Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mary Queen of Scots: The Fair Devil of Scotland


Rating: 4 Stars


At first I was hesitant to read this one, given the sub title. Luckily I was pleasantly surprised for the majority of the book, despite it being written in 1975. It was largely supportive of Mary, something she lacked for most of her life.

While I don't think Mary is someone who can be admired for her decision-making skills, she was by all accounts a kind person in unkind times. Mary was a young woman who trusted easily, and could not fathom at being treated as anything but a queen - due to her comfortable upbringing at Court in France. I can't imagine such a terrible series of events, to lose a doting father in law, mother (from afar), and husband in such a short time, it is no wonder that for the rest of her life, Mary would crave and seek whatever affection she could find.

The biggest issue I have with this book is the author's presentation of facts in regards to Bothwell's likely rape of Mary. To say that Mary welcomed this, that she enjoyed it, was so terribly ridiculous, I contemplated not finishing the book at that point. I don't believe Mary was Bothwell's mistress before Darnley's murder. I believe he did rape her at Dunbar, and Mary felt she had no choice but to marry him. Of course, this was just one more mistake in the long series of mistakes that plagued Mary's adult life. Additionally, I found the author repeatedly referring to Bothwell as Mary's 'sexual awakening' to be highly disturbing. It too nearly made me stop reading.

As I read more and more about Mary, I feel more and more sympathy for this tragic figure. Her entire live was planned by men who cared only for their own ambitions. Mary had opportunities to break from them but perhaps could not, because she felt a deep sense of loyalty to those especially who were family. If only she had been treated in kind.

As always, Elizabeth I is a manipulative spoiled brat who knew full well the death warrant would be carried out and was too much of a coward to appear at the trial. Such a vain woman knew from years of hearing of Mary's beauty and charm that she would certainly pale in comparison. 

I can recommend this book, but perhaps only to those who already have a more firm knowledge base in regards to this much-maligned queen. There are certainly better books about Mary, particularly Linda Porter's Tudors Versus Stewarts, but there's a kind of charm in these old books that I find appealing, even if some of the facts are now shown to be wrong.

As a side note, I've visited Holyrood with my mother when we were in Scotland in 2009...

(Photo taken November, 2009 Edinburgh, Scotland)

And a picture of the Abbey ruins, just because ruins are neat

(Photo taken November, 2009 Edinburgh, Scotland)

...and always find it a little discomforting to read of Rizzio's murder. Having stood in that room and been where it actually occurred, gives me the chills.


I always find it so sad when children and parents are separated, though it was considered normal at the time. I understand why, but is it any wonder that Mary turned out as she did, wanting and needed affection from those close to her, when she was taken from her own mother at a young age - just as her son was in turn taken from her.

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