Margaret George's exhaustively researched novel skillfully weaves both historical fact and plausible fiction in bringing the story of Mary Queen of Scots to life.
She was a child crowned a queen....
A sinner hailed as a saint....
A lover denounced as a whore...
A woman murdered for her dreams...
Margaret George's Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles brings to life the fascinating story of Mary, who became the Queen of Scots when she was only six days old. Raised in the glittering French court, returning to Scotland to rule as a Catholic monarch over a newly Protestant country, and executed like a criminal in Queen Elizabeth's England, Queen Mary lived a life like no other, and Margaret George weaves the facts into a stunning work of historical fiction.
"With a seamless use of original letters, diaries, and poems: a popular, readable, inordinately moving tribute to a remarkable queen." -- Kirkus Reviews
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.12(w) x 9.26(h) x 1.49(d)|
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Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles
By Margaret George
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1992 Margaret George
All rights reserved.
In the smoky blue mist it was impossible to see anything except more mist. The sun, shrouded and muffled, wore a fuzzy circle of light around itself and was the one thing the men could sight on as they attempted to fight. If they could not see the enemy, how could they defend themselves?
The mist blew and swirled, passing low over the green bogs and mushy ground, hugging the soaked terrain, teasing the men as they tried to extricate themselves from the treacherous mire. It was cold and clammy, as unsympathetic as the hand of death, with which it kept close company.
Above the bog there were a few lone trees, their branches already stripped bare in the autumn gales, standing naked and forlorn above the battlefield. Men struggled toward their grey and wrinkled trunks, hoping to climb to safety. Thousands of feet had trampled the ground around the trees into an oozing field. The fog blanketed it all.
* * *
When the fog cleared the next day, sweeping out to sea and carrying the last vestige of confusion with it, the whole of Solway Moss revealed itself to be a sorry site for a battle. The mud, reeds, and slippery grass surrounding the meandering River Esk showed the Moss to be aptly named. There, in the southwest corner where England and Scotland met, the two ancient enemies had grappled like stags, floundering in the muck. But the English stag had triumphed over its adversary, and the swamp was dotted with leather shields, dropped there by the trapped Scots. There they would rot, as the sun would never dry them there.
One of the English soldiers, herding away his captives, turned to look back at the site, greenly tranquil in the slanting autumn light. "God have mercy on Scotland," he said quietly. "No one else will."
* * *
Outside it began to snow — gently at first, like little sighs, and then harder and harder, as if someone had ripped open a huge pillow. The sky was perfectly white, and soon the ground was, too; the wind blew the snow almost horizontal, and it coated the sides of trees and buildings, so that the whole world turned pale in less than an hour. At Falkland Palace, the big round towers reared up like giant snowmen guarding the entrance.
Inside, the King looked, unseeing, out the window.
"Your Majesty?" asked an anxious servant. "Pray, what is your wish?"
"Heat. Heat. Too cold here," he mumbled, shaking his head from side to side, closing his eyes.
The servant put more logs on the fire, and fanned it to tease the flames up around the fresh new logs. It was indeed cold, the coldest weather so early in the season that anyone could remember. Ships were already frozen in harbours, and the barren fields were as hard as metal.
Just then some of the King's field soldiers appeared, peering cautiously into the room. He seemed to see them even through his closed eyes.
"The battle?" he said. "Have you news of the battle?"
They came in, tattered, and knelt before him. Finally the highest-ranking one said, "Aye. We were attacked and soundly beaten. Many were drowned in the Esk in the retreat. Many more have been taken as prisoners — twelve thousand prisoners in the custody of the English commander."
"Ransom?" The King's voice was a whisper.
"No word of that. They say ... they may all be sent to England as captives."
Suddenly the King lurched from his seat and stood up, rigid. He clasped and unclasped his fists, and a low sound of utter pain escaped him. He looked around wildly at the soldiers. "We are defeated?" he asked again. When they nodded, he cried, "All is lost!"
He turned his back on them and stumbled across the room to the door; when he reached the door frame he sagged against it, as if a spear had pinioned him. Then, clutching his side, he reeled away into his private quarters where they could not follow. His valet followed, running after him.
The King sought his bed; he dived into it and lay moaning and clutching his side. "All is lost!" he kept muttering.
One of the chamber servants sent for the physician; another went out to speak to the field soldiers.
"Is it truly as bad as you reported?" asked the chamber servant.
"Aye — worse," said one of the soldiers. "We are not only beaten, as at Flodden, but disgraced as well. Our King was not with us; our King had left us to mope and droop by himself far from the battlefield — like a maiden filled with vapours!"
"Sssh!" The servant looked around to see if anyone might hear. When he was assured that was impossible, he said, "The King is ill. He was ill before the news; the sorrow of the loss of his heirs, the little princes, has devastated him."
"It is the duty of a king to shoulder such losses."
"The loss of both his heirs within a few days of each other has convinced him that luck has turned against him. Once a man is convinced of that, it is hard for him to lead with authority."
"Like a fainting priest, or a boy with the falling sickness!" cried one of the soldiers. "We need a warrior, not a woman, leading us!"
"Aye, aye. He'll recover. He'll come to himself. After the shock wears off." The servant shrugged. "The King most like by now has another heir. His Queen was expecting to be brought to childbed at any moment."
The soldier shook his head. "'Tis a pity he has so many bastards, and none of them of any use to him as a successor."
* * *
The King refused to rise from his bed, but lay there limply, as if in a trance. Some of his nobles came to him, and stood round his bed. The Earl of Arran, the burly head of the House of Hamilton and hereditary heir to the throne after any of the King's own children, looked on solicitously. Cardinal Beaton, the secretary of state, hovered as if he wished to hear a last confession. The Stewart cousins, all powerful clans in their own right, stood discreetly about the chamber. All wore heavy wool under their ceremonially bright garments; the weather remained bitter cold. In other chambers the King's mistresses, past and present, lingered, concerned about their children. Would the King see fit to remember them?
The King looked at them, shimmering and reappearing, sometimes seeming to dissolve, under his gaze. These faces ... but none of them dear to him, no, not one.
Scotland had been beaten, he would remember, with stabs of pain.
"The Queen," someone was whispering. "Remember your Queen. Her hour is near. Think of your prince."
But the princes were dead, the sweet little boys, dead within a few hours of each other, one of them at Stirling, one at St. Andrews. Places of death. No hope. All gone. No hope. No point to another; it was doomed, too.
Then, a new face near his. Someone was staring intently into his eyes, trying to read them. A new person, someone brisk and detached.
"Sire, your Queen has been safely delivered."
The King struggled to get the words out. Strange, how difficult it was to speak. Where earlier he had been reticent, now it was his body holding back, even when his mind wished to communicate. The throat would not work. "Is it a man-child or woman?" he finally managed to command his tongue and lips to say.
"A fair daughter, Sire."
Daughter! The last battle lost, then.
"Is it even so? The devil take it! Adieu, farewell! The Stewarts came with a lass, and they shall pass with a lass," he murmured.
Those were the last words he spoke, although, as the physician saw that he was sinking, he exhorted him, "Give her your blessing! Give your daughter your blessing, for God's own sweet sake! Do not pass away without that charity and safeguard to your heir!"
But the King just gave a little laugh and smile, kissed his hand and offered it to all his lords round about him; soon thereafter he turned his head away from his attendants, toward the wall, and died.
"What meant he by his words?" one of the attendant lords whispered.
"The crown of Scotland," replied another. "It came to the Stewarts through Marjorie Bruce, and he fears it will pass away through — what is the Princess's name?"
"No," said his companion, as he watched the physicians slowly turning the dead King, and folding his hands preparatory to having the priest anoint him. "Queen Mary. Mary Queen of Scots."
* * *
His widow, the Queen Dowager, struggled to regain her strength after childbirth as quickly as possible. Not for her the lingering recovery of days abed, receiving visitors and gifts and, as her reward for their well-wishes, presenting the infant for their inspection, all swathed in white lace and taffeta and wrapped in yards of softest velvet in the gilded royal crib.
No, Marie de Guise, the relict — quaint phrase, that, she thought — of His Majesty James V of Scotland must right herself and be poised to defend her infant, like any wolf-mother in a harsh winter. And it was a very harsh winter, not only in terms of the flying snow and icy roads, but for Scotland itself.
She could almost fancy that, in the ruddy flames of the fires she kept continually burning, the teeth of the nobles looked more like animal fangs than human dog-teeth. One by one they made their way to Linlithgow Palace, the golden palace lying on a long, thin loch just west of Edinburgh, to offer their respects to the infant — their new Queen. They came clad in heavy furs, their feet booted and wrapped round with animal skins, and it was hard to tell their ice-streaked beards from the furs surrounding their faces. They would kneel and murmur something about their loyalty, but their eyes were preternaturally bright.
There were all the clans who came to make sure that they would not be barred from power by any other clan. For this was the greatest of all opportunities, the equivalent of a stag-kill that attracted all the carrion-eaters of the forest. An infant was their monarch, a helpless infant, with no one but a foreign mother to protect her: a Frenchwoman who was ignorant of their ways here and far from home.
The Earl of Arran, James Hamilton, was there; had not this baby been born, he would now be king. He smiled benevolently at the infant. "I wish her a long life," he said.
The Earl of Lennox, Matthew Stuart, who claimed to be the true heir rather than Arran, came shortly and stood looking longingly down at the baby. "May she have all the gifts of grace and beauty," he said.
Patrick Hepburn, the "Fair Earl" of Bothwell, stepped forward and kissed the Queen Mother's hand lingeringly. "May she have power to make all who gaze upon her love her," he said, raising his eyes to Marie's.
The red-faced, stout northern Earl of Huntly strutted past the cradle and bowed. "May she always rest among friends and never fall into the hands of her enemies," he said.
"My lord!" Marie de Guise objected. "Why mention enemies? Why even think of them now? You tie your well-wishes to something sinister. I pray you, amend your words."
"I can amend them, but never erase them. Once spoken, they have flown into another realm. Very well: let her enemies be confounded and come to confusion."
"I like not the word."
"I cannot promise that there will be no enemies," he said stubbornly. "Nor would it be a good wish. 'Tis enemies that make a man and shape him. Only a no-thing has no enemies."
* * *
After the lords had departed, Marie de Guise sat by the cradle and rocked it gently. The baby was sleeping. The firelight painted the side of her face rosy, and the infant curled and uncurled her fat, dimpled little fingers.
My first daughter, thought Marie, and she does look different. Is it my imagination? No, I think she's truly feminine. The Scots would say a lass is always different from a lad, even from the beginning. This daughter has skin like almond-milk. And her hair — she gently pushed back the baby's cap — of what colour will it be, to go with that skin? It is too early to tell; the fuzz is the same colour as that of all babes.
Mary. I have named her after myself, and also after the Virgin; after all, she was born on the Virgin's day, the Immaculate Conception, and perhaps the Virgin will protect her, guard over her as a special charge.
Mary Queen of Scots. My daughter is a queen already; six days old, and then she became a queen.
At that thought, a brief flutter of guilt rose in her.
The King my lord and husband died, and that is how my daughter came to be Queen before her time. I should feel tearing grief. I should be mourning the King, lamenting my fate, instead of gazing in wonder at my daughter, a baby queen.
The child will be fair, she thought, studying her features. Her complexion and features all promise it. Already I can see that she has her father's eyes, those Stewart eyes that are slanted and heavy-lidded. It was his eyes that promised so much, that were so reassuring and yet so private, hiding their own depths.
"My dear Queen." Behind her she heard a familiar voice: Cardinal Beaton's. He had not left with the others; but then, he felt at home here, and never more so than now, with the King gone forever. "Gazing upon your handiwork? Be careful, lest you fall in love with your own creation."
She straightened and turned to him. "It is difficult not to be in awe of her. She is lovely; and she is a queen. My family in France will be beside themselves. The Guises finally have a monarch to their credit!"
"Her last name is not Guise, but Stewart," the bulky churchman reminded her. "It is not her French blood that puts her on this throne, but her Scottish." He allowed himself to bend down and stroke the baby's cheek. "Well, what are you to do?"
"Hold the throne for her as best I can," answered Marie.
"Then you will have to remain in Scotland." He straightened up, and made his way over to a plate of sweetmeats and nuts in a silver bowl. He picked one up and popped it into his mouth.
"I know that!" She was indignant.
"No plans to run back to France?" He was laughing, teasing her. "Made from Seville oranges," he commented about the sweetmeat he was still sucking. "Lately I tasted a coated rind from India. Much sweeter."
"No. If this child had not come, if I were a childless widow, then of course I certainly would not linger here! But now I have a task, and one I cannot shirk." She shivered. "If I do not die of cold here, or take consumption."
It was snowing outside again. She walked across the chamber to the arched stone fireplace, where a huge fire was blazing, by her orders. The baby's chamber must be kept warm, in spite of the wildly bitter weather raging all over Scotland. The Cardinal, who lived luxuriously himself, doubtless approved.
"Oh, David," she said, her smile suddenly fading. "What will become of Scotland? The battle —"
"If the English have their way, it will become part of England. They will seek to grab it one way or another, most likely through marriage. As the victors of Solway Moss, with their thousand high-ranking prisoners in hand, they will dictate the terms. They will probably force Mary to marry their Prince Edward."
"Never! I will not permit that!" cried Marie.
"She must needs marry someone," the Cardinal reminded her. "That is what the King meant when he said, 'It will pass with a lass.' When she marries, the crown goes to her husband. And there is no eligible French prince. The marriage of King François's heirs, Henri de Valois and Catherine de Médicis, is barren. If little Mary tries to marry a Scot, one of her own subjects, the rest will rise up in jealousy. So who else but the English?"
"Not an English prince!" Marie kept repeating. "Not an English prince! They are all heretics down there!"
"And what do you plan to do about the King's bastards?" the Cardinal whispered.
"I shall bring them all together and rear them here, in the palace."
"You are mad! Better bring them all together and dispose of them, rather."
"Like a sultan?" Marie could not help laughing. "Nay, that is not a Christian response. I will offer them charity, and a home."
"And rear them with your own daughter, the lawful Queen? That is not Christian, but negligent. You may see your daughter reap the evil harvest of that misguided kindness. Beware that you do not nurture serpents to sting her later, when you are gone." The Cardinal's fat, unlined face registered true alarm. "How many are there?"
Excerpted from Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George. Copyright © 1992 Margaret George. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
In My End Is My Beginning England, 1587,
Book One: Queen of Scotland, Queen of France 1524–1560,
Book Two: Queen of Scotland 1561–1568,
Book Three: Queen of Exile 1568–1587,
A Reading Group Guide,
Reading Group Guide
1. "Is there no Scots in me at all?" Mary asks her uncle when she is still in France. To what extent do you feel that Marywho never knew her father and was brought up in Francewas truly Scottish? How much does "blood" count?
2. What do you think of Mary's choice to go back to Scotland to take her place as queen there? How did both Scotland's needs and her own figure into that choice?
3. All of Mary's major decisions were impulsiveto go to Scotland, to marry Darnley and Bothwell, to flee to Elizabeth. She was a cool and quick thinker in physical crises, such as the Riccio murder and her own escapesbut not in politics, where she was unable to read character. Is it possible for someone like Mary to be an effective ruler?
4. Who was Mary's strongest adversaryKnox or Elizabeth? Short of converting, there was nothing that Mary could have done to placate Knox, but were there ways that she could have won Elizabeth?
5. Mary's reign has been described as "a series of plots and pardons." Do you see any rationale behind all of her plots, raids, and skullduggery?
6. Mary had a difficult time in Scotland from the moment she landed in a dense fog, and in some senses she never came out of that fog. What could she have done differently when she first arrived, when deciding to marry, when dealing with the aftermath of Darnley's murder? At what point was it too late to salvage her reign? Is there any scenario that would have altered the end result?
7. How do you view Mary's involvement with Bothwell? Do you find it foolhardy, or do you admire her for it?
8. Was Mary literally a femme fatale? "Those who love her seem to die untimely or unnatural deaths," Bothwell muses. Queen Elizabeth warned Norfolk to "take care of his pillow." What would you think if you were prospective bridegroom #4?
9. Elizabeth gained her crown at age twenty-five, while Mary lost hers at the same age. They also had vastly different childhoods: Elizabeth had to protect herself from the vicissitudes of plots at court, whereas Mary was in France, far removed from the turmoil in Scotland. In what ways did their upbringings Mary's sheltered, Elizabeth's exposed shape them as adults and as rulers?
10. It has been said of the Stuarts, "they did not know how to rule, but they knew how to die." Mary was the first Stuart to fail as a ruler but succeed in a glorious, memorable death scene. Did her death redeem her life? Was she a martyr to Catholicism, as she claimed, or largely playing a theatrical part?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
To write about a ruler who had such a tumultuous life is one thing, but to take all of the historical information of Queen Mary's life, combine it with all the historical information of all the countries involved with her and weave all of it into a novel written from her point of view is quite an undertaking. I feel this novel did great justice to the time period, the history and most of all to Mary and all of those who had contact with her. This novel is beautifully written and flows so well. Right from the beginning, at Mary's birth you can almost feel that the die has been cast against her. Time and again, she makes errors in judgement that nearly cost her her life and narrowly she escapes with it. The story makes you feel her high-spirited rash side and how she was not one to really think and consider things before making a decision. Even when she realizes she will not be able to escape her own doom, she decides to defy all and make herself a martyr for the Catholic faith. This novel shows her as a truly brave and free-spirited woman who probably would have come to a bad end no matter what choices she made. This is a must read for any one who enjoys historical novels.
Most people have a passing familiarity with Mary Queen of Scots, but it is Margaret George¿s eloquently written book that gives us a clearer and more fascinating picture of the much romanticized and controversial Queen. From her birth amidst Scottish tragic events, we are taken on an unforgettable journey with Mary as she sets out for France as the intended bride of the Dauphin, only to return to Scotland years later as the anointed Queen of a grief stricken country. Scotland in the 1560s was a place rife with religious wars and civil disputes Mary finds herself embroiled deep in political scandals and surrounded by untrustworthy nobles who only pray for her destruction. The book also tells us of Mary¿s doomed marriage to Lord Darnley, the father of her son, James VI of Scotland ( who would later rule both Scotland and England), and touched on the possibility that she finally found true love with Lord Bothwell, despite the attacks on their union. The last years of her life has Mary imprisoned in England while her supposed `saviour¿ Elizabeth dwells grumpily on what to do with her. Mary¿s enemies triumphs when the ill-fated Queen is implicated in the Babington Plot to murder Queen Elizabeth and the latter finally signs a warrant of execution. On 8 February 1587, Mary, Queen of Scots, resplendent in a ruby red gown, was led to the scaffold. After two attempts, the executioner held up the severed head of Mary for all to see- marking the end of a sad and tumultuous life belonging to a woman who could have been Queen of Europe¿s three powerful countries ¿ France, Scotland and England. This book was a perfect blend of fiction and historical prose. We are able to enjoy Mary from the cradle to the grave as the writer spins a delicate tale while depicting Mary as an infinitely flawed yet endearing young woman. Mary, Queen of Scots, has impelled questions for centuries : ` Was she victim or villain?¿ Author Margaret George has successfully weaved her into a complex character that neither confirms nor rebuts her as a villain or victim, but rather of a flighty woman who ruled with her heart, only to lose her head over it. A gripping and tragic story told with enthusiasm and attention to detail. As to its heavyweight size, historical freaks will certainly be too engrossed in the novel to be daunted by its 900 page volume. Readers will find themselves immersed in the most enlightening history lesson.
Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles is an amazing book! Do not be put off by how long the book is. It is an amazingly quick read because of the amazing storytelling of Margaret George. She truly has the gift of bringing her characters into life and her knowledge of the times is amazing. You can tell the extent of the research that was required to write this book. George does an amazing job of making history fun and even more interesting to learn. If only school books could tell history the way Margaret George does, then maybe we'd all be better off ?
This is a really wonderful book that is a novel but adheres closely to historical fact. Margaret George has taken fragments and scraps of evidence and woven them into a word tapestry that allows you to visualize the scenes. It reveals the treachery and deceit this young woman had to deal with in trying to establish a viable and working kingdom. It dramatically reveals the price for allowing violent religious acts to infringe on areas belonging to the state and people. For example, the individual right to practice the belief of their choice without persecution. It also reveals what happens when a government becomes almost totally factionalized and those factions change sides from day to day. One knows not who to trust. It also clearly shows when she lost support of others, to include the good Queen Elizabeth, most of the clan leaders, and even her French family support. Cecil, in my opinion, committed Regicide by beheading Queen Mary when he had duped her to get the warrant signed. I do not believe Elizabeth ever intended for it to go that far. It must be remembered that Queen Mary came to England seeking help because she had been unlawfully deposed in her own country and believed she would be received by her sister Queen as a supplicant which she shoud have been by law. She was not. She was treated like a common criminal by being quartered in certain forts by Cecil and was never free again. If there is a Hell, Cecil should be right in the middle of it. Read this book. It is very easy to read and you will not want to put it down. It is a book that you read more than once.
It didn't take me long to read this book. To me it was very good. So good that I found myself cursing Elizabeth for what she did to Mary, getting mad at the choices Mary made, and crying at the end. I would totally recommend this book to anyone wanting to know more about Queen Mary. I'm still mad at Elizabeth! Lol but it was a great read I couldn't put down.
What a story. Who knew. A friend recommended it and I had reservations about reading some huge book about a queen. Wow. Glad I read it. It has everything in it that a fictional writer could cook up.(seriously..I had to google parts to make sure she wasn't making things up). I really enjoyed the story and history lesson. Could be shortend just a tiny bit, but other than that it was great!!
Mary, Queen of Scotland, cousin to Queen Elizabeth of England and great granddaughter of Henry VII, was doomed from the day she was born. Within a few months of being born, she was forced to flee to France and within a few years of governing her country as Queen, she was once again forced to escape to England in order to fight for her freedom. Her desire was to rule her people and her subjects with compassion and mercy, but the Catholics of the land hated her for being tolerant, and the Protestants detested her for being weak. She married to please the government and ended up a wife to a drunkard who cared more for hunting than being a King. She married for love and was outlawed as a traitor. In the end, her one lasting legacy would be that she gave birth to an heir that would eventually unite Scotland and England under one sovereign ruler - James IMary was a fascinating monarch in that her life was dictated by the people around her from the beginning. She never truly understood that her birthright, which should have endowed her with the rights and privileges reserved for the elect few, would eventually become the chains that hold her prisoner. In a world dominated by female rulers - Elizabeth of England and Catherine of France, Mary lacked what these women were able to accomplish - and that was the ability to play the political game better than those around her. She was surrounded by traitors and usurpers, and those that were loyal to her, were unable to help her strengthen her hold on the throne. Truth be told, the bulk of the book was spent with Mary fleeing for her life instead of ruling the country that she was Queen of that it was a wonder that she was able to survive and escape as many times as was recorded. Although the book was a tome with over 800+ pages, the story was intriguing and captivating. Mary was not just some fictional character that someone made up, but was a real flesh and blood Queen who was destined to fail. Her perseverance and determination to succeed was admirable even though she lacked the wisdom and the cleverness to outwit her enemies time and time again. History will remember her for many things, but I will walk away from her story with the understanding that she ruled not with her head, but with her heart, and in the end, it was not enough to save her love, or her life.
I¿ve always been fascinated with history, and books like this only reinforce that fascination. This novel follows Mary from her childhood to her death--with plenty of love, politics,treachery, and court intrigue in between. I thought Ms. George's characterization of Mary was flawless; I could sympathize and understand the difficult choices she was forced to make, while at the same time I had the urge to shout 'don't do that!'. Of course the author improvised to flesh out the known facts surrounding Mary, Queen of Scots, and that¿s what makes the story come to life, what makes it memorable. Much more so than the paragraph one might read in a textbook one day and forget the next. And I know the author did a really good job, when after reading 800+ pages, I¿m still intrigued enough to seek out more on the subject, to separate fact from fiction, and even to hear the story again from a different perspective.
Mary, Queen of Scots, was an interesting character. Although portrayed as a villain by her enemies, the Lords of Scotland, Margaret George demonstrates in this wonderfully written novel that although Mary had character flaws, she was a passionate and loving woman who unfortunately could not cope with the demands of being Queen of Scotland.The book follows Mary's life from beginning to end. The first part of the book focuses on her childhood and marriage to Francois of France. The second part of the book cover Mary's return to Scotland, her marriage to Lord Darnley, his murder, her marriage to Bothwell, and the uprising of the Lords and commoners. The third part covers Mary's imprisonment in the Tower of London. While all three sections of the novel are well-written, the book would have been more interesting had George chosen to simply cover the middle part of Mary's life. That is the only flaw I found in this book.George shows us that Mary was a fragile person, unable to handle the demands placed on her as ruler. Her Catholic beliefs differed from the Protestant beliefs that were embraced by the Scottish people.Mary also made a series of mistakes that were to significantly impact her life. First were her choices of marriage partners: Darnley and Bothwell, neither of whom were a good influence on her. She also should have had her half brother James executed after the Chaseabout Raid, and John Knox when he wrote "First Blast of The Trumpet," criticizing the regency of thr three Marys: Mary Tudor, Mary Stewart, and Marie de Guise, mother to Mary, Queen of Scots and regent of Scotland while her daughter was in France. Mary should have had the participants in the murder of David Riccio executed, specially Lord Ruthven. I also think Mary should have handled the murder of Lord Darnley differently: she should have first attempted to clear herself and Bothwell of suspicion. Instead, she allowed the Lords to spread propaganda about her and implicate her in her husband's murder. Mary relied too much on the charity of her cousin Elizabeth, not realizing that Elizabeth disapproved of her cousin's actions. In other words, Mary was naive.This book was a wonderful (if fictional) introduction to the politics of the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, and should be read by anyone who has an interest in this delightful, but complicated, woman.
Don't get me wrong, I loved this book. It haunted me for weeks after I finished it. My only complaint is that the book probably could have been 100-200 pages shorter. The entire last 1/3 of the book seemed like it would never end. There were countless descriptions of Mary's life in captivity, how depressed she was, what she wore, how she passed her days. And every single day was exactly the same, but for some reason the author made us keep reading about those days... over, and over, and over, and over.... Well you get the point. I definitely do not hesitate to recommend this book to anyone interested in Mary's life or just looking for a good read. It was definitely a great book, as all of George's books are!
Like most people, I have a passing familiarity with the historical figure, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland. However, in almost every instance, Mary's story is told in conjunction with that of her English cousin Elizabeth Tudor. Rarely do you see reference to her early years or even her reign in Scotland. In most renditions, her story begins in the custody of Elizabeth. In this book, we get the entire life history of Mary, and what a life it was! I was unaware that Mary fled Scotland as a child, grew up in France, married the dauphin, Francis, and became Queen of France for a period of two years upon the ascension of Francis to the French throne. I was only slightly familiar with her mother Marie de Guise who served as her Regent in absentia. It was only upon her return to the Scottish throne with the death of Francis and Marie de Guise that the story began to become somewhat familiar. The biggest part of the novel deals with the political and religious intrigue inherent in Mary's relatively short Scottish reign. Her contentious relationship with the Protestant (Mary was famously Catholic) Scottish Kirk and its leader John Knox. Her constant power struggles with her half brother James and the shifting loyalties of the Scottish nobility. A fascinating and highly instructive treatment on the subjects of religious intolerance and the related struggle for power. Finally, in the last 100 pages, we meet the Mary we have always known, in the custody of Elizabeth, constantly scheming and soon to lose her head. The rating for this book benefits greatly by having been read soon after The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory. In my opinion, this book is a far superior and much more entertaining and educational treatment of the period encompassed by the Tudor/Stuart dynasty. This is the third Margaret George book I've read and I have been well pleased with each effort. I highly recommend it and Ms. George's other works as well.
I enjoyed this version of Queen Mary's life. Although it was quite long, I never lost interest in the story. As other readers have pointed out, it did drag a bit toward the end, but I think that may be because Mary's life dragged toward the end - she was imprisoned in various castles by Queen Elizabeth for twenty years. I found it interesting to watch the progression over this time, because at first, she was treated as a displaced queen, with a throne, many servants, and a nice place in which to stay (although she wasn't allowed to leave it). As the years went on, her surroundings dwindled, she was treated with less respect by her keepers, and she wasn't allowed to have many servants.I think that George did a good job bringing Queen Mary to life, and making her an interesting, if not always likable, character, and I look forward to reading more of her historical fiction.
Another fine novel by Margaret George. Her use of historical facts leads the reader into the life and times of Mary Queen of Scotland. This is not a book for those that love the strength, mystery, and intrigue surrounding the Tudors. This is a vision of how Mary would likely have felt and dealt with the position of her birth - Mary, not as strong as Elizabeth .. not strong enough to rule when needed. Born to be the daughter of a King, but not born to fulfill the need and rule as a Queen. I was entranced from the first chapter, and could not put it down. From birth to death I was with Mary, feeling her love, joy, fear and final acceptance of her fate.
Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles tells the story of the Queen who never got the chance to truly rule. History has never given me much information about her in her own right, instead often pairing her with the monarchs of France, Queen Elizabeth I, or her own son, King James I. So it was refreshing to get an in-depth look at her and her story even if through slightly fictionalized and romanticized glasses. Margaret George always manages to make you feel as if you are not reading about so much as witnessing a life in her novels. A lovely read that I thoroughly recommend to anyone who loves the genre and/or the era.
Plot: The life of Mary Stuart from birth to execution. Side plots tell about other characters (Bothwell and Queen Elizabeth, mainly), and can become a bit convoluted at times. Slow pacing, but it eventually gains momentum. Characters: Mary never becomes truly likable, though the author is clearly sympathetic. The side characters on the Scottish end are interesting, but if they were to get more attention the book would expand into a second volume. Elizabeth is sketched well in her point of view parts, and at times comes across as the more interesting of the two queens. Style: Sprawling, with a lot of description at times. The point of view changes regularly, and not always cleanly at a subsection break. The cast of point of view characters feels a little too large, and at times a character is used for it only once and then discarded. Original letters are used throughout the book and add a feeling of authenticity; however, Mary's fictional diary ruins some of that because the style used there clashes with her letter writing style. Toward the end, description and small scenes take over to the point of becoming irritating, and it slows the overall momentum. A hundred pages less in this section would not have hurt.Plus: Well-researched, characters are sketched with enough depth and information to make it possible to not get confused in a big cast. Minus: The diary entries, too much obvious sympathy for Mary. Elizabeth steals the attention every time she has a point of view section.Summary: Solid historical novel that does not require a lot of previous knowledge of the period. Pleasant to read, but a little too long at times.
I've loved Margaret George's enormous novels about Henry VIII, Cleopatra, and even Mary Magdalene, but this one fell a bit short. It dragged, particularly in the second half. Despite this, George writes well and accurately, so I would recommend it, and the author especially, for fans of in-depth historical fiction.
Historical fiction about the life of Queen Mary. Not as good as George's book of Cleopatra, but is also very interesting.
I enjoyed the read, the history, the details of her life, as a woman, a queen and a prisoner!
After watching a TV series called the Reign I wanted to find out more about Mary Queen of Scots and after reading the reviews posted this seemed like the best book to "tell the story" and it was!! I really enjoyed reading this book and to see how it compared with the story I had seen on TV.
It was a great book
I am only partly through the book and I love it!!! I have always been fascinated with Tudor/Stewart history. Even more so now after starting this amazing book. I feel like I am there watching the byplay of these people. Mary Stewart's life seems to come alive again through the words. Highly recommend.
Wonderful book to read. She was an amazing woman, wonder how things would have turned out if she was let to rule. Well worth the time it took to read this story and see so much how the different countries looked at that time.
This started out really good and kept me entertained until Mary loses her title. It started to d r a g then I started to feel bored just thinking about picking it up again. I love this type of fiction but it has to keep my interest...maybe in the future I will try to finish it.