Monday, June 16

Book Review

Can I just say that I can't believe I finally finished it? John Guy is a great historian and a good writer. He did a lot of research, relying almost solely on original documents in his account of the Mary Stuart's life. He was always clear about what was fact, and what was opinion and/or conjecture. The result is a volume that allows for her life to speak for itself (for the most part.)

I will have to say that I wonder about Guys' conclusion that Mary's misfortune was due to her problems with finding the right man to marry. Yes, she did marry worthless idiots, but that doesn't mean marrying a better man would have solved all of her problems. I'm mean, honestly. If Darnely hadn't been a total idiot Bothwell and Company never would have killed him. Mary never would have married Bothwell. Never would have been painted as a co-conspirator. Never would have fled to England. And she never would have been held as Elizabeth's prisoner. Of course, if Henry II hadn't taken it upon himself to print coins at the wedding of His son and daughter-in-law that said "Francis Delphine and Mary Delphine of France, Queen of Scotland and England." Cecil would have not have had cause to paint her as an emanate threat to Elizabeth's throne.

It is true, however, that she only married hapless dead beats who only married her for the power, but were too stupid to know how to use that power effectively. Yes, Mary had moments of great courage and she often showed she could think on her feet, but in the end I think she bought into the conventional ideas of what it was to be a female queen in those days. She was too worried about how she thought things ought to be. That meant she didn't always look at the way things were. In my estimation, that was her downfall.
Overall it was a good read. Its 500 pages of text, plus prologue and extensive notes and bibliography mean that this is, literally, not a light read. His reliance on documents and quest to cut through the bull-shite that has attached itself to the myth of the Queen's life is abominable. However, that means that he can be really, really detailed at times. Do we really need to know about her dresses? All of them? Like I said, I'm glad I read it. If you want to save yourself the time though, I highly suggest you read the Prologue. It's a great description of her execution.

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