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My Heart Is My Own : The Life of Mary Queen of Scots Paperback – July 31, 2004
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- ASIN : 1841157538
- Publisher : Harpercollins Pub Ltd; New Ed edition (July 31, 2004)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 608 pages
- Item Weight : 15.9 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.08 x 1.59 x 7.76 inches
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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It’s obvious that Guy has done good research.
My only regret, and this is on me, is that I didn’t purchase the kindle version; the paperback is quite heavy for me.
The daughter of James V and Mary of Guise, Mary was a Queen within a week of her birth, upon the death of her father at Solway Moss. Her sex, age, Catholicism and the factionalism of Scottish clans and nobility all posed threats to her ever reigning. But the biggest threat of all was an English determination to see her married to Edward VI, thereby uniting England and Scotland, irrevocably.
Sensibly her mother had her shipped to France where she managed to charm Henry II, making her a valuable tool in her Guise relations' ambition. Affianced to the Dauphin she ascended to Queen of France at age 15. Unfortunately, success proved fleeting for Mary (a pattern in her life that would repeat itself, again and again,)
and her husband's death would dash her hopes of ruling both France and Scotland. Serving the Guises antagonized Catherine de Medici who barely bothered to be civil. As a result, it behooved Mary to head home and make her fortune in Scotland.
Until this point, My Heart is a fairly typical biography. However it is upon Mary's return to the hornet's nest that was Scottish politics that John Guy kicks into high gear. Bit by bit he chips away at the conventional depiction of a monarch governed by emotion rather than reason (a characterization that suited her detractors who later would slanderously charge her with adultery). It was also a a convenient shorthand for scholars--Elizabeth = Reasons; Mary = Emotion). Guy shows how she used charm, religious tolerance and a combination of both carrot and stick to consolidate her position despite the best efforts of Elizabeth's minister Wm. Cecil, a handful of obstreperous Lords and the ever-misogynistic anti-Catholic, John Knox. It was, for five years, no small feat and speaks well of her acumen and flexibility.
However, if Mary ever wanted to be more than Elizabeth's supplicant and England's satellite, she needed to secure her place in the succession and be Elizabeth's acknowledged heir. Guy shows how her marriage to Henry Darnley, in hindsight an appalling mess, at the time was regarded as a triumph by her friends and foes. After Marry her new husband had the next best claim to the English throne should, as it seemed more and more likely Elizabeth not marry. So shrewd a move in the game of dynastic chess that it sent Cecil and her Protestant enemies into a panic. Giving birth to a healthy son was the coup de grace that briefly put Mary Stuart in an enviable and powerful position. Like her marriage to the Dauphin, her glory was brief and fleeting
Hindsight being perfectly clear, historians have professed shock she could tie her future to so unstable a lout as Darnley. Rash, arrogant, and a syphilitic bisexual always in his cups, Darnley had all the appearances (initially) of normalcy. He was the darling of his mother Margaret and a principal ornament at Court. Indeed, Elizabeth and Cecil were kicking themselves for letting the hope of the English Catholic faction slip through their fingers. So Guy is quite right to take another look at their marriage and give Mary high marks for astute maneuvers. Even as it all unravelled with her husband's rages and lunacy bubbling up more and more frequently, Mary kept the crown matrimonial off his head and in the cupboard, placating her increasingly restless Lords.
But as noted earlier, Mary and Good Fortune rarely spent long stretches of time together. Darnley became so erratic, so uncontrollable the Lord's plotted the once unthinkable: murder a king consort. The act stunned not only his wife but all of Europe was reeling with the news, undoing all of Mary's careful planning. The deed itself was bad enough, there was worse to come. The Queen of Scotland lost control of the scandal's narrative and like the most salacious gossip, it took on a momentum and life all its own. Mary good name and reputation was about to be irrevocably tarnished.
Her subsequent entanglement with the Earl of Bothwell is the least defensible and most cringe-worthy chapter in an otherwise estimable reign. The author pulls no punches, makes Mary responsible for her own action and poor judgment but does probe actions that may have been motivated by emotions near panic. In the chaos that ensued after Darnley's murder, Mary did not necessarily panic but surely considered the truth that a group willing to kill one monarch wouldn't hesitate to eliminate another. In this context she turned to Bothwell, a decision she would regret the rest of her life.
It is hard to imagine a husband less appealing and suitable than Darnley, however Bothwell fits the bill. Brash, crude and arrogant, his kidnapping and rape of Mary is more like a power grab out of Greek tragedy than modern history. Though she apparently was abducted against her will she did freely remain in his company and it was a fatal mistake. Her collusion disgusted her Lords and enraged Bothwell's enemies who now decided Mary must go. Whether they would have decide so regardless is moot--Mary's behavior gave them all the reason they needed. Her defeat and decision to flee across the border into England was the last in a series of blunders. Since linking her fate to Bothwell, the intelligence and common sense that had served her well seems to have deserted her.
Under house arrest in England, Mary's tale is familiar to most history buffs but even here Guy adds important perspective showing how Mary's greatest enemy was never Elizabeth but always her councilor, William Cecil, ever determined to have a Catholic successor dead. Frustrated in his effort to link her to Bothwell's death, Cecil proved to be not merely ruthles, but relentless as well. Indeed he convincingly argues that Cecil wished to have the precedent of her executed by the state if only to establish that it was Parliament, not God who determined the reign of monarchs. In doing so he introduced the notion of an ascendant Parliament a century before the Glorious Revolution.
It is insights such as these, and a dozen others make My Hart Is My Own such a unique and admirable addition to the scholarship of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Top reviews from other countries
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 16, 2019
John Guys meticulously researched and even-handed biography makes for a gripping and well written account of the life of Mary Stuart, who was the most charismatic but tragic of British monarchs.
John Guy peels back the multiple layers of anti-Marian propaganda to reveal a female monarch whose reign was dogged from the start by selfishness of the Scottish lords on one hand and the intrigues by the English court (Cecil and Walsingham) on the other.
Mary undoubtably made errors in judgement, especially in her misplaced trust in the factious and self-serving male Scottish nobility and in her second (Darnley) and especially her third marriage (Bosworth). But this biography also shows us her bravery, intellect, and desire to make Scotland better.
Mary, as Queen of Scots, had many disadvantages compared with her English cousin, Elizabeth I. Mary never had the devoted and trusted advisors that Elizabeth enjoyed in Cecil, Walsingham, and Leicester, who supported her and protected her and her kingdom. Not only had Mary to navigate the fractious Sottish lords, but she also had to contend with a never-ending attack on her Catholic faith by the Presbyterian fire band, and hypocrite, John Knox.
As Guy concludes Elizabeth may have won in life, but it was Mary who won in death as it was her son, James VI, who became the first King of Scotland, England, and Ireland with Elizabeth’s death, and it is Mary’s Stuart blood, not Elizabeth’s Tudor blood, that still courses through the veins of the British monarchy today.
I would highly recommend this book.
Should England recognise the bias and impartiality on how there historians treat Mary as a devil and Elizabeth as an angel.