."

The Wall Street Journal

In this fascinating and intimate portrait of the Stuarts, author Allan Massie takes us deep into one of history’s bloodiest and most tumultuous reigns. Exploring the family's lineage from the first Stuart king to the last, The Royal Stuarts is a panoramic history of the family that acted as a major player in the Scottish Wars of Independence, the Union of ...

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The Royal Stuarts: A History of the Family That Shaped Britain

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Overview

"Compelling...A masterly feat...A magnificent, sweeping, authoritative, warm yet wry history."

The Wall Street Journal

In this fascinating and intimate portrait of the Stuarts, author Allan Massie takes us deep into one of history’s bloodiest and most tumultuous reigns. Exploring the family's lineage from the first Stuart king to the last, The Royal Stuarts is a panoramic history of the family that acted as a major player in the Scottish Wars of Independence, the Union of the Crowns, the English Civil War, the Restoration, and more. 

Drawing on the accounts of historians past and present, novels, and plays, this is the complete story of the Stuart family, documenting their path from the salt marshes of Brittany to the thrones of Scotland and England and eventually to exile. The Royal Stuarts brings to life figures like Mary, Queens of Scots, Charles I, and Bonnie Prince Charlie, uncovering a family of strong affections and fierce rivalries. Told with panache, Allan Massie's The Royal Stuarts is the gripping true story of backstabbing, betrayal, and ambition gone awry.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this smart history, Massie gives its due to the British dynasty that has long played second fiddle to the Tudors. A key Breton ancestor of the Stuart monarchs was appointed, circa 1124, High Steward of Scotland, a prestigious role that gave the Stewarts their family name (changed to Stuart by Mary, queen of Scots), and in which they served ably for eight generations. Robert II became the first, if ineffectual, Stewart king of Scotland in 1371. The five Jameses were men of unusual ability, and James IV’s marriage to Henry VIII’s sister led to the union of Scotland and England 100 years later. The deaths on the scaffold of Mary and her grandson Charles I, says Massie, lent their memory a nobility that their lives frequently lacked. James VI, an intelligent, canny politician, was patron of the King James Bible. The most intelligent, charming, and deceitful of Stuart kings, Charles II, was followed by his brother James, whose Catholicism cost him his throne. The Stuart dynasty ended on an inglorious note with the “politically insignificant” Mary II and her sister Anne, an “ordinary woman” who despite over a dozen pregnancies, failed to produce a living heir. Massie, a novelist (Caesar) and Spectator columnist, offers a delightfully opinionated but nuanced and action-packed history. Illus. (Dec.)
Library Journal
Massie (novelist and columnist for The Scotsman) addresses the romance and myths that surround one of the ruling families of Great Britain, making the case that there is more to the Stuarts than the tragic Mary, Queen of Scots, or the defeated Bonnie Prince Charlie. Beginning with Robert II in 14th-century Scotland and ending with James VIII and III, the author provides an engaging look at the political machinations, marriages and affairs, executions and suspicious deaths, battles, and reforms throughout the Stuart reigns, which of course included the family's ascension to the English throne (they were already monarchs of Scotland) upon the death of Elizabeth I, and the battles between Charles I and Parliament, his beheading, and the restoration of Stuarts to the throne after the end of the Cromwell Protectorate. The family trees provided at the beginning are essential. VERDICT Massie is candid that this collective biography "makes no pretence to be a work of academic history," and, indeed, there are limited notes on sources as well as repetition of some dubious stories. However, it's an enjoyable, often witty read, which will make for a nice introduction to the Stuarts and a fun refresher for aficionados. [See Prepub Alert, 6/13/11.]—Megan Hahn Fraser, Univ. of California-Los Angeles Lib.
Library Journal
Founded in the 1300s by Robert II of Scotland, the Stuart dynasty presided over a rapidly modernizing Scotland and eventually acceded to the English Crown, following hard upon the Tudors. Along the way, they were implicated in violent moments from the Scottish Wars of Independence to the English Civil War to the Restoration. Spectator columnist Massie, also a novelist (e.g., the "Roman Quartet"), apparently delivers a juicy good read. Not just for history lovers but anyone hooked on Showtime's The Tudors or, currently, The Borgias.
Kirkus Reviews
A well-fashioned history of the remarkable Scottish monarchs. They were "Stewarts," mythical descendants of Shakespeare's Banquo, before they were "Stuarts," writes prolific Scottish novelist and historian Massie (Death in Bordeaux, 2010, etc.). The spelling was changed by Mary Queen of Scots so that it would be easier to pronounce for the French. The clan actually traces its roots in Brittany, with enterprising members crossing the Channel first in the service of the Norman king Henry I. The first Stewart on the Scottish throne, Robert II, weathered the wars of independence against the English, though the Scottish monarchy was much weaker than the English, lacking a similar administrative apparatus. What Cambridge historian F.W. Maitland termed a "mournful procession of the Jameses" followed, with mixed results. Several were murdered early on, though James IV's marriage to English princess Margaret Tudor in 1503 was significant because it would lead to the Union of the Crowns 100 years later. Queen Mary's story has been told often elsewhere, and provides the saddest interlude, while her son, James VI, proved the great survivor, an intellectual, solid Protestant and patron of the arts, effectively putting Scotland's house in order before Elizabeth I's death invited him to join the thrones of England and Scotland. There is no end to the fascination with the lives of the two truncated Charleses, in turn spurring revolution then restoration, and Massie truly brings these singular characters to life with his felicitous prose. Perhaps the least understood of the clan was Queen Anne, who presided over the Treaty of Union in 1707, possessed principles and stamina yet had no living heir to keep the throne from falling to the Protestant Elector of Hanover, who became George I. A palatable history lesson that might help untangle the royal lineage web for American readers.
From the Publisher
Praise for The Royal Stuarts

"Not just for history lovers but anyone hooked on Showtime's The Tudors or, currently, The Borgias...An enjoyable, often witty read, which will make for a nice introduction to the Stuarts and a fun refresher for aficionados." 

Library Journal

"A well-fashioned history of the remarkable Scottish monarchs... A palatable history lesson that might help untangle the royal lineage web for American readers."

Kirkus

"Smart...A delightfully opinionated but nuanced and action-packed history."

Publishers Weekly

"It drips with blood, cruelty and tears... Evocative, visceral - haunting."

—Daily Telegraph (UK)

"Lively and jauntily paced history."

— Sunday Times (UK)

"Stirring and eloquent account of the Stuarts."

—Scotland on Sunday

"A highly readable and impressively panoramic history."

 —The Scotsman

"[Massie] combines dry wit and fondness for well-constructed sentences with a novelist's sense of the enlivening detail."

— Daily Express (UK)

"A pleasure to read and psychologically compelling."

—The Spectator (UK)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312581756
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 12/20/2011
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 716,059
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

ALLAN MASSIE is the award-winning author of many novels, including his Roman Quartet —Antony, Augustus, Tiberius and Caesar. He lives in the Scottish Borders and writes for the Daily Telegraph, Scotsman and for the Spectator, where he has a regular column.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 5 )
Rating Distribution

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(1)

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(3)

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2012

    Riddled with factual errors. Novelists who write history perhap

    Riddled with factual errors. Novelists who write history perhaps ought to have more respect for fact than fiction and for the professional training required to know the difference.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2012

    A terrific read

    Massie is a first rate author, and brings the Stuarts to life brilliantly and in a highly readable way.
    I did skim over the early Stuarts; too much death and gore!
    An excellent book from a fine writer who navigates the reader through some complex historical periods.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 24, 2013

    AMAZING READ!!!!!!!!!!

    This book is such a good book. I am a history nerd and this book was full of so much knowledge from this family. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys history.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 4, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    AN ANGLIOPHILE MUST READ This is a hard book for me to rate. It

    AN ANGLIOPHILE MUST READ
    This is a hard book for me to rate. It was very informative( I would rate a 5 star for this), not text book but finely tuned history-not a "story". I found it somewhat hard to read in terms of following the family lines-even though I'm familiar with the history(I would rate a 3 or 4 star for this). Took me much longer to read than usual because I followed up with all the footnotes cited in the back of the book. Massie is a good and thorough writer. I do recommend reading the "Envoi" chapter (the finale,per se) It is a good summary on the whole-maybe even start off reading here and then go to the beginning. If you are into British history this is a must.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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