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Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Murder of Lord Darnley Paperback – February 10, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (February 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812971515
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812971514
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #580,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587), has for centuries fascinated historians and the general public, her life the stuff of Hollywood myth, involving murder, rape, adultery, abdication, imprisonment and execution. In bestselling historian Weir's (Henry VIII, etc.) able hands, we see the young Catholic queen ruling over Protestant Scotland and a group of unruly nobles. Mary's second husband, Lord Darnley, participated in the 1566 murder of Mary's favorite adviser, David Rizzio, after which Mary and Lord Darnley became estranged. Darnley himself was murdered the next year, and some historians have claimed that Mary plotted his death so she could marry her lover, Bothwell. But Weir argues convincingly that the evidence against Mary is fraudulent, part of a coverup initiated by rebellious lords. Weir tells how and why Darnley was killed, and, shockingly, reveals that Bothwell, whom Mary did marry, was one of the murderers. Mary's lords took up arms against her, and she was forced to abdicate, fleeing to England, where she expected her cousin Queen Elizabeth to help her regain her throne. Instead, Mary was held captive for 16 years and finally beheaded for plotting Elizabeth's assassination. Mary could not hope for a better advocate than Weir, who exhaustively evaluates the evidence against her and finds it lacking. Mary's ultimate sin, according to Weir, was not murder but consistently "poor judgment," especially in choosing men. This is entertaining popular history that will satisfy fans of Weir's previous bestsellers. 16 pages of color illus.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Weir, a popular British historian and the author of, most recently, Henry VIII: The King and His Court (2001), visits one of the most intriguing murder mysteries in European history. Mary, Queen of Scots, failed as sovereign of her realm and even failed to save her own life--eventually sent to the executioner's block by her much more practical second cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England. Married as a child to the dauphin of France, Mary was widowed early and, while still only a teenager, returned to rule over her Scottish kingdom, which she had inherited as an infant. Mary then married her cousin Lord Darnley, who was also a cousin of Queen Elizabeth. Handsome but dissolute and insufferably arrogant, Lord Darnley alienated nearly everyone in Scotland, including, very quickly into his marriage, Queen Mary herself. In a plot that was "ill-conceived, careless and staggeringly amateurish," Lord Darnley was murdered, "but the identity of the person or persons responsible is surrounded by great mystery." To this day, establishing the identity of the perpetrator proves difficult, but Weir goes to great lengths to isolate the clues and marshal them into a convincing indictment. No stone is left unturned in her investigation, and despite its detail, her book is as dramatic as witnessing firsthand the most riveting court case. Naturally, much of Weir's focus is on the question of Queen Mary's complicity in her husband's death. The author concludes that the "bulk of evidence against Mary is flawed," and ultimately Mary, Queen of Scots, is to be regarded as "one of the most wronged women in history. " Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Alison Weir is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Innocent Traitor and The Lady Elizabeth and several historical biographies, including Mistress of the Monarchy, Queen Isabella, Henry VIII, Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Life of Elizabeth I, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII. She lives in Surrey, England with her husband and two children.

Customer Reviews

This proves to be a pretty interesting book.
lordhoot
Weir makes a case here, but does not convince nor provide new interpretations of old evidence.
P A Brown
Weir has done excellent, very detailed research and gives the reader an education.
Anne T. Bernier

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By P A Brown on May 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Alison Weir's "Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley" is not the best of her popular histories, but it is still a well-written, copiously researched piece that despite its length goes along at a brisk pace. Weir defends her decision to write a detailed set-up to the murder of Darnley from the outset, and does so in great detail, most of it truly pertinent to the case.
However, what it comes down to -- as it so often does with Mary -- is the question of the Casket Letters. Weir discounts their authenticity vehemently and exonorates Mary of any complicity in her husband's death. This begs the big issue of Mary's character as a ruthless schemer, brought up in Machiavellian France, losing her head over plots against Elizabeth. Weir makes a case here, but does not convince nor provide new interpretations of old evidence.
If you are a Marian, this book will add ample fuel to your fire. If you are not, the last sentence will make you gasp in righteous indignation.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By MS on October 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is not an introductory-level book. I would only recommend it for those who already have a reasonably good knowledge of the period. The book more-or-less assumes that you are already familiar with the issues surrounding the succession to the English throne in the 16th century, that you already know the royal family trees, that you understand something of the Catholic-Protestant conflicts of the time, that you know who William Cecil and Robert Dudley were, etc. It's not light reading, and it focuses in depth on only one specific issue.
The general impression of Scottish politics at this time is of dozens of ruthless, power-seeking noblemen all changing sides, lying, scheming, and double-crossing each other at a rapid rate. The numerous documents relating to Darnley's murder (of which the Casket Letters are only a small, though vital, part) are almost all filled with contradictions, inconsistencies, blatant omissions, deliberate distortions, and attempts to blame or clear specific individuals; and are closely tied to political, religious or financial interests. To try to find the truth in this whole mess is like cleaning the Augean stables. Weir has done about as good a job as anyone could, in analyzing everything logically and looking at it in the light of common sense. I think that this book makes a real contribution to the topic.
Weir says about her conclusion, "Even after extensive research, I believed, as I began to write this book, that Mary was guilty. But when I came to analyse the source material in depth, it became increasingly obvious that such a conclusion was not possible." She makes a good, clear, well-reasoned, consistent case, always referring back to the original sources and weighing them carefully.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Ricky Hunter on May 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley by Alison Weir is exactly what the title promises. That should not be a surprise but, as the book is almost six hundred pages long, it is a bit suprising. I was expecting much more tangential information to fill out the story but the author has kept the focus sharp and drives the narrative forward in a clean straight line. This is everything one will ever need to know about the murder of Lord Darnley and in that respect the book is entertaining, informative and will be a wonderful addition for all Alison Weir fans. The only caveat is that the book could have used a little more editing in spots, particularly where the author drives home her points repeatedly. This is not the best Tudor-period history book that Alison Weir has written , of which there are many and all are recommended highly, but is still much better than most out there.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Sam A. Mawn-Mahlau on June 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
Alison Weir writes wonderfully. Her discussion is crisp, engaging, and even by turns charming. She has a knack for pulling out telling detail, and weaves original source material deftly through each passage. In introducing Lord Darnley, the then-future husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, she notes that his parents doted on him, holding him particularly precious as most of his siblings died in infancy. She finds a letter he wrote at 8 that sheds insight on his ambition and religion. Detail by detail, she paints his personality, bringing him to life before us. This is a book that is hard to put down.

Yet, Weir also has a knack for building assumption on frail assumption, trying to build a house of bricks on a foundation of straw. As an example, she speculates that the illness that plagued Darnley in the months before his death was not smallpox (as commonly assumed) but rather an intermediate stage of syphilis. She acknowledges that this is not clear from the record, but merely speculation, and outlines both the pros and cons for her view. Weir is clear enough: there's some reasonable chance she is right, but she acknowledges that, across the years, it is impossible to establish her position with certainty. Weir then builds on this assumption, suggesting it was "inconceivable" that Mary did not find out that syphilis ailed her husband, making assumptions about Mary's state of mind, whether or not she may have had another pregnancy, and how she interacted with other men and her husband based on the speculations about Darnley's disease. This is but one example.
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