Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Wild Queen: The Days and Nights of Mary, Queen of Scots by Carolyn Meyer

The Wild Queen is the seventh book in the Young Royals series, written by Carolyn Meyer. This well  researched novel tells the story of Mary of Scotland, who was the rightful heir of both Scotland and England. Mary was born December 8, 1542, at Linlithgow Palace, in Scotland. Her father, King James V, died a few days later. Mary was his only legitimate heir to the Scottish throne. Mary was crowned Queen of Scotland when she was just nine months old, at Stirling Castle on September 9th, 1543. In an attempt to unite Scotland and England, Henry VIII, King of England successfully negotiated a treaty which the Scottish Parliament signed, dictating that Mary would marry Henry's son, Prince Edward when she turned ten.

Fearing for her daughter's safety, Mary's mother moved her to Stirling Castle which was well fortified and far north of the English-Scotland border. When Mary was four years old, King Henry VIII died. Her mother made the decision that she would marry the future king of France rather than England's Prince Edward and so she was sent to France to live at the French court and learn the language and customs of the French people. At this time France had been supporting and protecting Catholic Scotland. Eventually however, protestantism, imported from England, overtook Scotland. John Knox, a strict, dour Protestant preacher was the main force behind the stripping of  Scotland of its Catholic heritage and faith.

Accompanied by her Four Maries, Mary Fleming, Mary Seton, Mary Beaton, and Mary Livingston, the young Mary left her beloved Scotland on July 29, 1548. For the next thirteen years, Mary lived in France, traveling throughout the country as the French court moved from one palace to another. Throughout those years, Mary grew into a beautiful woman, over six feet tall and well spoken. She grew to love the French people but never forgot that she was in line for the Scottish throne.

Mary became the wife of the dauphin, Francois de Valois when she was fifteen years old. Their marriage was short-lived however, when Francois, always somewhat sickly, died from a massive infection on December 5, 1560. Mary was a widow after just two years of marriage. At this point in her life, just days shy of her eighteenth birthday,  Mary decided to return to her native Scotland in an attempt to regain the throne and rule Scotland as queen. Alone, without the support of a husband, or a father or father-in-law, Mary found herself caught in a difficult situation. She was a devote Catholic returning to a country no longer in the faith. She needed to find a strong Catholic prince to marry but there was no one in all of Christendom. Her enemies were many although at first she had a few staunch supporters. From this point on Meyers tells the tragic story of Mary, Queen of Scots as she struggles to rule Scotland, while fighting off traitors, dealing with a murderous and cowardly second husband, and protestant reformers such as John Knox who considered women not fit to reign.

Meyer's novel will appeal to those with a keen interest in history, especially royalty. Her account is remarkably unbiased and is a creative retelling of the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. The novel opens with Mary, facing her day of execution, Wednesday, February 8th, 1587 and then narrating her life's story as to how she came to be in prison, sometimes reflecting on how the choices she made led her to her fate.  The Wild Queen is quite readable, has several maps to help readers understand the setting and at 420 pages, rather lengthy. After all this, some readers may be interested in learning more about this remarkable Catholic woman, who was both courageous and sometimes remarkably naive.

For those who are interested in reading about Mary, Queen of Scots, I suggest Antonia Fraser's Mary Queen of Scots and also Warren Carroll's The Cleaving of Christendom. The latter book is Volume 4 in his History of Christendom series.

Book Details:
The Wild Queen: The Days and Nights of Mary, Queen  of Scots.
New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company         2012
420 pp.

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