' ... coolly crafting the authentic story of how Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I came to be, rather than simply who they were. This is Porter's unique selling point in a crowded field ... Her writing is bold, insightful and vivid.' The Times Saturday Review
'In focusing on the family rivalries that led to Mary's reign and fall, Porter has found a fresh approach to a familiar subject.' Mail on Sunday
'... the book is elegantly written, decently researched and, crucially will alert a new readership to a neglected subject.' The Herald
'... Crown of Thistles is to be applauded as a highly courageous, pioneering attempt to brush the cobwebs off the existing national histories. Linda Porter has a considerable talent for synthesis and in this genre she is likely to excel in the future. Always professional in conception and dispassionate in style, her book deserves a wide readership.' Literary Review
'This gripping account has as many over-lapping branches as a monkey-puzzle tree, but as she weaves those warring kingdom's affairs the author maintains a firm grasp ... The jacket blurb promised rape and violence, and the latter is delivered with regularity. But this many-layered book offers much more, including fresh insights into Mary's downfall, especially the parts played by James V's discarded mistress.' Country Life
'Mary's life was rich in incident and Linda Porter recounts it with judiciousness and verve.' --New Statesman
The struggle between the fecund Stewarts and the barren Tudors is generally seen only in terms of the relationship between Elizabeth I and her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots. But very little has been said about the background to their intense rivalry. Here, Linda Porter examines the ancient and intractable power struggle between England and Scotland, a struggle intensified during the reigns of Elizabeth and Marys grandfathers. Henry VII aimed to provide stability when he married his daughter, Margaret, to James IV of Scotland in 1503. But he must also have known that Margarets descendants might seek to rule the entire island. Crown of Thistles is the story of a divided family, of flamboyant kings and queens, cultured courts and tribal hatreds, blood feuds, rape and sexual licence on a breath-taking scale, and violent deaths. It also brings alive a neglected aspect of British history the blood-spattered steps of two small countries on the fringes of Europe towards an awkward unity that would ultimately forge a great nation. Beginning with the unlikely and dramatic victories of two usurping kings, one a rank outsider and the other a fourteen-year-old boy who rebelled against his own father, the book sheds new light on Henry VIII, his daughter, Elizabeth, and on his great-niece, Mary Queen of Scots, still seductive more than 400 years after her death.