Read Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart by John Guy Online

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A long-overdue and dramatic reinterpretation of the life of Mary, Queen of Scots by one of the leading historians at work today.She was crowned Queen of Scotland at nine months of age, and Queen of France at sixteen years; at eighteen she ascended the throne that was her birthright and began ruling one of the most fractious courts in Europe, riven by religious conflict andA long-overdue and dramatic reinterpretation of the life of Mary, Queen of Scots by one of the leading historians at work today.She was crowned Queen of Scotland at nine months of age, and Queen of France at sixteen years; at eighteen she ascended the throne that was her birthright and began ruling one of the most fractious courts in Europe, riven by religious conflict and personal lust for power. She rode out at the head of an army in both victory and defeat; saw her second husband assassinated, and married his murderer. At twenty-five she entered captivity at the hands of her rival queen, from which only death would release her.The life of Mary Stuart is one of unparalleled drama and conflict. From the labyrinthine plots laid by the Scottish lords to wrest power for themselves, to the efforts made by Elizabeth's ministers to invalidate Mary's legitimate claim to the English throne, John Guy returns to the archives to explode the myths and correct the inaccuracies that surround this most fascinating monarch. He also explains a central mystery: why Mary would have consented to marry – only three months after the death of her second husband, Lord Darnley – the man who was said to be his killer, the Earl of Bothwell. And, more astonishingly, he solves, through careful re-examination of the Casket Letters, the secret behind Darnley's spectacular assassination at Kirk o'Field. With great pathos, Guy illuminates how the imprisoned Mary's despair led to a reckless plot against Elizabeth – and thus to her own execution.The portrait that emerges is not of a political pawn or a manipulative siren, but of a shrewd and charismatic young ruler who relished power and, for a time, managed to hold together a fatally unstable country....

Title : Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart
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ISBN : 9780618254118
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 608 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart Reviews

  • Alice Poon
    2019-04-10 16:57

    I've given this book 5 full stars. It took me an inordinate amount of time to finish it due to the humongous cast of characters and the tangled relationships that the Tudor and Stuart family trees exhibit. Now that the reading is done, I can say that I’m truly impressed by this luminous, expertly researched biography of the gracious, witty, brave and ill-fated Scottish Queen, from whom every subsequent British ruler has been descended.Mary Stuart was crowned Queen of Scotland when she was less than a year old. As the only daughter of James V, granddaughter of Margaret Tudor and great-granddaughter of Henry VII of England, she had a rightful claim to the English throne. At the age of six, under the auspices of Mary’s powerful maternal uncles at the French court, the de Guises, she was sent to France to be betrothed to the dauphin Francis. They were married when Mary was fifteen (in 1558). In 1559, Henry II of France died and the dauphin was crowned Francis II. A year later, Mary’s mother, who was ruling Scotland as sole regent for the absent Queen, died. Six months thereafter, Mary’s husband, King Francis II, also died. The ambitious de Guises sent eighteen-year-old Mary back to Scotland, envisioning a unified claim to the thrones of Scotland, France and England. It was there and then that her nightmare began.On the one hand, Mary was immediately plunged into a factional melee of violent Scottish tribal politics, which were often tinged with religious sectarianism and always motivated by the nobles’ self-interests. On the other hand, Elizabeth I of England did her best to clamp down on Mary (one of her demands was so draconian as to dictate whom Mary could marry), as she was fearful that Mary might usurp her throne (her fear being constantly magnified by her secretary William Cecil). In her home turf, Mary found herself surrounded by treacherous, vicious and depraved courtiers, including her sly and duplicitous half-brother James Stuart (Earl of Moray). Her de Guise relations used and abandoned her as situations warranted and were hardly a source of support. Unfortunate for Mary, her trusting and big-hearted nature would often land her in a perilous position. Her predicament was further exacerbated by constant threat of religious war all over Europe (Catholicism vs. Protestantism). As witty and tenacious as she was, the odds were always stacked against her. Despite all, Mary still strove to preserve her reign as the Scottish Queen and to claim her legitimate right to be Elizabeth’s successor. The last third of the book unfolds like a thriller/mystery novel, as Mary tried to eke out some breathing space for herself by seeking political marriage. She first wedded Lord Darnley, an English royal whose maternal grandmother was Margaret Tudor, and who would thus strengthen Mary’s claim to the English throne. Then when self-serving and deceitful Darnley was murdered, she married Lord Bothwell, a powerful and ruffian Scottish lord, who also betrayed her trust in times of need. The melodrama of her life culminated in 1568 when Mary naively tried to seek protection from Elizabeth but ended up being captured on English soil, where she would be under house arrest for the following eighteen years. In 1586, out of desperation, she fell into the trap that William Cecil had set up and took part in a madcap assassination plot against Elizabeth. She was tried in October 1586 and executed on February 8, 1587.It is impossible not to feel sympathy for this hapless but good-hearted Queen, whose only flaw was perhaps her deep emotional need to be loved.

  • 4triplezed
    2019-04-16 17:52

    To say this was a sympathetic biography of Mary Queen of Scots would do an injustice to the word sympathetic. I hate to use the word hagiography but this is as close as it gets. The author is a specialist in Tudor history and is to be respected but I have come away from this very readable book, and I mean very readable, profoundly confused. He has, in my opinion, let his deep research into the subject cloud his judgement in the presentation of the biography. His sympathy spoils the entire narrative. Yes he is occasionally critical of Mary's decisions but then there seems to be excuses. Lets be honest, her decision to marry Bothwell must rank as one of the most ludicrous acts by a reigning monarch in British history. Yes the author says as much but makes excuses. I was almost waiting for Stockholm Syndrome to be evoked after she was raped by Bothwell! The superlatives used to describe Mary are constant throughout:- intelligent, ingenious, razor sharp. And in the end when things have gone disastrously wrong we get told she was "unlucky". Well yes, maybe, but her bad luck is apparently just a constant throughout her life. The author works hard to make it all very unlucky that way via some very sympathetic eulogising. I tended to want him to tell the story and let me decide, not editorialise.My other major criticism is the use of the sources. I have to be critical of the notes, sources and the bibliography used in the research for the fact they are not mapped by footnotes. The book is a revisionist opinion and that is fair enough, but with that, if the author going to make statements as to it being a "cold day", one of the protagonists feeling "happy", "sad"` or indifferent at least map the source via a footnote. I mean if Mary was born in the coldest winter (first page of the first chapter) what was the source? This was constant throughout and a distraction from a very good history to tell. So with all that in mind would I recommend this to others who are interested in the life of Mary Queen of Scots? Yes as at its best this is an an extremely interesting book. I just wish the author had been a bit more circumspect in his delivery.

  • Elizabeth
    2019-04-08 19:02

    Interesting insight on what Mary was really like but the author is VERY biased in her favour and bends over backwards to show her in a favourable light, often to the detriment of others. I wonder how he feels about the recent revelations by medical historians that for it to be apparent that Mary had miscarried Bothwell's twins (rather than a single baby), she must have been at least five months pregnant - 16th century medicine would not have been able to discern twin foetuses before that stage. This means Mary was pregnant by Bothwell before Darnley's murder, and gives her a compelling motive for wanting to get her husband out of the way. She was almost certainly complicit in his murder and she not only failed to make any serious effort to bring her husband's killers to justice, she married one of them! The Casket Letters may well be forged but they are beside the point really: as Mary's actions speak for themselves.Anyone wanting to read a rather more honest account of Mary's life and character would do better to read An Accidental Tragedy by Roderick Graham, which treats Mary as the flawed human being she was, and even explains how the "cult of Mary Stewart" with all its silly myths, developed after her death.

  • Fiona
    2019-03-28 21:51

    I enjoyed this book but found it difficult not to be furious with Mary's stupidity and short-sightedness, not to mention her vanity which allowed her to be easily led by similarly vain and ambitious men. Guy perhaps is a little in love with Mary and the book lacks incisiveness and impartiality because of it but it's still one of the best biographies I've read.

  • Orsolya
    2019-04-16 17:54

    Mary, Queen of Scots, doesn’t have the best reputation. Said to have ruled with her heart rather than her head; Mary Stuart was surrounded by drama, heartbreak, forced to abdicate her throne, and eventually beheaded after being held captive in England. Yet, there is much to credit Mary that many people overlook. Historian John Guy attempts to rehabilitate this infamous woman in, “Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart”. Guy presents “Queen of Scots” as a full-fledged biography beginning with a description of Mary’s birth and subsequent childhood. This beginning is slightly less evasive to the actual Mary as Guy focuses more on the environment around Mary and of key figures in her life versus just of Mary herself. It can be argued that Guy goes slightly off tangents at times. However, stick to the reading as “Queen of Scots” does reveal Mary more as the pages progress.Readers need not worry that Guy puts Mary on a pedestal merely to reverse the consensus image of her character. Rather, “Queen of Scots” is actually quite straight forward and a better-formed big picture portrait of Mary than most other biographies.Guy does suffer from his usual tendency of making speculative and “would have” and “could have” – statements. Luckily, based on other books of his I have read; “Queen of Scots” is the least to overuse these. Guy’s prose and text is also a bit too flowery and visual (which is also a habit of his and means he could pen a terrific HF novel) which deters some readers. On the other hand, this writing style prevents “Queen of Scots” from being too dry and scholarly and thus heightens the pace. In other flaws, Guy sometimes backtracks in time and events when presenting information which can cause confusion with readers. Also evident is repetition – literally. There are phrases which appear almost copy/pasted. I’m not sure how the editor missed this.On a positive note, “Queen of Scots” is peppered with myth debunking and detective work performed by Guy. In fact, some of the information is fresh or explored in a way that even those readers familiar with the life of Mary will find amusing, revealing, and interesting. “Queen of Scots” sort of shifts gears from a biography to an investigative piece when discussing the murder of Darnley. Guys presents this event in a court case-like manner and proceeds to break down the history and subsequent events in points of view of Mary, Bothwell, and the nobility. This is done in a very well-rounded and complete way revealing multiple angles and information previously not discussed. Guy even quotes documents not mentioned by historians since the 1800s. This helps explain Mary’s position in a far better conclusive way than other biographies. Yet, Guy doesn’t push his beliefs or biases; he merely gives a better insight for readers to make their own judgments while debunking myths.On similar grounds, Guy’s discussion of the Casket Letters and its impact is thorough, riveting, and much more in-depth (and investigative) than many other sources. Again, all sides are explored and myths are exposed/debunked resulting in compelling reading. Sadly, concluding chapters slow down in pace and return to a biography style—which isn’t necessarily a problem. The problem is that Guy seems to rush over topics and “Queen of Scots” feels as though a deadline was approaching or the word count was being met and therefore Guy had to wrap it up. The epilogue of “Queen of Scots” features a strong summary of Mary’s legacy followed by chronological time lines of events both in Mary’s life and in Britain during her lifetime. This is followed by annotated notes and a section of sources (a satisfying amount of primary sources were used). Guy also infuses “Queen of Scots” with two sections of black and white photo plates.“Queen of Scots” is a very well-written, heavily researched biography which takes a unique investigative look at Mary’s life offering an out –of-the-box view without simply hero worshipping her. “Queen of Scots” is recommended for all readers interested in British history, queens, and Mary, herself. “Queen of Scots” is definitely one of Guy’s stronger works.

  • Elizabeth
    2019-04-25 17:59

    Good read but too biased and tries to present Mary as a far better person than the evidence suggests she could possibly have been. What are we to think of a woman who, when the husband she loathes is murdered, gives his horse and some of his clothes to the man EVERYONE says is the killer? What should we think when she refuses to allow more than a "show" trial at which the court is surrounded by armed men employed by the defendant, who threatens to kill anyone who speaks out of turn? What should we think when the widow marries that defendant less than three months after the murder? And what do we conclude when the widow, pregnant by the murderer, miscarries of twins, bearing in mind that in the 16th century it wouldn't have been possible to tell the foetuses were twins until five months into the pregnancy, so that conception must have taken place well before her husband's murder but after her estrangement from him? Is she not condemned by these actions, irrespective of the Casket Letters?For a much better and quite unbiased account of Mary's life, read An Accidental Tragedy, by Roderick Graham.

  • Elaine
    2019-04-24 19:43

    Mary Queen of Scots, when she's not being muddled up with Mary Tudor, is generally known as a scandalous Queen. She is the emotional, flighty counterpart to Elizabeth I's steely calculation. John Guy does a wonderful job of rubbishing this stereotypical view.He is obviously a fan of Mary and does his best to show the other, lesser known facets of her character. Unlike her English cousin, Mary became the Queen of Scotland when she was only six days old and she left Scotland to marry the French Dauphin as a young girl. In time, she would become the Queen of France, even if only for a brief, glittering period. The untimely death of her first husband saw her heading home to claim a throne that she hardly knew, and which was a world away from the sophistication of the French court. It is in the murky, politically and religiously volatile environment of Scotland that Mary's life and fortunes take off. Through murder, intrigue and scandal, Mary was forced to try and negotiate her path as both a female ruler and one of the wrong religion. Added to this was Mary's relationship with England. As a direct descendant of Henry VII, Mary's claim to the throne was closest to Elizabeth Tudor's and as two Queens in the same island, the relationship between the women was both familial and full of danger. This danger would eventually lead Mary to her end, the part of her life for which she is probably best known today.John Guy writes a fantastic biography in this book. Entertaining and thorough, he guides his readers through Mary's complex life. The mysteries remaining over the death of Darnley, Mary's second husband, and her third marriage are combed over life a crime novel and he attempts to exonerate her from some of the slurs that have been laid against her over the centuries since her death. Guy's portrait of Mary is as an intelligent and mostly rather politically astute ruler, who does a largely good job of controlling her nobles and navigating the labyrinth Scotland's tribal society. Her weakness is in choosing her husbands. Unable to even contemplate ruling alone like her cousin, Mary makes bad romantic decisions that erode her power base and respectability. For anyone who is interested in Tudor-era British history, this book is a great read. For everyone else, Mary Queen of Scots is a vibrant and fascinating character whose direct bloodline still sits on the British throne today. Definitely worth reading about.

  • Mari Biella
    2019-03-29 19:43

    Centuries after her execution, Mary Queen of Scots remains one of the most divisive and enigmatic figures in British history. Was she manipulated and betrayed by those around her? Or was she conniving, untrustworthy, and perhaps even a party to the murder of her own husband?Those wanting to find out the truth (insofar as “the truth” can be recovered after so much time) could do far worse than to read John Guy’s scholarly, masterful biography. Guy presents Mary as a sympathetic, generous woman who was actually – for a short period, at least – also rather a shrewd political leader. The Scotland of which she was Queen was a divided place, torn apart by competing religious, political and familial factions. She lacked the support of a loyal nobility (one of the considerable advantages possessed by Queen Elizabeth, who is, of necessity, also a major presence in the book). She perhaps did well to hold the country together for as long as she did.Where did it all go wrong for Mary? Perhaps it all began with her marriage to Darnley – a good husband from the vantage point of a monarch who wanted to bolster her claim to the English throne, but a disastrous one from a personal perspective. Darnley was selfish, scheming, and an inveterate plotter, and while Mary almost certainly had no direct involvement in his assassination – she actually stood to lose a great deal from his death – she could hardly have been expected to mourn the passing of a man who had proved such a disappointment to her.It was, though, with her marriage to Bothwell that Mary’s tottering reign began to utterly crumble. Bothwell himself is presented as a more rounded figure than is usual – both rough and smooth, he could boast a French education and was charming when it suited him, but he also placed personal ambition far above his feelings for Mary. By marrying him, Mary hoped to unite her factious nobles; in fact, she just exacerbated the country’s internal divisions, and probably sealed her own doom.Whatever Mary’s flaws and mistakes, however, she ultimately comes across as a warm-hearted, well-rounded woman who might – had things been just slightly different – have been a uniting, rather than a dividing, force. Her accomplishments are not glossed over: despite her personal commitment to Catholicism, she was tolerant of differing views (the same cannot always be said of her opponents, most notably the Protestant preacher John Knox). During her brief reign, she could on occasion be every bit as astute a politician as Elizabeth, which counters her usual image as a woman ruled by her heart rather than her head. Ultimately, though, this was a woman destroyed by in-fighting, political machinations, and the misogyny of her own times. Well worth a read for anyone interested in this most charismatic of monarchs, or in Scottish or British history in general.

  • Margaret Sankey
    2019-04-26 21:42

    Supposedly a revisionist view of Mary Stuart with new information that sets her decisions in a better light...I read it hoping for this and came to the conclusion that nope, she's still an idiot. A better documented idiot, but still an idiot.

  • Jessica
    2019-03-29 19:58

    Mary was in my estimation was still a nitwit, but I enjoyed this book immensely.

  • Meredith
    2019-04-24 16:47

    I'll admit it: the reason I wanted to read this book is because I watch (and love) the CW show "Reign," which is loosely based on the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. How loosely? Pretty darn. But one thing is the same-I am Team Mary forever and ever, amen. She may occasionally make some pretty bad decisions about her love life, but that doesn't change my love for her. She was an awesome lady. And if everyone around her hadn't sucked so much (if you don't believe me, read the book. They were all the absolute worst) she would probably have been an awesome queen. The book itself is an impressive achievement. I'll admit to taking almost 2 months to read it, but most of that is because the sheer depth of the detail doesn't allow you to give it a quick read. John Guy obviously dedicated a lot of his time to researching and writing this, and if you read it, you'll have to invest some time as well. But it's totally worth it! And not just because you will look smart carrying it around.

  • Katie
    2019-04-25 16:44

    I hate most of the contemporary literature on Mary. It's all a bunch of did she or didn't she a. murder Darnley b. plot to murder Darnley c. write the casket letters d. consent to marry Bothwell e. plot against Elizabeth f. die a tragic martyr g. all of the above. Let it rest, people (Alison Weir, I AM LOOKING AT YOU). And yes, Guy takes an opinion on all of these subjects, but stays within reasonable factual boundaries and doesn't spend chapters and chapters on ridiculous theories about Darnley dying of asphyxiation outside Kirk o Field/Mary being framed by Elizabeth in the many Catholic plots (seriously?) or try and mythologize her as a a. evil Catholic murdering whore b. tragic wronged queen, which is refreshing. Guy, for the most part, is content to let her life speak for itself, which it certainly does.Note: super long. 500 pages plus extensive lists of source material (very, very helpful) and cited works. Don't take it on a plane unless you want to break your back.

  • Katherine
    2019-03-27 20:00

    I returned from Scotland and a visit to the National Museum of Scotland wanting to read a biography of Mary Stuart that wasn't through the Tudor lens. This was a great one. Inherently readable. I learned a lot. I always had the Darnley/Bothwell timeline screwed up in my head. I also now understand much better why Mary was seen as such a threat to Elizabeth. That being said, William Cecil is an ass. I had no idea Mary made such an effort to have a positive working relationship with Elizabeth. I found that very interesting and it made me very angry that she was so railroaded throughout her career. Sexism at its most despicable. I also wasn't much of a fan of most of the Scottish lairds. It did emphasize how dangerous a power vacuum during a regency can be for monarchs, however. Taking legitimate control of your throne after a regency is tough. Makes me admire the kings and queens who managed it even more (Edward III springs to mind).

  • Cheri
    2019-03-30 20:53

    Biographies are not typically my "thing." However, I found this a fascinating read, and while some of the day-to-day is obviously fictionalized dialogue, etc., it kept it interesting for me.

  • Bria
    2019-04-15 16:04

    Unfortunately Mary was just not a smart or well-connected woman.Even though Guy is incredibly sweet towards her in his descriptions there is no way he can truly hide the fact that Mary's lineage represented the perfect triangle of power to the thrones of France, England, and Scotland but had absolutely no one looking out for her or any family and was just shuttled from one aggressive political fiend to the next.Mary's mother sent her to France thinking this would benefit her, but could not foresee Catherine de Medici. Once she rose to power and Mary's husband died she was sent home (Guy states this was Mary's decision, but a young girl is really no match for the older, wiser, full of spies and connections Catherine). Once home Mary had barely any supporters or a close circle that put her ideals and goals at the front. Her lords were all fighting and her half-brother was gallivanting around. Still young, with her only attributes being 'charisma' as Guy states (not sure how this is supposed to translate into effective leadership), and this being the 16th century, where despite the many female rulers, men still were able to beat women and held the true power, I find it incredibly hard to believe Mary really was effective or made any decisions at all. She married Darnley, which made no sense unless her goal was to be a vengeful upon Elizabeth. Then married Bothwell, which also makes no sense politically. (Guy states that Mary must have chosen to marry Bothwell because of her energetic, proud demeanor would never let her forgive someone who raped her....hate to break it you Guy, but many beautiful, smart women decide to stay with angry, abusive men for many reasons and none of them truly out of choice.) Then she runs to Elizabeth, which also made no sense politically.So without family or a close circle vying for her interests, Mary, being young and beautiful, was run over by incredibly aggressive men and lead into political traps, never really knowing who to trust.She makes an interesting historical figure because of her dramatic lineage and how her son ultimately ascended to the English throne, but in life she must have been haughty, in abusive relationships and sad.Also- Can you really call her a queen if she never effectively ruled and spent her who life in some sort of captivity?

  • Noah Goats
    2019-04-01 21:44

    This biography of Mary is sympathetic to its subject and tells the story of her life without delving into too much detail. Her life was too interesting and this books is too short for there to be any boring bits. I listened to the audiobook version, which I believe was read by the author himself, and he did a solid job. He has the kind of posh English accent that you like to hear reading this sort of book.

  • Nick Sweeney
    2019-04-06 16:44

    This is a very detailed look at the story of Mary Stuart. I always looked upon her as a tragic figure, churned helplessly up in her times and circumstances, but this book makes that into a convenient myth. The truth was that Mary was as much of a player in what led to her ultimate downfall as all of the other people around her. In her early life she was up against the machinations of the french court, led by her own Guise family - her mother was the scheming Mary de Guise - who inflated Mary's sense of herself as a queen for their own ends. Indeed, that was how power politics played out in the 1500s, so this was a natural course to follow.By the time the devoutly Catholic Mary moved to Scotland to become the queen of the Scots she was surrounded by Protestant adversaries; scheming lords like her brother Moray, religious fanatics like John Knox, adventurers like Lord Darnley and Earl of Bothwell James Hepburn (both of whom Mary married) and the added danger of a paranoid Elizabeth in England, and the powerful men who feared Mary. The remarkable thing about Mary was that she faced them all down, played them at their own game and, sometimes, won, when she was in her early twenties. I can't imagine the strength of character she must have had to be able to do this.Nemesis came in the form of the Scottish lords, who worked through their own rivalries to form an alliance against her. To be fair, Mary also made some unwise choices - taking up with Bothwell in the religious and moral atmosphere of the times, for instance. She could also have abandoned her claim to the English throne in the face of what was by then a predominantly Protestant island tied firmly to the Reformation, and to the force of personality in Elizabeth I. Elizabeth's chief minister Cecil made it his life's work to get rid of Mary, and he got his way after 20 years of unremitting attacks on her. Mary lost her brightness during her 18-year house arrest, unsurprisingly, and you have to wonder how she maintained her status as queen with her phantom court in all that time without going insane. She became the queen of her own servants and staff, basically, and it's very difficult to see what kind of effect that could have had on a woman of intelligence.John Guy strikes just the right note in this rather long book, never wavers from the subject into the kind of speculation that often ruins modern history books. I'd be interested in reading him again, and, of course, I thoroughly recommend this book.

  • Leah
    2019-04-21 14:39

    A sympathetic portrait…Having thoroughly enjoyed Guy's recent biography of Thomas Becket, I had high expectations of this book, which Guy more than fulfilled. A meticulous historian who prides himself on stripping back the layers of accepted history by returning to and re-evaluating the original sources, Guy also has the skill of a true storyteller. For a non-historian like myself, it is this skill that makes his books so readable, that makes his characters emerge as rounded human beings with strengths, weaknesses and emotions.A very sympathetic portrait, this - Guy goes into Mary's French upbringing and education in some depth to provide support for his view of her as a strong, intelligent and ingenious woman, well prepared by her Guise relatives to take on the role of Queen. It is particularly interesting to contrast Mary’s education and preparation for monarchy with that of Mary Tudor and Elizabeth, described in Guy’s most recent book The Children of Henry VIII. He fills in the background to Mary's reign well, giving a clear picture of the divisions and ever-shifting factionalism in the Scotland of her time. At points it seems almost as if Guy himself had fallen a little in love with this woman whom he describes as 'glamorous, intelligent, gregarious, vivacious, kind, loyal to her supporters and friends'. He works hard to clear Mary from any remaining suspicion of her involvement in Darnley's murder and convinced this reader, at least.Guy doesn't gloss over the unpalatable truth that Mary's misguided relationship with Bothwell to a large degree brought about her own destruction. However he explains convincingly how Mary's usual good judgement and ingenuity may have been affected by the events following Darnley's death. Overall this is not only a scholarly, well-researched book, but also a hugely enjoyable one. In my review of Guy's Becket I said 'For a non-historian, this is exactly how history should be presented - assume no knowledge on the part of the reader, fill in all the necessary background, give a picture of the wider society and tell the whole thing in an interesting way.' Guy has done exactly that again. An excellent read - highly recommended.www.fictionfanblog.wordpress.com

  • Danielle Reily
    2019-04-04 17:50

    I found this in-depth biography absolutely fascinating. I love Tudor history, and of course I have read about Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots before. She has always been more of a background character in the books I've read. I knew the basic facts of her life and death and how she impacted the English monarchy, but there is a lot more to her than I expected. I had made a lot of assumptions regarding her and her actions as a queen. John Guy goes through all of the contemperary records and evidence in an attempt to uncover the true Mary Stuart, who she was and why she did what she did. The motives, feelings, and etc. of historical figures is more often than not based on random facts gleaned from letters and a lot of conjecture. The facts surrounding Mary, Queen of Scots are highly debated, almost every book I have read has a different view on Mary, her reign, her marriages, her relationship with Queen Elizabeth, and her personality. I appreciate a historical biography that explains the reasoning behind it's assumptions.John Guy goes through the existing evidence in an interesting and new way. He examines controversial issues from all sides, giving each of their "official" stories, and showing possible holes in their stories. Using documents from all sides of the issue to figure out the truth, or the most likely truth. An amazing book for anyone who likes history at all.

  • Heather
    2019-04-21 17:08

    This is a very thorough and interesting account about Mary Queen of Scots. The author, John Guy, attempts to answer the questions of the murder of her husband Lord Darnley, the marriage of Mary to Bothwell, and her plots against Elizabeth I. The author depicts Mary not as a "femme fatale" as many other historians have. He believes that she did not conspire to murder her husband. What is interesting is the extent to which the author explains the plot against Darnley and the whole marriage to Bothwell. He shows it from Mary's side, the lords' sides, and Bothwell's side.This is a long read (500 pages) but it is well worth it. John Guy is an exceptional writer and he sheds light on this very intriguing topic of Mary Queen of Scots who became queen as an infant and was beheaded after 18 years in captivity under Elizabeth I.

  • Lindsay
    2019-03-26 14:43

    This biography is well-researched with a strong narrative arc. I docked it for the author's frequent and absurd editorializing about Mary, particularly her supposed superiority to Elizabeth I. For example, Guy's assertions that Mary Stuart was more disciplined or politically astute than Elizabeth I at any point are just laughable. These biases made me wonder what else he was telling me that wasn't accurate.

  • Sydowg
    2019-04-09 18:48

    This was an enlightening historical account of Mary, Queen of Scots. The author, John Guy, brought her to life for me, and he intermingled factual writings along with many discrepancies written throughout the years. This book gives a detailed account of her life from childhood to death. It makes me wonder, what if? Very well written as a biography.

  • Jacob hurt
    2019-04-25 14:55

    I originally bought this as an "anti-Elizabeth I" book. But, I really enjoyed it. I gave it 3 stars because it's really one-sided, and it tries to prove that Mary was a saint... yeah right. But very enjoyable.

  • Sarah -
    2019-04-08 16:55

    Beautifully written biography of Mary. Not without its flaws, but far less biased than others I've read. Even paints Elizabeth in a decent light and Cecil (rightfully so though) shoulders most of the blame.Full review to come.++++++++++++++My Book Blog ---> http://allthebookblognamesaretaken.bl...While I would not consider Mary a heroine of mine, I can certainly say that she is an unjustly maligned figure who deserves a lot more respect than she has received in the 400+ years since her death. It is no secret that Mary made some very poor choices later in her reign, but prior to that she ruled her country well, with tolerance for religion and an aim to work together with her council to govern Scotland as an independent nation free of England's interference.Here with Guy's biography of Mary, we are given a beautifully written, exhaustively researched play-by-play of Mary's life. That is not to say the work is perfect, it does have its flaws, just as Mary did, but it is far less biased than some of the other texts available out there. I can say this with certainty, as it even paints Elizabeth in a decent light (which I don't care for) and Cecil (rightfully so) shoulders much of the blame in Mary's downfall.From the very beginning of her life, Mary was a queen and raised as such. When her father James V died within a week of her birth, the crown became Mary's and perhaps her fate was sealed then. Scotland has never had great luck with minor rulers, yet due to Henry VIII and his 'rough wooing' of Mary as a bride for Edward, Mary was promptly sent to France before she was even old enough to understand her place and her mother Mary of Guise became regent.Due to the research and facts presented here, no one can really be surprised that Mary acted as she did. Her entire early life, she was the darling of the French court - already Scotland's queen and being prepared to become France's as well. People speak and write of her as though she was just this dumb, vain little girl. While she could certainly exhibit those qualities, it is certainly not all there was to Mary. It is also no surprise that she was so trusting. Family was so important to Mary, from her time in France with her Guise uncles, to her half-brother Moray. Mary never really stood a chance with all these greedy and manipulative men aligned against her for their own self-interests. Her uncles did her no favors for her future, by styling her as Queen of England while she was in France; they set up the struggle that would come to define Mary's life after her execution. Moray's constant undermining and later treachery was beyond awful. Mary trusted her half brother time and again, because family was important to her. To call her stupid for wanting to trust her family is to do a great disservice to Mary.While over all I have a favorable opinion of this biography, it is not without its flaws. The author speaks of some things as facts when there is little evidence to actually confirm. The first time this arises is actually in reference to Elizabeth and Dudley, whom the author says had a 'fling lasting 18 months'. This is incorrect on many levels, primarily being the fact that it was certainly no fling and likely lasted longer than 18 months, despite Dudley's multiple marriages - and to think, Elizabeth thought Mary would actually jump at the chance to Mary Dudley. What a joke. It actually saddens me that so much of Mary's story involves those two.A second issue I take with the author's version of events is that he refers to Rizzio once being Darnley's lover. This is a huge point of contention and several authors have repeatedly addressed it. Again, no proof. I did learn that at one point Rizzio was apparently part of Darnley's circle, and there were stories that they had at various times shared a bed, but this was not uncommon in this time period, so I am confused as to how sharing a bed equals being lovers.As always seems to be the case, one can not discuss Mary without addressing Elizabeth. While the author does put a positive light on Elizabeth, her major flaws shine even brighter. For example, Elizabeth felt like she had the power to veto any attempt at marriage Mary might make. It doesn't surprise me, given the fact that Elizabeth was selfish and manipulative, but Mary was the queen of an independent nation and equal to Elizabeth in every way. Elizabeth had no rights or power of the Queen of Scots, but she never could seem to remember that fact. The bigger problem than Elizabeth though, was Cecil, always Cecil. He infuriated me with every turn of the page. He was constantly undermining Mary at every opportunity. It is almost certain that he knew of both the plots against both Rizzio and Darnley, yet he did nothing. He wanted Mary out of Elizabeth's way and he knew that these two incidents would ensure that. Cecil is repeatedly painted by Guy as the bad guy and while I have no love for the guy, the constant reference to his will being done over Elizabeth's in regards to Mary means one of two things: 1) Elizabeth wasn't as strong of a ruler as everyone believes she supposedly was, or 2) Cecil is merely a scapegoat to present Elizabeth as a better person than she actually was in regards to Mary. I have no doubt in my mind that Mary's execution was always his goal once her personal life began to fall apart - he certainly saw the opportunity. But this is problematic in regards to Elizabeth. It makes Elizabeth look weak and as though she has no control over her counselors. I'm fine either way, because I am no fan of Elizabeth, but still.While Mary is often depicted as a queen who never ruled well, who was weak and easily swayed by her counselors, Guy shows us in fact, that is not the case. Especially in regards to Darnley, and keeping him close to her when necessary, Mary showed great strength and resolve. "When Darnley arrived at the gates of Holyroodhouse a week later, insisting that her counselors must be evicted before he would deign enter, he was personally hauled inside by his wife" (page 261). Mary was no fool. Guy's work is refreshing to read as an in-depth look at her role as queen. Time and again Mary is shown as an active queen, working with her counselors and using her method of divide and conquer so to speak, to make sure her government continued to run. Had things gone differently and Mary been able to hold onto her throne, Mary might today be recognized as the greatest ruler on that little island, not Elizabeth.My only other gripe beyond the questionable things presented as fact was the issue of photographs. It would have been nice if at least some of them had been in color. And call me crazy, but there is something to be said for photos being printed on photo paper instead of the same paper as the text,Especially beautiful quotes:"For all these years, perhaps ever since the death of her first husband, she had been in someone else's way" (page 484). What a tragically beautiful truth, Mary had been surrounded her whole life by ruthlessly ambitious men who did not value her right as queen to rule."Mary herself was a mass of contradictions, but some qualities abided. She was glamorous, intelligent, gregarious, vivacious, kind, generous, loyal to her supporters and friends, and devoted to her Guise relations. whether or not they returned her love. She could be ingenious and courageous with the razor sharp wit, and never more animated and exuberant than when riding her horse at the head of her army wearing her steel cap.But she had deep emotional needs. She expected love and needed to be loved. And to a large extent she got what she demanded: from her Guise family as a child, from her Maries as an adult, from her domestic servants and, until she married Bothwell, from her people, who were spellbound by her youth, beauty, and glamour. Maitland came closest to the marl when he predicted that the ordinary people of Scotland would be captivated by her merest smiles or frowns. But as queen she lacked the love of a partner, an equal, who could have bolstered her in her anxieties and tempered her impulsiveness. And this hunger for a partner, a husband, a king, led her to her most grotesque and uncharacteristic miscalculations.Although her rank meant that she was never alone, loneliness must often have consumed her, and it was a sign of her emotional isolation during her later years that her pets became everything to her. Her final reckless throw of the dice in 1586, endorsing a madcap plot in which not even the motives of the principals were clear, is a reflection of her desperation" (pages 496-497).And this one sums up my thoughts best:"But to let the end of her life overshadow the whole is an injustice. The odds were stacked against her from the beginning" (page 499).Truly, Mary never stood a chance against all of these forces who continued to put their interests ahead of her own, even as she was the sovereign ruler of Scotland. She was their queen and they did everything they could to bring her down. Though, there is some solace in this:"Her victory was more conclusive than even she might have dared hope, because every subsequent British ruler has been descended from her, and all derive their claim to the throne from her and not Elizabeth" (page 489). So there, Elizabeth!All in all, this is an amazing biography. John Guy has done a wonderful job dispelling all the abhorrent myths and rumors that have run wild in the last 400 years. It is definitely not for the casual reader who has no background knowledge of Mary or her turbulent world, as it runs 500 pages, not including the notes. Still, if you have the interest, by all means, go for it. Highly recommended.

  • C.S. Burrough
    2019-04-21 21:45

    An essential element of any historical biographer's task is to put colour into the cheeks of their subject, which Professor Guy effects with aplomb in this meticulously penned tome. This queen, who has has for centuries polarised commentariats, is a personal favourite, this being the twenty-something book of her I've relished. Each biographer depicts her as predominantly innocent or guilty. This one is firmly on Mary's side and puts his case supremely.The details that divide on the Queen of Scots are those absent from posterity, those which perhaps Mary's royal son James I & VI helped erase from record, or which Mary's accusers collectively disposed of to save their own reputations with the passage of time. Much has been powerfully theorised on the potential forgery of her incriminating 'casket letters' with as much effectively arguing their authenticity.We'll never know for sure, without some revelation becoming unearthed. Such are the tantalising dynamics of the relationship between this and her cousin queen and executioner Elizabeth I, of whom similarly divided thought tribes have evolved for similar reasons. Both queens have benefited and suffered from each other's propagandists.In the face of excellent wider reception, this author has by some been unfairly accused of being as enamoured with Mary Stuart as her contemporary devotees were, his detractors complaining of his bias in her favour. Yet sexagenarian Professor Guy, who read history at Cambridge before teaching there, is a veteran historian of the highest order. He is as entitled, perhaps more so than his armchair critics, to an informed opinion.It never fails to baffle me, reading critiques from those a half or quarter Guy's age, qualifying their pickiness citing not a single academic endowment of their own – I'm not talking critiques of his style but of his capacity to know his material – just how ferociously opinionated today's readers still find themselves on this dividing monarch. The bare facts still trigger kneejerk moral reactions to her legendary deeds.I agree with John Guy on the reality of Mary of Scots' personally redeeming qualities. Without a religious agenda to my name and having equal fondness for her arch rival, Elizabeth, I too have always kept an open mind on Mary's broader innocence and have consistently concluded that, like so many martyrs of her age put to death for treason, she cannot have been entirely guilty of everything charged against her. Such was the politico-judicial machine's modus operandi and still is. Evidence is, and always was to some degree, controlled, manipulated and confected by those in power over any such accused.Nor can any rational apologist concede Mary's total innocence (anyone so unjustly imprisoned for so long would have plotted towards their liberty on whatever ethical ground presented itself). The truth, as always, must lie somewhere in the centre. I once more concluded, nevertheless, that here was an extremely likeable woman. One I still find intriguing enough to keep reading on as more gets written with the sophistry of modern research. One I remain unable to side either with or against. It's a stimulating position.Highly recommend this book, especially to the unbigoted.

  • Brittany Nelson
    2019-04-16 14:56

    John Guy’s biography is hailed as a sympathetic biographyl s0 I was excited. Indeed, I did enjoy the first 300 pages. It established Mary as a complete capable as a political player, whereas she is usually seen as tone deaf to politics. While also pointing out her flaws, like to trustworthy of people she considered family. It shows her dealing with Elizabeth and also setting up her band of councilors and battling the different factions in Scotland. After her marriage to Lord Darnley, his strength in painting her as a character falls apart. He cannot define her as he wants to and he loses focus. Further, his view on Bothwell is just wrong. The fact that he asserts that she was kidnapped, but he didn’t rape her. She was kidnapped. Don’t give her an illusion of choice. Yes, she didn’t try to escape for twelve days. But rape has after effects; it doesn’t just happen. Considering her husband just was murdered and she lived in a state of fear, it’s no wonder that she didn’t. He stops trying to read her as a human at this point and the book really suffers because of this. Also given Bothwell’s history of violence before and after the marriage, with being abusive to Mary, I don’t buy that Mary fell in love with him and I laugh at historians who don’t believe Mary was raped. Rape culture is everywhere. You can easily read her history after as a psychology of a rape victim. It’s just that people don’t want to. They want to paint her as an idiot instead. The book also spends too much time on Lord Darnley’s murder. Mary, Bothwell, and the other councilor’s each get a chapter. It’s great you did research, but what really matters is what happened not every specific thing and everyone’s story. He also spends an enormous amount of time on the Casket Letters, which were disproven at the time, so I don’t understand why he needed to talk about them and not really make a judgment either way. The chapters on the different views and the Casket Letters really should have been in end notes. He also skirts over things I’d like to hear about like Mary’s escape to England. Things that are more significant to her life. However, what really ruins the book is the epilogue, which basically asserts Mary just needed the right man and she could rule. When do we ever say that to a male king? Never. Second, after pointing out that Elizabeth was not this plainly mindful ruler and she did have a heart. Also, not painting her as perfect with her associations with Mary and also talking about how Elizabeth did want Mary dead - whereas most books paint it as somehow not her fault. He clears Elizabeth of all guilt of her dealings with Mary, saying that Cecil was her main antagonist. While I believe this to a point, it’s just a shame that he back peddles and tries to clear Elizabeth of all guilt when he tried not do this throughout the entire book. I guess I will just have to keep searching for an actually sympathetic biography of Mary Stuart, even if I have to write it myself.

  • Lauralee
    2019-04-08 17:02

    Mary, Queen of Scots has captured many imaginations today. Indeed, the latest historical tv drama, Reign, focuses on the young life of Mary, Queen of Scots. She is portrayed in history as a femme fatale who uses her beauty and charms and manipulates those around her to get the throne of England. She is also portrayed as a failed ruler whose country would have been better had she never been queen at all. However, in John Guy’s biography of Mary, Queen of Scots portrays her as a woman of intelligence, and was educated and trained to rule her country skillfully enough. She tries to incorporate her Renaissance ideals into her reign and on Scotland, only to be met with great hostility from the powerful Protestant nobles of her court who plot to dethrone her because she is a woman and a Catholic. Mary then must use her wits to maneuver her way through the labyrinth of a plethora of conspiracies that wish her downfall to try to be Scotland’s successful queen.Mary, Queen of Scots was queen at only six days old when her father James V died in battle against the English. Because Mary was too young to rule, and because it was dangerous to stay in Scotland, Mary’s mother and regent of Scotland, Marie of Guise, sends her to France to live with the royal family. At the French court, she was immersed in Renaissance culture and had a great education where she studied the classics. As a teenager she married the dauphin of France, Francis II, and eventually she became queen of France. After Francis II died, she decided to be go back to Scotland and rule her country rather than staying. However, once she arrived in Scotland, Mary is met with enemies, one of those who is the leader of the Protestant Reformation, John Knox. Across the Scottish border, Mary also has another enemy, Elizabeth I. Mary then strives to fight to assert her reign over Scotland.Overall, this is a sympathetic account of Mary, Queen of Scots. Her reign is filled with betrayal, murder, religion dominance, and political intrigue. Although the book is very readable, it can be dry at times. It tends to tell every detail of Mary, Queen of Scots’s everyday life. However, it has a very detailed account about the mystery of the murder of Lord Darnley. The book also answers all the questions of Mary, Queen of Scots. I recommend this book to those who are interested in learning about Mary, Queen of Scots, the Elizabethan era, The Tudor era, and the Renaissance.

  • Simon Reid
    2019-03-30 18:05

    This is an outstanding biography of Mary Stuart and confirms John Guy as my favourite historian. Her life is a thrilling story in his hands, and the pace achieved is all the more impressive in that he never forgoes scholarly rigour or simplifies for convenience.Even when things get fiendishly complex for Mary, he keeps all the plates spinning - her handling of the pesky Scottish lords, her shifting favour with the Guise dynasty in France (her mother's side of the family), the religious tensions throughout Europe, the relentless plotting of Elizabeth's right-hand man, William Cecil - and so on. When Guy does pause to look at contentious sources like the Casket Letters (which were used to implicate her in the murder of her second husband, Lord Darnley) from every angle, it's equally gripping.There is plenty of fascinating, often recondite detail crammed in, some of it crucial to the history (Elizabeth deliberately dithered in her instructions, and never actually agreed to an official execution of Mary, in order not to implicate herself), some of it 'good to know' (she loved small dogs all her life, and embroidery became a favourite hobby in her captivity).Guy is sympathetic to Mary, but he's not slow to point out where she was naïve or unwise. He has more cause to do so towards the very end, when she had cruelly been made irrelevant to the succession and became desperate. Overall, it's a sensitive account of a woman who was a Queen from just five days old until she was forced to abdicate at 24, and then spent the rest of her life hounded or imprisoned - a remarkable life any way you choose to look at it. For my part, I'm a fan - she comes across as courageous, shrewd, generous and witty, but desperately unfortunate. I hope that Guy's other biographies on Thomas & Margaret More and Thomas Becket (out of period for him) are just as good as this.

  • Lydia
    2019-04-17 18:09

    A Queen beheaded. Is it a result of her own doing or is she a victim of circumstances?Every historian has certain innate biases and points of view he or she is wanting to discover or reveal. However, John Guy is an award winning historian/biographer of high caliber, and according to his research, the ill-fated Queen was as much a victim of conniving Scottish noblemen and English royal advisers as she was a scheming member of the Royal family. From reading this book it comes to light that being a member of a royal family in the late 1500's was more of a curse than a blessing. Conniving, power hungry noblemen and monarchies, arranged marriages, every word and nuance analyzed as a political strategy and stalling tricks with lengthy letters and cat and mouse word games are a daily fare. It is my opinion, after devouring this book, that Mary Stewart's political downward spiral (and subsequent beheading) was a direct result of her poor choices in the men she allowed to marry her and take on the privileges and consequences of her crown. In an effort to seize control from her "Sister Queen" and cousin, Queen Elizabeth of England, while still retaining a pseudo loving and supportive royal relationship with her, it was the men that became the pawns in this weird chess match. Mary Stuart's story is a tragic one. Isolation, manipulation, having her son (James I, of the KJV version of the Bible) taken away from her, never being allowed to meet face to face with her enemy/ally Elizabeth, husbands who make fools of themselves and health issues, all marred her story in prominant detail. The one bright spot was her gentlewomen (the "Four Marys" as they were called, since they were all also named Mary) and her loyal servants to whom she bequethed her spoils. Through it all, she retained her dignity. She knew that she was of Royal birth and a rightful heir. She conducted herself in this manner admirably, despite her poor choices in whom she trusted. Mary Stuart was, unarguably, quite a woman.

  • Belle
    2019-04-01 14:56

    I read this because a friend of mine let it slip that John Guy was not entirely a Mary Stuart loyalist, and that I would get a better glimpse into some hard facts than if I read someone with a stronger bias toward protecting Mary's image. Though one specific chapter invoked outrage, I was able to set emotionally charged opinions aside and take in the larger picture this writer was working with. I may disagree on the speculative outcome, but there are so many things surrounding her that can only leave one to wonder what was possibly going through her mind in those crucial moments. I feel it should have been longer, though I was quite ecstatic to finally finish the book after having set it on my shelf for near a year. I would have preferred a bit more substance in the last chapters, but the epilogue was quite possibly my favorite chapter of all. I especially love the writers take on why Elizabeth never did meet face to face with Mary, but then again I hold a strong preference for the Queen of Scots - and this specific point made me smile and congratulate myself on reading the book in its entirety for no other reason than to enjoy that one sentence and the paragraphs before and after. If you want a well researched, sometimes seemingly investigative, detailed, wordy, and lengthy presentation of Mary Stuart - this is for you. If you prefer to the point, figure it out yourself, and don't paint mental imagery or pinpoint every single date one can possibly nail down? Well, then no. You wouldn't enjoy this. However, I am one such detail oriented person where no detail is too small therefore I soaked in every single smallest of small detail that could be presented and proven. My love for Mary, the Queen of Scots, remains strong - joined by a new adoration for this book and its writer.