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Discover Exciting Discounts on My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots - Save 40%!

Jun 15, 2024 07:07 pm
Discover Exciting Discounts on My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots - Save 40%!
Category: Britain
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Title: Shedding Light on Semi-Darkness
Content: I cannot speak highly enough of this book. Other reviewers seem to think the same, and I am not sure I am saying anything new, but my enthusiasm for the book was so great that I just felt I had to write something. Almost anyone with minimal knowldge of British history knows something about Mary Queen of Scots; they also know quite a bit about Queen Elizabeth and her senior minister Cecil, later Lord Burleigh. Yet this book manages to shed a great deal more light on these important people than even experts would have known before reading it. The outline is, of course, well known. Queen of Scotland only days after her birth, off to France at the age of 6 to marry the heir to that kingdom, queen of France and then dowager queen almost immediately. Back to Scotland to marry a second husband who then murders a senior advisor of hers before being himself murdered. Then a struggle with the Scottish nobles which Mary comprehensively loses, a foolish third marriage, then flight to England where she spends years as a prisoner before being beheaded for her part in a plot against Elizabeth. For starters, Guy gives Mary's life a narrative that makes sense of the various individual strands. If I may digress for a minute, I have a post-graduate history degree and almost gave up my studies on day 1 when I started to read the first book that my new tutor gave me to read. It was exactly what I most feared, almost indigestible with intellectual argument where the author's intellect is given a much higher priority than book clarity. Luckily later books were much better and after the first week I was never again tempted to give up. Indeed I could recommend some of the books I read then as enthusiastically as I can recommend this book on Mary. Academic history books can be a good read, but often aren't. If a good narrative were the only strength of this book I would still have enormously enjoyed reading it, but would not be giving it 5 stars. What makes the book great is a combination of the detailed analysis of some of the more contentious facts, and the insight the book gives on the relationship between Cecil and Elizabeth, showing how strongly they differed on how best to treat Mary, not just after the Babbington plot, but pretty well from the moment she returns to Scotland after the death of her first husband. It also contains some little nuggets of trivia that I feel the better for knowing. I now know that a well know nursery rhyme is based on Mary, and one of Shakespeare's best known characters is a parody on Cecil. OK I did not know either of those little nuggets. More important, I also did not know that there is strong reason to believe that Mary was completely innocent of the murder of Darnley. Most histories suggest that she was at least in some way involved; he was such a bastard that even if she was completely guilty most people today would be reluctant to criticise her, but at the time her presumed involvement was an unspeakable crime. I also did not realise that Cecil was so fanatically Protestant that he fought tooth and nail to prevent Elizabeth from establishing a good relationship with Mary (as well as being fellow queens, they were, after all also first cousins once removed). The ladies in fact never met. But they certainly would have done had Elizabeth's (and Mary's) wishes not been thwarted by Cecil. One small criticsm. At the point where Darnley has just been murdered, Guy interrupts his narrative with some chapters analysing the various accounts by interested parties. A serious academic book would have been seriously incomplete without this analysis; they are needed to argue Mary's innocence or guilt. But it does interrupt the flow of the narrative, and perhaps that analysis could have been hived off to an appendix. But that is a very small criticism, and I dare say that other readers are happier with the analysis in line. It certainly does not detract from my overall statement that this book is a first class piece of history.
Title: In my end is my beginning
Content: “In my end is my beginning”, was a motto of Mary, Queen of Scots, taken from her mother yet it encapsulates our view of Mary, and her reign, for she still holds our fascination some 450 years after her execution, and the passing years have not diminished the love/hate relationship we have with her. John Guys meticulously researched and even-handed biography makes for a gripping and well written account of the life of Mary Stuart, who was the most charismatic but tragic of British monarchs. John Guy peels back the multiple layers of anti-Marian propaganda to reveal a female monarch whose reign was dogged from the start by selfishness of the Scottish lords on one hand and the intrigues by the English court (Cecil and Walsingham) on the other. Mary undoubtably made errors in judgement, especially in her misplaced trust in the factious and self-serving male Scottish nobility and in her second (Darnley) and especially her third marriage (Bosworth). But this biography also shows us her bravery, intellect, and desire to make Scotland better. Mary, as Queen of Scots, had many disadvantages compared with her English cousin, Elizabeth I. Mary never had the devoted and trusted advisors that Elizabeth enjoyed in Cecil, Walsingham, and Leicester, who supported her and protected her and her kingdom. Not only had Mary to navigate the fractious Sottish lords, but she also had to contend with a never-ending attack on her Catholic faith by the Presbyterian fire band, and hypocrite, John Knox. As Guy concludes Elizabeth may have won in life, but it was Mary who won in death as it was her son, James VI, who became the first King of Scotland, England, and Ireland with Elizabeth’s death, and it is Mary’s Stuart blood, not Elizabeth’s Tudor blood, that still courses through the veins of the British monarchy today. I would highly recommend this book.
Title: Nothing else left to read on the subject.
Content: There is an accepted way that Mary's life story usually goes; Sent to France, spoilt, married the heir and became queen, husband died, mother-in-law hated her, moved back to Scotland as Queen, did ok for a bit, fell in love with Darnley, killed him and ran off with one of her co-conspirators in his murder, Scotland rebelled, chased her into England where she was captured by Elizabeth and then executed many years later for plotting Elizabeth's death. A fascinating story however it's told, but you're often left wondering how this woman could be so stupid. John Guy's riveting book does more than just shed light on the rumours and misinformation that has always surrounded this most intriguing of Queens; he re-writes history. But this is no bad thing. He doesn't re-write it to fit some jumped up theory of his but through exhaustive research and analysis he blows all other biographies of Mary out of the water. Whenever I'd read about Mary before I'd always wondered how someone so obviously intelligent could start so well and finish so badly. She was undoubtedly spoilt and far more flighty and romantic than the focussed, driven and politically-minded Elizabeth. But this was never enough to explain the incomprehensible blunders she appeared to make, time and time again. John Guy explains these 'blunders' so well that you begin to understand they were not blunders at all, merely a woman in a difficult situation doing the best she could while being pulled between factions and manipulated. If there is one criticism I would direct at John Guy it would be that he has taken all the mystery away from her story. There is no more to debate, no more to speculate on. It is all laid out here so clearly and convincingly it's left nothing more to read about her. Mary is no doubt looking down with a smile on her face and sighing 'Finally!'
Title: Enjoy
Content: Very good.
Title: Author 7 stars, publishers zero
Content: This is one of the very best bios I have ever read, and I do read a lot about the Tudors. Unlike other authors, who have followed documentary mistakes for centuries, ours has gone to the direct sources, unpacked the mistakes, and corrected them. He makes Mary an understandable human being, rather than a silly cow, and sets down a thrilling story. The publishers, however, have decided not to trouble our pretty heads with pesky scholarly apparatus. No bibliography, source notes or index in this book! We can go online to look something up, but if I wanted to read a screen I would have bought the kindle version. It is MOST unprofessional and an insult to both the readers' and the author's intelligence. Furthermore, this crime of omission is nowhere indicated on the amazon page. My advice would be to try to find the first edition, My Heart Is My Own, which no doubt has the normal notes in place.
Title: Superb biography, comprehensive research, engaging prose...
Content: Biographies as good as John Guy's "My Heart Is My Own", the life of Mary Queen of Scots, are few and far between. It is easy to see why: the author relies on primary rather than secondary sources for his major conclusions and looks at the same set of facts from all of the major players' points of view. The result is the triumph of scholarship over gossip and an entirely fresh look at a much maligned 16th century monarch. The daughter of James V and Mary of Guise, Mary was a Queen within a week of her birth, upon the death of her father at Solway Moss. Her sex, age, Catholicism and the factionalism of Scottish clans and nobility all posed threats to her ever reigning. But the biggest threat of all was an English determination to see her married to Edward VI, thereby uniting England and Scotland, irrevocably. Sensibly her mother had her shipped to France where she managed to charm Henry II, making her a valuable tool in her Guise relations' ambition. Affianced to the Dauphin she ascended to Queen of France at age 15. Unfortunately, success proved fleeting for Mary (a pattern in her life that would repeat itself, again and again,) and her husband's death would dash her hopes of ruling both France and Scotland. Serving the Guises antagonized Catherine de Medici who barely bothered to be civil. As a result, it behooved Mary to head home and make her fortune in Scotland. Until this point, My Heart is a fairly typical biography. However it is upon Mary's return to the hornet's nest that was Scottish politics that John Guy kicks into high gear. Bit by bit he chips away at the conventional depiction of a monarch governed by emotion rather than reason (a characterization that suited her detractors who later would slanderously charge her with adultery). It was also a a convenient shorthand for scholars--Elizabeth = Reasons; Mary = Emotion). Guy shows how she used charm, religious tolerance and a combination of both carrot and stick to consolidate her position despite the best efforts of Elizabeth's minister Wm. Cecil, a handful of obstreperous Lords and the ever-misogynistic anti-Catholic, John Knox. It was, for five years, no small feat and speaks well of her acumen and flexibility. However, if Mary ever wanted to be more than Elizabeth's supplicant and England's satellite, she needed to secure her place in the succession and be Elizabeth's acknowledged heir. Guy shows how her marriage to Henry Darnley, in hindsight an appalling mess, at the time was regarded as a triumph by her friends and foes. After Marry her new husband had the next best claim to the English throne should, as it seemed more and more likely Elizabeth not marry. So shrewd a move in the game of dynastic chess that it sent Cecil and her Protestant enemies into a panic. Giving birth to a healthy son was the coup de grace that briefly put Mary Stuart in an enviable and powerful position. Like her marriage to the Dauphin, her glory was brief and fleeting Hindsight being perfectly clear, historians have professed shock she could tie her future to so unstable a lout as Darnley. Rash, arrogant, and a syphilitic bisexual always in his cups, Darnley had all the appearances (initially) of normalcy. He was the darling of his mother Margaret and a principal ornament at Court. Indeed, Elizabeth and Cecil were kicking themselves for letting the hope of the English Catholic faction slip through their fingers. So Guy is quite right to take another look at their marriage and give Mary high marks for astute maneuvers. Even as it all unravelled with her husband's rages and lunacy bubbling up more and more frequently, Mary kept the crown matrimonial off his head and in the cupboard, placating her increasingly restless Lords. But as noted earlier, Mary and Good Fortune rarely spent long stretches of time together. Darnley became so erratic, so uncontrollable the Lord's plotted the once unthinkable: murder a king consort. The act stunned not only his wife but all of Europe was reeling with the news, undoing all of Mary's careful planning. The deed itself was bad enough, there was worse to come. The Queen of Scotland lost control of the scandal's narrative and like the most salacious gossip, it took on a momentum and life all its own. Mary good name and reputation was about to be irrevocably tarnished. Her subsequent entanglement with the Earl of Bothwell is the least defensible and most cringe-worthy chapter in an otherwise estimable reign. The author pulls no punches, makes Mary responsible for her own action and poor judgment but does probe actions that may have been motivated by emotions near panic. In the chaos that ensued after Darnley's murder, Mary did not necessarily panic but surely considered the truth that a group willing to kill one monarch wouldn't hesitate to eliminate another. In this context she turned to Bothwell, a decision she would regret the rest of her life. It is hard to imagine a husband less appealing and suitable than Darnley, however Bothwell fits the bill. Brash, crude and arrogant, his kidnapping and rape of Mary is more like a power grab out of Greek tragedy than modern history. Though she apparently was abducted against her will she did freely remain in his company and it was a fatal mistake. Her collusion disgusted her Lords and enraged Bothwell's enemies who now decided Mary must go. Whether they would have decide so regardless is moot--Mary's behavior gave them all the reason they needed. Her defeat and decision to flee across the border into England was the last in a series of blunders. Since linking her fate to Bothwell, the intelligence and common sense that had served her well seems to have deserted her. Under house arrest in England, Mary's tale is familiar to most history buffs but even here Guy adds important perspective showing how Mary's greatest enemy was never Elizabeth but always her councilor, William Cecil, ever determined to have a Catholic successor dead. Frustrated in his effort to link her to Bothwell's death, Cecil proved to be not merely ruthles, but relentless as well. Indeed he convincingly argues that Cecil wished to have the precedent of her executed by the state if only to establish that it was Parliament, not God who determined the reign of monarchs. In doing so he introduced the notion of an ascendant Parliament a century before the Glorious Revolution. It is insights such as these, and a dozen others make My Hart Is My Own such a unique and admirable addition to the scholarship of Mary, Queen of Scots.

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