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Review: Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles, by Margaret George


Pages:880
Original date of publication: 1997
My edition: 2006
How I acquired my copy: The Strand, NYC, summer 2006
Why I decided to read: Amazon.com recommendation


Review originally published summer 2006 on Amazon.com

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.

Comments

Aarti said…
The only Margaret George book I've ever read was her Diary of King Henry VIII. It was completely absorbing, I remember, though since then I have just been very daunted by the length of her novels to try another one. I'm glad this one was worth the effort!
judy said…
Oh my, I loved this book when I read it in my younger days. I agree she made critical mistakes, but for God's sake she was a woman in terrible times. I was most moved by the last section when she was in the tower. I believe I cried. For God's sake, I am a woman too!

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