MARY QUEEN OF SCOTLAND AND THE ISLES by Margaret George

MARY QUEEN OF SCOTLAND AND THE ISLES

KIRKUS REVIEW

 By the author of The Autobiography of Henry VIII (1986), another vast involvement with a legendary royal. The Scots queen (1542-1587), crowned at nine months, shipped out for a French marriage at seven, became queen of France at 16 for a year and a half, then returned to Scotland after the death of the French king- -to four years of early triumph and then tragedy, two marriages, warfare, betrayal, power struggles, dazzling escapes, and, at the last, a flight to England--and doom. George has created a lively, gallant Mary of intelligence, charm, and terrible judgment--in outline true enough, and fictionally persuasive. Unlike cousin Elizabeth I of England, Mary enjoyed a richly cosseted and loving childhood and youth; arriving back in Scotland then--a Scotland bristling with religious ferment, plots, and a history of regencies--is a shock, at first bewildering, then exhilarating. But there are the trumpet blasts of Reformed Kirk theologian John Knox against a female ruler (and a Catholic to boot) and the obvious intent of the Queen's inner circle of lords to rule for her. There's also Mary's stubborn, disastrous choice of a husband--the ``blue and gold lad,'' Lord Darnley, soon slipped into drink and debauchery and even murder. Mary's second husband after Darnley's murder (George absolves Mary of a conscious plot) is the Earl of Bothwell, here given an unusually heroic cast. Throughout, there are astonishing escapes, nick-of-time rescues by Bothwell, fleeting interludes of lovers' joys--as well as betrayal, sieges, and abuse, sadly from the people who once cheered her (``the people...with all their pitchforks, fervous and bad breath...mutable...but stronger than granite''). At the last- -another truly terrible decision--Mary flees to Elizabeth I for sanctuary, and is imprisoned for 20 years while the dismayed English queen makes up her mind. With a seamless use of original letters, diaries, and poems: a popular, readable, inordinately moving tribute to a remarkable queen.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1992
ISBN: 0-312-08262-2
Page count: 752pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1992




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