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Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart…
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Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart (2004)

by John Guy

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597825,550 (3.88)37
An intimate, myth-shattering new biography of Mary Queen of Scots by a premier historian that draws on a trove of newly discovered sources.Queen of Scots, the first full-scale biography of Mary in more than thirty years, offers a singularly novel, nuanced, and dramatic portrait of one of history's greatest women. John Guy draws on sources -- many previously unstudied -- as varied as the secret communiques of English spies and Mary's own letters. Dispelled is the ingrained popular image of Mary as a romantic leading lady, achieving her ends through feminine wiles, driven by love to murder, undone by passion and bad judgment. We come to see her as an emotionally intricate woman and an adroit diplomat, maneuvering ingeniously among a dizzying array of factions who sought to control or dethrone her. Guy's investigation of Mary's storied downfall throws sharp new light on questions that have baffled historians for centuries, and offers convincing new evidence that she was framed for the murder for which she was beheaded.… (more)
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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.
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  MariBiella | Dec 6, 2015 |
This is a history of the world in which Mary Queen of Scot's was born into, lived her life in and eventually died in. The Renaissance of Europe. Although this is not an historical novel, by the end of the first chapter it had that feeling. Although the book is full of quotes, cites, etc., it is written in more of a narrative style than many other histories I have read. The reader does not need to have a strong background in Renaissance Europe (esp. Scotland, France, & England), the author, John Guy, is quite masterful at integrating needed historical knowledge with the story at hand. This history not only tells the story of Queen Mary, but much of Queen Elizabeth and her court, the French court (with whom Queen Mary had strong familial ties), etc. It is well worth the time... I found reading this story extremely enjoyable! ( )
  PallanDavid | Mar 25, 2014 |
Another book/audio I wouldn't have picked up had it not shown up at my library page. I really enjoyed this book, I'm no expert on non-fiction but I am not always entertained when reading it in the case of Queen of Scots I was rarely distracted while listening because most of what I knew of Mary was somewhat romanticized by the film adaptations I've seen in the past. There were times while listening when I felt the author (and narrator) were somewhat painting Mary's decisions favorably, but this it's not the first time I encounter this problem when it's a historical figure. I suppose that if a person is invested enough in a historical figure to write a book it is because they are interested in them. Still, it's hard to overlook at times. It's not a long audio, and it's very to the point which I appreciate. I'd definitely keep an eye for more John Guy books in the future. ( )
  BookPurring | Aug 4, 2012 |
Very well-written, though sometimes you can get mired in the details. It would almost seem that Mary Stuart was doomed from birth. What would have happened if Francois hadn't died? What if Scotland had retained the Catholic faith, or what if Mary herself had converted to Protestantism?

This is one of my favorite biographies about Mary. Some of the other biographies I have read make her out to be some sort of impulsive, hysterical woman. Perhaps she was on some points, and yes, I think she ruled more with her heart than her head (as opposed to Elizabeth I of England). She was, however, a refined, educated woman who deserved better. Her half-brother, of course, being the snake-in-the-grass that he was, should have been executed long before. ( )
  quillmenow | Jul 25, 2012 |
One of the few books about Marry Quuen of Scots that doesn't paint her out to be a woman ruled by her passions. Very well researched and balanced story of her life and death. ( )
  Janine2011 | Sep 6, 2011 |
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