Monday, November 15, 2010

"Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles" by Margaret George

Title: Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles
Author: Margaret George
Published: St. Martin's Press, 1992
Where I Got It: Thrift store
First Line: "In the deepest part of the night, when all the candles save one had been put out and everyone lay quiet, the woman crossed silently to the desk and sat down."

*Be prepared for a slightly biased review. I've hated Mary Stuart ever since The Other Queen (which I didn't like anyways). I've never warmed to her even though I've surprisingly read a lot about her. Why then did I choose to read a 900 page about her life? ......I don't know.*

If you haven't read The Autobiography of Henry VIII, you need to. Right now. Seriously, it's one of the best books I've ever read, and unfortunately, those were the expectations in which I started this book with. Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles is a monster of a story relaying the life of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, Queen Regent of France, and self-proclaimed Queen of England. The book covers her entire life and then some, from before her birth until after her death (which was horrifying to read about).

 Mary literally reached her peak by 22 years old. She became queen of Scotland when she was only a few days old and was Queen of France by 16. She was a beloved by all and destined for greatness. She was at her prime when she was 20 and married Henry Darnley and gave birth to James, the future King of both Scotland and England. There were several problems though. Her husband was a prick, and she was Catholic, and worst of all, a woman. Her gender played such a role in her downfall, yet it was interesting at the same time to read about Elizabeth, another female monarch who managed to use her gender effectively and wisely. After Mary was pushed off her own throne, she spent 20 years either in exile, captivity, or on the run. After a botched assassination attempt on Elizabeth, Mary was blamed and sentenced to death.

As a former psych major, I read into a lot of details in this book. A major theme is her country's perspective of their Queen. Like I said before, she was beloved by everyone as a child and teenager, but mainly because she lived in France and the nobles could run the country the way they wished. After a few bad decisions in her 20s, almost all of her allies turn against her. She is outed as a murderess, whore, and heretic. Towards the end of her life, she has almost no friends left. Her son is taught to hate her and she can find no sympathy anywhere. In fact, after her death, anything she ever touched is burned.

As for Mary herself....she barely had a voice, even though this is her story. Was she a misunderstood martyr or a spoiled, whining princess? I don't think Margaret George even knows the answer to that. My feelings are this: Mary Stuart did not deserve her throne, she botched a great opportunity for Scotland's future and can't accept that. Therefore, I don't like her. I still keep reading books about her though, just to find one where she isn't so annoying. I recommend it? Maybe. If you already like Mary, or want to learn more about her, definitely go for it. It's plenty detailed and very historically accurate. This book isn't for the faint of heart though! When I say it's big, I mean it. It's a monster. I find finishing a huge book to be rewarding though.

Overall, 3 stars.


  1. I've never read anything on Mary and I just bought The Other Queen the other day. Now I'm a little nervous to read it, if it's not that good. I was wondering about this book too. Is this one a better judgment of her life then The Other Queen? Knowing what you know now which one did you prefer I guess is what I'm trying asking lol.

  2. Hmmm....truthfully, I prefer The Other Queen to this one. I say that only because TOQ was a much lighter, fun read, but this one is 10 times more historically accurate and thorough. Definitely start with TOQ to get the basics on Mary, then try something a little more in-depth (and more accurate!).

  3. I will definitely do that thanks for the advice Kelly. Also, I like the new background! =)

  4. No problem! && thank you very much :)

  5. Jeeeez that is a monster! I don't think I'll be reading this anytime soon! I'm going to pick up The Autobiography of Henry VIII at some point soon hopefully..especially if you recommend it highly!

  6. I read Margaret George's 'The Memoirs of Cleopatra,' and I thought it was amazing. I started 'Mary' a long time ago, but never managed to finish it. I think I'll pick it back up :)

  7. Jamie - Yay I'm glad! I recommend it to people who don't even read hist. fic., it's that good!

    Emily - I'm glad to hear that about the Cleopatra book, I've been trying to find a good HF about her!

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