THE STEWART KINGDOM OF SCOTLAND 1371-1603 by Caroline Bingham


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One of those unassuming yet eminently sensible historical portrait galleries of Scotland's Stewart dynasty, supposedly limned for all time by a dying James V: ""[The crown] came with a lass; it will pass with a lass."" The first lass was Margaret, daughter of Robert the Bruce, who married ""Walter the Stewart"" to produce Robert II (1371-90); and the last was of course Mary, Queen of Scots, daughter of the soothsaying James. The author sorts out tangles among the early Stewarts, who were certainly Bretons (or Celts) and generally noble office holders. After a brief tribute to the early heroes, Wallace and Bruce, Bingham reviews the reigns of the Jameses, through James VI (later James I of England), and the plethora of unhappy endings -- James I was assassinated; James II died accidentally when he became too curious about a defective gun; James III was murdered; James IV was killed at Flodden. As for Mary -- she ""played dangerous political games, made several disastrous mistakes and lost."" Yet how did this family retain the crown so long beside a strong England? The author speculates that early and efficient feudal organization consolidated Scotland's advantageous position as a fulcrum in the ""auld conflict"" between England and France; and the relative shrewdness of the Stewarts is not to be discounted. With essential genealogical tables, copious contemporary chronicles (translations when necessary) and reproductions of the elegantly linear Stewart features -- pleasant, and admirable for informal research.

Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 1974
Publisher: St. Martin's