Margaret George never ceases to amaze me. The depth of the research she goes into and the descriptions in her books are just amazing. It makes me feel like i'm actually there in the 1500s and witnessing everything first hand. She is a favorite author of mine and I hope she has a new one coming out soon.
Mary Stuart was one of the most unlucky women who ever lived. In a time of almost continuous wars among England, France, and Spain, Scotland and other less-powerful countries often were caught between and crushed by the military giants. Mary was born to an unpopular French queen of Scotland, Mary de Guise, her mother and father were Catholics and raised her the same in a time that was on the brink of cataclysmic religious change, particularly in Scotland. Mary's father was killed in battle only days after her birth, leaving a Regent instead of a strong king to protect the throne of the days-old baby. The king's death and Scotland's defeat doomed Scotland to conditions that in that era meant poverty, starvation, and death for subjugated all populations, and though Mary Guise tried to maintain her grip on the throne, ultimately she had to retreat to France, leaving infant Mary in the hands of her ruthless and treacherous court.
If that weren't enough, Mary grew up without the guidance of anyone who had her best interests at heart. No one thought to teach her not to depend on treacherous men and, impetuous and romantic that she was, she made what turned out to be a disastrous first marriage. And then after her husband was blown up in a plot which many believed included Mary herself, she made a second disastrous marriage to Bothwell.
And on it went, down the years. She antagonized her cousin Elizabeth for decades, finally foolishly crossing without Queen Elizabeths permission into England ahead of a force of her own people from whose prison she had fearlessly escaped and who were hunting her down on horseback with dogs. They would have killed her, but in approaching Elizabeth she created a great security threat -- pretenders to the throne were never welcome in England, and she was one of the threats that shook Elizabeth's world.
If Mary had been a circumspect kind of person, she might have outlived Elizabeth and achieved the English throne as her son did after Elizabeth died, many years after Mary's death by sword. Her trust in people who would use her for their own purposes was what really killed her. Elizabeth held the warrant for Mary's death for years and fought her advisors tooth and nail to avoid signing it. At the end Mary was in reality harmless, but she was a lightening rod for a disaffected element in England, and was finally given the death she had longed for for years of captivity.
There were uncountable twists and turns in the story, with thrilling races on horseback to escape pursuers, thrilling almost-won battles that make ones eyes well up, the pathos of a mother forced to leave her baby son in the hands of the very people, her courtiers, who had imprisoned her. Later when her son was crowned king of Scotland he refused to write to his mother imprisoned in England because it didn't serve his best interest. At least he knew what his best interest was, unlike Mary.
The story of her marriage to Bothwell is heartbreaking in the book, but it's even more heartbreaking in reality because it's likely he, too, was using her though the loved him completely.
Mary was taught that women are weak, and she first thought Darnley was that man, though he was but a silly, vain boy. Bothwell was neither silly nor vain but he had his own agenda though he might have made a good husband for her because he was a strong and wily military leader who might have been able to put things in Scotland to rights had it not been for the Scots penchant for betrayal - even betrayal of those who are on the same side.
The book is wonderful, in my opinion. I've read many books about Mary Stuart and this, I have to say, is the best of the historical novels about her.
This book on Mary Queen of Scots is one I found of great interest. I do not know how much of her life was fictionalised but the events in question indeed seem probable. The long book was a surprisingly quick read and kept me on the edge of my reading chair!