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Crown of Thistles: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary Queen of Scots [Unabridged] [Paperback]

Linda Porter
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
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Book Description

24 April 2014
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 Mary's 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 Margaret's 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.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; Unabridged edition (24 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330534378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330534376
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 92,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Stunning - an epic journey through the turbulent history of two nations, engagingly written and showing a masterly balance of politics and vivid personal detail. (Alison Weir)

The authentic story of how Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I came to be, rather than simply who they were ... bold, insightful and vivid. (Melanie Reid 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. She brings alive a thrilling story of cultured courts and violent deaths, of ambitious kings and tragic queens. (Leanda De Lisle Mail on Sunday)

Elegantly written, decently researched and, crucially will alert a new readership to a neglected subject ... Charming and informative. (The Herald)

To be applauded as a highly courageous, pioneering attempt to brush the cobwebs off the existing national histories ... deserves a wide readership. (John Guy Literary Review)

Mary's life was rich in incident and Linda Porter recounts it with judiciousness and verve. (Michael Prodger New Statesman)

Magnificent ... proves that there was nothing predestined, or particularly preplanned, about the coming together of Scotland and England (Giles Tremlett Observer)

From the Back Cover

The intense rivalry between Elizabeth I and her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, dominates our understanding of the relationship between sixteenth-century England and Scotland. But few of us know how that rivalry began. Here, acclaimed historian Linda Porter tells the story of a divided family, of flamboyant kings and queens, cultured courts and tribal hatreds, blood feuds, sexual licence and violent deaths. Casting new light on the Tudor and Stuart dynasties, Crown of Thistles begins with the unlikely and dramatic victories of two usurping kings - Henry VII and James IV - and reveals the complex legacy they bequeathed to their descendant, Mary Queen of Scots, still seductive more than 400 years after her death.

'Stunning - an epic journey through the turbulent history of two nations' Alison Weir

'Bold, insightful and vivid' The Times

'Elegantly written, decently researched and, crucially, it will alert a new readership to a neglected subject' Glasgow Herald


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By EleanorB TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Crown of Thistles tells a fascinating story of the complex, shared history of Scotland and England across a key period of time, including the years in which Henry the Seventh was seeking to establish the authority of his nascent regime and to establish a dynasty by forging advantageous marital alliances, such as that of his eldest boy, Arthur, with Katherine of Aragon.

Two English Kings, Henry and his son Henry the Eighth were the major royal players, and their near contemporaries in Scotland were the Stewart Kings, James IV and V. Scotland at this time, also had its established Auld Alliance with France and the English always had a difficult relationship with that country, despite flowery political language and big ticket events such as the Field of the Cloth of Gold.
This complex back story produced strong family ties between the Tudor and Stewart families - Henry the Seventh's eldest daughter, Margaret, was married at age 13 to James the IV and subsequent Stewart marriages with French princesses gave the little daughter of James V of Scotland a shared English/Scottish/French ancestry. This little heiress became Queen of Scotland at the age of 6 days, and although her own story is well known, the background to it all is perhaps less familiar. No longer, however, as this pacy book, which reads at times like a novel, puts everything into sharp focus and greatly helps our understanding of the turbulent events that formed the backdrop to Mary Stewart's ultimately tragic life. It also demonstrates that the potential circumstances for a united kingdom were present many, many years before the Union of the Crowns actually happened.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The negative reviews here seem to be because this isn't just a history of Mary Queen of Scots: they're right, it's not, in that Mary is only born about halfway through this book. What it is, though, is an excellent history of Mary's inheritances, both personal and political, which shaped both her reign and her life.

Porter goes back to Katherine de Valois who, after the death of her first husband, Henry V, married Owen Tudor, a very unlikely second husband for a French queen. From here she traces the intertwined destinies of the Tudors and Stuarts whose lines merged when Margaret Tudor, sister to Henry VIII, married James IV, grandfather to Mary Queen of Scots.

So much has been written about the Tudors, but the lives of the difficult James III, the charismatic James IV, and the unlucky James V are far less well known, and Porter does an excellent job of bringing them to life. A minor criticism is that, given the English bias in current history writing, Porter feels it necessary to spend so much time on the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII.

So this does cover Mary's life, and does it in a fluent and lively style, but places her within the contexts of her family and national histories. For anyone wanting a more detailed focus on Mary Stuart, there's Antonia Fraser's established biography (Mary Queen Of Scots) and the newer, superlative book by John Guy (My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Sammy
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I enjoy reading about history. This book covers the areas that I didn't learn about in school. Or if we did, I wasn't paying attention. I didn't know for instance that Henry VIII had a sister Margaret who was married to the King of Scotland.
I would definitely recommend this book
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scottish History. 2 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Although my Father was born in Scotland I didn't know much about Scottish History. I enjoyed this book going back several generations.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars loved it 16 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
for anyone interested in the bond between the English and Scottish thrones this is an essential. Well written with detail but does not bog you down with too much detail. Wonderful book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best history 19 Oct 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Very easily read and gave differing opinions in context. It was quite gripping which surprised me, if school books had been so well who knows!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book 16 Sep 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very well researched and written enjoyed it very much..Will be interested in anything else she writes. Thought it covered Scottish history well
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mary Queen of Scots 8 Jan 2014
By gordyb
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Enjoyed reading this book on Mary, and I have read a few. A good price on the kindle for this ebook.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars disapointing
I much prefer to read my history on 1st person novels rather than a history book but factually it was very good
Published 3 months ago by Layla Hughes
2.0 out of 5 stars Biased history
I gave up reading this after about two chapters because of the obvious and grating bias of the author, who dismissively rejects any alternative interpretation of actions; her... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Historia
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard going
Unexciting catalogue of events. Scholarly and fine as a text book but a tedious read. Detailed and excellent factual resume but poor Mary came out of this as a passive and dull... Read more
Published 5 months ago by jeannie france-hayhurst
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly and highly readable
Another excellent piece of history from Linda Porter, who gives a strong and gripping account of the Tudor-Stewart politics of the fiteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Published 7 months ago by Mr. David C. Smith
1.0 out of 5 stars Not What I Expected
Disappointing!! Most of the book relates to other monarchs, nothing like I was expecting. In fact I would say it was rather boring
Published 8 months ago by Anne Trott
3.0 out of 5 stars The daughter of debate.
I have read many books about the Tudors and was interested in reading about the lesser known Stewart's in Mary's family tree and I did enjoy what the author had to say about James... Read more
Published 9 months ago by KAW
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent.
Thoroughly recommend this book. It is as good as the author's other on Mary Tudor. This book is about much more than Mary Stuart - indeed most of the book deals with what came... Read more
Published 9 months ago by gd
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