As a child, Margaret ""Madge"" Douglas flees for refuge from the court of her plotting mother, Queen Marie of Scotland, to that of her jolly English uncle, Henry VIII. She gets more than she bargained for. Henry keeps declaring his daughters bastards in the hope of getting a son by each new wife, so Madge is in direct line to the throne--and obliged to renounce true love (twice) in favor of an arranged marriage to the manic-depressive Earl of Lennox. She loves him dutifully, even when he is sent to subdue her own country, killing her father in the process. Nor does she hate her daughter-in-law, Mary Queen of Scots, even when Mary murders Madge's son Lord Darnley. In fact, though Madge spends her life going back and forth from the Tower, she seems to feel no resentment towards anyone, merely a cool ambition to have her line succeed to the throne. It eventually does via James I (after the book ends)--cold comfort for the reader, who has viewed Madge's sorrows with a detachment greater even than her own.