The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots

The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots

by Carolly Erickson


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Queen of Scotland at six days of age, married as a young girl to the invalid young king of France, Mary took the reins of the unruly kingdom of Scotland as a young widow and fought to keep her throne. A second marriage to her handsome but dissolute cousin Lord Darnley ended in murder and scandal, while a third to the dashing Lord Bothwell, the love of her life, gave her joy but widened the scandal and surrounded her with enduring ill repute.

Unable to rise above the violence and disorder that swirled around her, Mary escaped to Englandonly to find herself a prisoner of her ruthless, merciless cousin Queen Elizabeth.

Here, in a riveting first-person account, is the enchanting woman whose name still evokes excitement and compassionand whose death under the headsman's axe still draws forth our sorrow.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312652739
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 09/14/2010
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Distinguished historian Carolly Erickson is the author of Rival to the Queen, The First Elizabeth, The Hidden Life of Josephine, The Last Wife of Henry VIII, and many other prize-winning works of fiction and nonfiction. Her novel The Tsarina's Daughter won the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction. She lives in Hawaii.

Read an Excerpt

The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots

A Novel
By Erickson, Carolly

St. Martin's Griffin

Copyright © 2010 Erickson, Carolly
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312652739


THE trumpets sounded a brilliant fanfare, the shrill high notes soon lost in the bright April air, and the jousts began.

It was my wedding day, I was fifteen years old and quite content to be marrying the dauphin Francis, the boy prince I had known since we were both very small children. The elaborate, lengthy wedding mass at last over, the jousting to celebrate it was about to begin. Francis and I sat together under the roof of the wooden spectators’ pavilion overlooking the tiltyard, watching as the armored jousters rode in one by one, the crowd cheering and clapping for each.

Francis and I stood, and clapped with the others, but I stooped a little, for I was so much taller than my new husband that it was embarrassing. I was much admired in my lace-trimmed gown of ivory silk, my long reddish hair coiled like a crown on top of my head, my throat wreathed in diamonds, a long rope of large pearls dangling from my belt to the hem of my gown. My new father-in-law King Henry called me his "petite reinette," his little queen, and said that I was the loveliest child he had ever seen. Only I was no longer a child, I was far too tall for that, and growing taller every day. While my new husband Francis, poor boy, was pathetically stunted in his growth, quite the runt of his parents’ royal litter.

The cheering grew louder as King Henry rode into view, magnificent in his gleaming armor of chased silver, his metal helmet with its tall waving white plume, his long lance pointed upward.

I looked over at Francis, and saw that his small face was pale, slightly greenish. He appeared bilious. Knowing him as well as I did, I was aware that uncomfortable situations always made him nauseous. He was very uncomfortable now, aware that those seated near us were nudging each other and tittering, murmuring to one another that he was a coward.

The king had announced that Francis would join in the jousting, but at the last minute Francis had become frightened and fled to the spectators’ pavilion, humiliated and miserable. I felt sure that he knew, better than anyone, how futile it would be for him to take the field against the older, stronger competitors, how he would have difficulty couching the heavy lance, aiming at his opponent’s helmet (he was squeamish about hurting anyone or any thing), how if struck himself he would fall heavily from the horse and might well be trampled.

"Fight, boy, fight!" his father was always shouting at him. "How can you be a king if you can’t even be a man?"

But he couldn’t help his size, or the fact that he was cursed with a slight, weak body or that he was a poor athlete quick to tremble and run when chased by an opponent. I felt protective toward him—I was two years older after all—and had always defended him, ever since we were children together. I was still defending him on our wedding day, glaring at those around us who were smirking and making insulting comments and wishing, as we stood up there in the pavilion, that I had worn slippers rather than shoes so that the difference in our heights would not be so obvious.

With a thunder of hooves the king rode down the length of the narrow tiltyard, making us all gasp in admiration. He took up his position at the far end, away from us. We could see his splendid mount tossing its head and skittering and shying nervously, waiting for his full speed and power to be unleashed. The challenger now rode toward the near end of the long corridor of combat, his armor too shining in the sunlight and his charger strong and full of spirit and power.

King and challenger faced one another, the grooms who had been holding the horses loosing their hold and scurrying away. Drums rolled. Another fanfare sounded. Then, as Francis reached for my hand and we both held our breath, the jousters rode at breakneck speed toward one another, lances lowered and pointed at one another’s heads.

There was a sickening thwack as the king’s lance struck the challenger’s visor, shattering into a dozen pieces, and the hapless challenger fell over sideways off his horse.

Grooms rushed to the armor-clad figure lying prone and tried to revive him. When they failed, he was dragged off out of sight and the earth was quickly raked to evenness where he had lain. It all happened so fast that I could almost believe I had imagined it—except for the red stain in the brown earth, and the deep tracks leading off toward the stables.

I looked at Francis, and saw that his pallor had increased. He looked ill. Was he about to throw up?

I reached for my handkerchief. If the worst happens, I thought, I will cover his mouth with my handkerchief. Maybe only those in the very front of the crowd will notice.

At that moment I heard my new mother-in-law’s low, syrupy voice.

"If you spew," she said in Francis’s ear, leaning down from where she sat behind us, "I swear I’ll turn your head into a boiled cabbage."

At this Francis seemed to straighten up a little.

"Courage!" I whispered to him. "Only five challengers more."

"Leave me be!" he said sharply, both to his mother and to me. I felt relieved. He was irritated. His irritation would preoccupy him, I felt sure, and would prevent him from disgracing himself by being sick.

My mother-in-law the queen, Catherine de Medicis, now leaned over me.

"That’s the way, little reinette," she said with a smile. Her round, jowly face had the heaviness, her leathery, pockmarked cheeks the roughness of a peasant woman in the marketplace. Her small dark eyes were shrewd. "Encourage him! He will need all his courage tonight."

I knew very well what she meant. It was widely rumored that my husband was impotent. There were no pregnant serving girls claiming to be carrying his baby, as was often the case (so I was told) with princes. Francis was timid with everyone, even the serving girls, and seemed to shrink from the grown men and women around him.

I heard another voice, a much more welcome one, and turned to see that my grandmother Antoinette de Guise was coming to sit beside the queen, shooing away one of the latter’s attendants with a wave of one beringed hand and settling her ample self on the cushioned bench.

"I doubt that the prince will accomplish much in the bedroom tonight," she remarked.

"Hush, grandmamma! There is already too much talk of these very personal matters!" I knew I sounded prim, and regretted it, but the truth was, I shared my grandmother’s views. Yet I wanted to be loyal to Francis.

"I pray that we will be worthy to bring sons into the world for the honor of Scotland and France," I said stoutly, at which Grandmamma Antoinette lifted her fan to her mouth and made a sound that was somewhere between a sneeze and a snort.

"We must all pray for that," Queen Catherine added immediately, and when I turned to look at her I saw a gleam—was it a gleam of avarice?—in her small eyes. It was the same gleam I had seen on the morning I signed my marriage treaties several days earlier. On that morning, after Francis and I had signed our names on the documents prepared by the court lawyers, the queen had drawn me aside. She had shown me other documents, secret ones, which my mother had prepared without telling me. What these documents said was that, if Francis and I had no children, Scotland would belong to France.

Young as I was, I understood quite well what was at stake in our marriage. Francis and I had to have a son, if possible several sons. It was vital. Scotland’s future was at risk. I did not doubt that I was strong and vigorous enough to become a mother. But could he become a father? My household physician, Dr. Bourgoing, thought so, and I trusted his opinion.

How I wished, at that moment, that


Excerpted from The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots by Erickson, Carolly Copyright © 2010 by Erickson, Carolly. Excerpted by permission.
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.

Reading Group Guide

Historical Perspective:

8 December 1542 Birth of Mary Stuart

14 December 1542 Infant Mary becomes Queen of Scotland

9 September 1543 Mary is crowned queen

24 April 1558 Mary marries the French dauphin Francis

19 August 1561 Widowed Mary returns to Scotland

29 July 1565 Mary marries Lord Darnley

9 March 1566 Murder of David Riccio

19 June 1566 Birth of Mary's son James, future James VI of Scotland, James I of England

9 February 1567 Death of Lord Darnley

17 May 1568 Mary flees to England

8 February 1587 Mary is beheaded

Reading Group Questions:

1. Why do you think Mary Queen of Scots is such an iconic historical figure? What is it about her that continues to fascinate lovers of history?

2. Why do you think Mary had such a difficult time ruling over her Scottish subjects?

3. Fate, enchantments and the power of the otherworldly lay over the characters in this novel. To what extent do you believe fate rules our destinies? How do you imagine sixteenth-century attitudes on this issue differed from those of our more secular age?

3. In the novel, Mary regrets that she did not return to France after escaping from Lochleven. What might the course of her life been if she had returned to France?

4. Had Mary become Queen of England, do you imagine that she would have been swiftly dethroned by a popular rebellion?

5. Mary's nemesis John Knox wrote a treatise condemning the "Monstrous Regiment [Rule] of Women." In your view, have women rulers, over the centuries, proven him wrong in his condemnation? Or have women and men been equally adept (or inexpert) at wielding power?

6. In the novel Mary says that she "was not born to be obscure, to live a hidden, quiet life." "I had the blood of kings in my veins," she says, "and there was more for me to do in the world." Was this conviction her blessing, or her curse?

7. Mary asserts at one point that Queen Elizabeth, for all her power and cleverness, never found "the secret of happiness." Do you believe that Mary herself found it? Have you found it?

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The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
SudieK More than 1 year ago
I am a HUGE fan of Mary Queen of Scots in general, & read everything I can pertaining to her- fiction & non fiction. This was a bit of a stretch even for me...too many far-fetched ideas regarding actual events & really not very believable. But if you don't really know the history involved it may be an interesting novel. For those who know & treasure the history...don't bother.
Annie022 More than 1 year ago
I read a lot of History books on fiction-non fiction and I was so very sorry that I payed for this book and didn't even want to read the end of this book ... But this book was way to FAR OFF and not even a little bit BELIEVABLE ...
Yvonne35 More than 1 year ago
Knowing the ending before the story unwinds was a little different. Enjoyed the book.
ahc142 More than 1 year ago
If you enjoy Phillipa then you will truly enjoy the young voice of Carolly's Mary! Erickson brings history to life while putting reader in an emotional trance using first person to tell us Mary's perspective trapped between loyalty and survival.
Renee90 More than 1 year ago
I just LOVED this book. It is written from the viewpoint of Queen Mary, herself and the first page just captures your senses and attention. It doesn't let you go till the end. In between, I laughed and cried along with Mary as she told her tale. Ms. Erickson has outdone herself yet again. This is a superb book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was easy reading and held my attention. It adds a splash to the life of Mary. It would not be for someone who wants a true historical account of Mary.
dragonflyy419 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots by Carolly Erickson follows the life and love of Queen Mary the sixteenth century ruler of Scotland and heir to the English throne. It follows her intrigue in the French court, the Scottish court, Rome, and the English court. The main plot line of this book follows her love of Lord Bothwell, ¿Jamie,¿ and the intrigue surrounding this love.The book is well written and flows easily. My main complaint with this book is that it follows the love story too much and spends less time on the fascinating history of the time. I believe much more could have been added to this book to make it even more interesting. It is a great story and if you like love stories mixed with history it is a perfect story, but I myself am more enraptured in the court intrigue and history involved than the love stories.
nolak on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a really fast read for Historical Fiction. The interest never wanes. I was not a fan of Mary Queen of Scots, but this book did give me insights into her history and life to help me understand her better
sjmccreary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a novel. That means that it was made up. As in, not true. At least not all of it. And that is my problem with this book. It very clearly looks like an historical novel about Mary, Queen of Scots, told from her point of view. As a memoir would be. And I was enjoying the book pretty well - more than I normally do when reading a biography. I've never studied this period of English/Scottish history before, and knew only the most basic facts about Mary. So, nothing in this book was familiar. It was obviously a fictionalized account, in light of the minute details throughout. But still, I was pleased with it. Until I got to the author's note at the end of the book.I expected the author's note to contain the usual disclosure about trying to be as historically accurate as possible, but using creative license to fill in the details. What I got was an unapolgetic statement that entire events were fabricated. Since everything isn't known about Mary's story, she made things up, even contradicting some widely accepted beliefs about what really happened. A few examples of this were provided, and they were some of the key scenes in the story. So now I don't know whether those were the ONLY things that were made up, or just a representative sample. (Since, as I said, I'm not familiar with the historic facts.) That leaves me with an interesting biographical novel that may not be very historically accurate. Or, a mildly entertaining historical fiction. If she was going to make things up, she should have at least made it really, really good. And she didn't. A disappointment.
rendezvous_with_reading More than 1 year ago
Mary became queen at just 6 days of age, upon the death of her father. She was married to the invalid young king of France at the age of 15, but returned to rule Scotland as a young widow. A second marriage to Lord Darnley brought murder and scandal. And a 3rd marriage to her true love, Lord Bothwell added to the scandal surrounding her and brought unrest and disorder to her reign. Mary, a Catholic, then fled to England for help, only to find herself imprisoned by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, a Protestant. The author writes Mary as the narrator and spins a fascinating account of this tragic queen, making this a real page turner. I took this book along on a vacation to Scotland. After visiting several places connected to Queen Mary, I could easily visualize the course of Mary's life; from Loch Leven where Mary was imprisoned on an island, to Holyrood Palace, where the events of her doomed marriage to Lord Darnley occurred.
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nicoleblue More than 1 year ago
Good quick read, especially if you are not one to read history books.
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