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The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots    by Carolly Erickson order for
Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots
by Carolly Erickson
Order:  USA  Can
Griffin, 2010 (2009)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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*   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Carolly Erickson, author of The Tsarina's Daughter, now brings readers a tale of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, the bald facts of whose life read rather like a soap opera, and who was ultimately executed (in 1587) for treason, on the orders of her cousin Elizabeth I of England.

I must admit that the historicals I enjoy least are those whose leads are well known figures - since the endings are a matter of public record. This is certainly the case with Mary Stuart and Erickson addresses readers' knowledge of Mary's death by starting with her execution, but giving the tragic queen a last glimpse of her lover, James, fourth Earl of Bothwell, who has come in secret to support her.

Erickson then takes readers back through Mary's childhood in France (her mother Marie remained as her Regent in Scotland and died there) and her marriage at age fifteen to sickly dauphin Francis, 'the runt of his parents' royal litter'. He unfortunately died soon after taking the throne and was unable to give Mary an heir. We see Mary meet and be intrigued by Bothwell in France, while back in Scotland, 'petty lordlings such as Arran continued to fight like snarling dogs for the bone of power'.

Erickson shows us Catholic Mary's return to Scotland and immediate unwillingness to compromise with 'the Lords of the Congregation or any of the great clan chiefs - who held the highlands in thrall - or the frightening John Knox.' Though the author takes us through the high points of Mary's life - including her marriage to Darnley, the birth of their son James, Darnley's subsequent murder, and the myriad of plots surrounding the Scots Queen - the motivations in this portrayal are weak.

The author takes liberties with the historical record, arranging an island getaway with Bothwell and a bathhouse meeting with Elizabeth, as well as a secret daughter (born to Bothwell). And neither the great love affair at the center of the story, nor Mary's reasons for her many ill-considered actions are very credible. Nevertheless, those particularly interested in this period of history will appreciate The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots.

2nd review by Wanda Plourde (Rating: 2):

Queen at a very young age, married at age fifteen, Mary Stuart lives a very turbulent life. Her first husband, Francis (son of King Henry and Queen Catharine of France) is younger and sickly, producing no heir with Mary.

Moving back to Scotland to rule, she meets and marries her second husband Henry Darnley, and young James is born. It's a union without love, made for the royal bloodlines. Treachery surrounds Mary at every turn, where Henry is concerned. Scotland is in turmoil and her marriage ends in scandal and murder.

Mary marries for a third time, this time her one true love, James, Earl of Bothwell. But this union again breeds scandal for the young queen. At every turn, Mary fears for her life and for the crown. This fear makes her flee to England, where she ends up with her head on the block on the order of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth.

This fictional account is very interesting to read, the first person style making it more personal. It takes readers through Mary's life, through her eyes. We feel her happiness and sadness, and the odd time want to shake her. I enjoyed this book immensely.

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