Cover image for Queen of Scots : the true life of Mary Stuart
Queen of Scots : the true life of Mary Stuart
Guy, J. A. (John Alexander)
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, [2004]

Physical Description:
xiii, 581 pages, 24 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
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DA787.A1 G89 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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The eminent British historian John Guy has unearthed a wealth of evidence that upends the popular notion of Mary Queen of Scots as a femme fatale and establishes her as the intellectual and political equal of Elizabeth I.
Guy draws on sources as varied as the secret communiqués of English spies and Mary's own letters (many hitherto unstudied) to depict her world and her actions with stunning immediacy. Here is a myth-shattering reappraisal of her multifaceted character and prodigious political skill. Guy dispels the persistent popular image of Mary as a romantic leading lady, achieving her ends through feminine wiles, driven by love to murder, undone by passion and poor judgment. Through his pioneering research, we come to see her as an emotionally intricate woman and an adroit diplomat, maneuvering ingeniously among a dizzying array of powerful factions -- the French, the English, duplicitous Scottish nobles, and religious zealots -- who sought to control or dethrone her. Guy's investigation of Mary's storied downfall throws sharp new light on questions that have baffled historians for centuries, and offers convincing new evidence that she was framed for the murder for which she was beheaded.
Queen of Scots, the first full-scale biography of Mary in more than thirty years, offers a singularly novel, nuanced, and dramatic portrait of one of history's greatest women.

Author Notes

Born in Australia in 1949, John Guy grew up in England. Early in life Guy developed a love of history. He pursued that interest and read History under the supervision of Professor Sir Geoffrey Elton, the pre-eminent Tudor scholar of the late-twentieth century. John Guy took a First and became a Research Fellow of Selwyn College in 1970. Awarded a Greene Cup by Clare College in 1970, he completed his PhD on Cardinal Wolsey in 1973 and won the Yorke Prize of the University of Cambridge in 1976. John Guy has lectured extensively on Early Modern British History and Renaissance Political Thought in both Britain and the United States. He has published 16 books and numerous academic articles.

Guy's book My Heart is My Own: the life of Mary Queen of Scots (Harper Perennial, 2004) won the 2004 Whitbread Biography Award, the Marsh Biography Award, was a finalist in the USA for the 2004 Biography/Autobiography of the Year Award (National Books Critics' Circle), and has been translated into Spanish and Czech. Other books include Thomas More (Hodder Arnold, 2000), and The Tudors: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 1990). For over twenty years he was co-editor of the acclaimed academic series Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History; and co-author of The Reign of Elizabeth I: Court and Culture in the Last Decade (Cambridge University Press, 1995) and contributed to The Oxford History of Britain, The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain, The Oxford Illustrated History of Tudor and Stuart Britain, and The Oxford History of the British Isles: the Sixteenth Century.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

The story of Mary Stuart has been told in many contexts (most recently in Elizabeth and Mary, Forecasts, Dec. 8, 2003), but nowhere has she been defended more rigorously than in this new study. Guy, a fellow at Cambridge University and BBC consultant, describes Mary's formative years in France, but the heart of the book is her short reign in Scotland. Negotiations with Elizabeth Tudor over the succession in England and the shadow of Mary's final fate dominate the narrative, but while Guy effectively establishes that Elizabeth's chief minister William Cecil was Mary's true English enemy, what is most shocking is how suppliant he shows Mary to have been to Elizabeth. The most dramatic moments, however, are supplied by the Scottish nobles, who shifted alliances around her and colluded in kidnappings and assassinations. Though not the first to challenge Mary's femme fatale image, Guy does not even deign to discuss the accusation that she was romantically involved with her Italian secretary Rizzio and convincingly absolves her of involvement in the death of her second husband. He re-examines her actions and choices and offers a lively textual analysis of letters usually used as evidence against her. Yet he does not conclusively argue that she ruled from the head, and, in the end, the question of whether Mary Stuart ruled from her head or her heart appears beside the point. Guy's detailed account of the familial, political and religious machinations of the forces swirling around the queen suggests that it was not flaws in Mary's character but the entire constellation of circumstances that doomed her rule in Scotland and led to her execution. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Apr. 14) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Mary Queen of Scots is one of the most written-about rulers in European history. Her story, filled with sex, violence, and tragedy, has something for everyone, but it has transformed her into a polarizing figure. Her partisans defend her as an innocent woman victimized by misogynists ruthlessly pursuing power in a patriarchal society. Her critics assail her as a foolish, emotional woman who recklessly flaunted her wealth and sexuality. Guy (Univ. of St. Andrews; Tudor England, CH, Jul'89) has undertaken to rescue her from the defamatory reputation foisted upon her by her detractors. He has found significant new archival material and has reevaluated other documents that he asserts were last examined a century or more ago. His Mary was a shrewd politician, similar to her cousin Elizabeth. However, relentlessly pursued by William Cecil and betrayed by her emotional loneliness and by political circumstances beyond her control, she died "the unluckiest ruler in British history." While Guy convincingly presents her as intelligent and enterprising, she still appears more victim than agent. The book's elaborate detail may limit its audience to academics. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. H. T. Blethen Western Carolina University

Booklist Review

Few royal figures from the pages of European history continue to fascinate historian and lay reader alike as much as Mary Stuart, the ill-fated queen of Scots, who has come down to us dressed in the raiment of legend. British historian Guy delves deeply into previously little-mined archival evidence, and, aided by a felicitous style (no drifting into dry lecturing), he arrives not at a whitewash but at a restoration of Queen Mary with respect to the truth about the quality of her character and her performance as monarch. The easiest and quickest way to judge Mary Stuart has always been to compare her to her cousin and fellow queen-sovereign Elizabeth Tudor. Guy, on the other hand, takes Mary on her own terms, seeing as stereotype the long-perpetuated concept that Mary ruled from her heart while Elizabeth ruled from the head. Mary's is a complicated story, as were Scottish politics at the time, but Guy explicates the complications--including Mary's marriages, her struggle with the Scottish lords, the murder of her second husband, and her long incarceration and eventual execution in England--with both authority and clear illumination. A major biography. --Brad Hooper Copyright 2004 Booklist

Library Journal Review

In 1542, both England and France sought to control Scotland, and Catholic and Protestant tensions ran high. Scottish-born Mary Stuart was brought up in France and married the dauphin, who died shortly after he was crowned king. Feeling unwelcome, she returned to Scotland and took up her post as queen. During her tumultuous reign, she clashed with scheming lords and was accused of murdering her second husband, Lord Darnley. Guy (history, Clare Coll., Cambridge) attempts to redress many long-held misconceptions about Mary, contending that she was not only the unwitting subject of Catholic and French plots but also a shrewd and ambitious political player. He also describes her third marriage to the Earl of Bothwell as abusive rather than passionate. As for Mary's true nemesis: it was William Cecil, Elizabeth I's adviser and a devout Protestant. While Mary was imprisoned in the Tower of London, there were many Catholic plots to assassinate Elizabeth and replace her with Mary as monarch. The final blow was her implication in the Babington Plot, which turned out to be a ploy by English agents; Mary was executed for treason. A popular history that is very well researched, this first major life of Mary in several decades is highly recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/03.]-Isabel Coates, CCRA-Toronto West Tax Office, Ont. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



PrologueAround eight oclock in the morning on Wednesday, February 8, 1587, when it was light enough to see without candles, Sir Thomas Andrews, sheriff of the county of Northamptonshire, knocked on a door. The place was Fotheringhay Castle, about seventy-five miles from London. All that remains there now beneath the weeds is the raised earthen rampart of the inner bailey and a truncated mound, or "motte," on the site of the keep, a few hundred yards from the village beside a sluggish stretch of the River Nene. But in the sixteenth century the place was bustling with life. Fotheringhay was a royal manor. Richard III had been born at the castle in 1452. Henry VII, the first of the Tudor kings, who had slain Richard at the battle of Bosworth, gave the estate as a dowry to his wife, Elizabeth of York, and Henry VIII granted it to his first bride, Catherine of Aragon, who extensively refurbished the castle. In 1558, Elizabeth I inherited the property when she succeeded to the throne on the death of her elder sister, Mary Tudor. Despite its royal associations, nothing had prepared Fotheringhay, or indeed the British Isles, for what was about to happen there. Andrews was in attendance on two of Englands highest-ranking noblemen, George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, and Henry Grey, Earl of Kent. The door on which he knocked was the entrance to the privy chamber of Mary Queen of Scots, dowager queen of France and for almost nineteen years Elizabeths prisoner in England. The door opened to reveal Mary on her knees, praying with her bedchamber servants. Andrews informed her that the time was at hand, and she looked up and said she was ready. She rose, and her gentlewomen stood aside. She was only forty-four. Born and brought up to be a queen, she walked confidently through the doorway as if she were once more processing to a court festival. Almost six feet tall, she had always looked the part. She had been fted since her childhood in France for her beauty and allure. "Charmante" and "la plus parfaite" were the adjectives most commonly applied to her singular blend of celebrity. Not just physically mesmerizing with her well-proportioned face, neck, arms and waist, she had an unusual warmth of character with the ability to strike up an instant rapport. Always high-spirited and vivacious, she could be unreservedly generous and amiable. She had a razor-sharp wit and was a natural conversationalist. Gregarious as well as glamorous, she could be genial to the point of informality as long as her "grandeur" was respected. Many contemporaries remarked on her almost magical ability to create the impression that the person she was talking to was the only one whose opinion really mattered to her. As a result of premature aging caused by the inertia and lack of exercise of which she had so bitterly complained during her long captivity, her beauty was on the wane. Her features had thickened and she had rounded shoulders and a slight stoop. H Excerpted from Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart by John Guy All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Genealogiesp. xiv
Mapsp. xvii
Prologuep. 1
1. The First Yearp. 12
2. The Rough Wooingsp. 27
3. Arrival in Francep. 41
4. Adolescencep. 54
5. Educationp. 67
6. A Dynastic Marriagep. 82
7. Betrayed Queenp. 97
8. Return to Scotlandp. 113
9. Into the Labyrinthp. 128
10. A Meeting Between Sistersp. 143
11. A Search for a Husbandp. 163
12. "My Heart Is My Own"p. 178
13. A Marriage of Conveniencep. 194
14. Enter Bothwellp. 210
15. A Marriage in Troublep. 224
16. Assassination Onep. 238
17. Reconciliationp. 252
18. Plot and Counterplotp. 269
19. Assassination Twop. 285
20. A Love Match?p. 302
21. Denouement in Scotlandp. 323
22. Mary's Storyp. 341
23. Bothwell's Storyp. 359
24. The Lords' Storyp. 373
25. Casket Letters Ip. 384
26. Casket Letters IIp. 405
27. Captive Queenp. 424
28. An Ax or an Act?p. 446
29. Nemesisp. 464
30. The Final Hoursp. 483
Epiloguep. 488
Chronologyp. 501
Notesp. 506
Bibliographyp. 530
Indexp. 542
Illustration Creditsp. 582