Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Book Report: Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser

In a captivating story of this enigmatic woman we see a princess, a widowed queen, a reigning queen and an imprisoned queen. Written by Lady Antonia Fraser (and this link) of Scotland, this biography, infused with passion and compassion, reads more like a novel of love and intrigue. Although this book is considered "popular history," as opposed to an academic resource, Ms. Fraser draws her facts and details from primary sources. In her forward she writes that she "wished to test for [herself] the truth or falsehood of the many legends" that surround Mary Queen of Scots. As one reviewer of the book said, "It needs to be read carefully as it contains multitudinous views and insights into this remarkable woman."

Mary, the only child of James V, King of Scotland, was sent at the young age of 6 to her mother's family in France to be raised and groomed to marry the next king of France, Francis. Widowed at age 17, she returns to Scotland where her courtly refinement clashes with her brusque, crude kinsman.

Beautiful, brilliant, charming, and courageous, she would have had a long and successful reign except for 2 issues: 1) she didn't understand her Scotsmen; and 2) her impulsive heart led her to unwisely choose a husband. Caught in a web of feuding and fickle noblemen made worse by a philandering and ambitious husband, Mary seeks the aid of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth. Though the women never meet, their tense relationship exhibits sisterly devotion, scheming intrigues, fear and jealousy.

Lady Fraser is obviously sympathetic to the nature and circumstances of Mary, Queen of Scots. Setting Mary "in the context of the age in which she lived," she has written "with the single objective of showing with as much accuracy as is possible in the light of what modern research what Mary Queen of Scots must have been like as a person." Her copious research and affection are evident in every page.

As a high school student, I didn't really care for history. It was taught in the traditional manner as a succession of dates, people and miscellaneous facts. As a homeschooling mom, I fell in love the people, places and events that have become "history." As a family, we have read aloud biographies, historical fiction and books by writers who were passionate about their topics. Their enthusiasm was contagious. As a result, I often find myself diving into a period of history or a geopolitical topic. Currently, the reign of the Tudor family has my attention. Who knows what will come after that .....

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