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Mary Queen Of Scots: And The Murder Of Lord Darnley Paperback – 3 Jul 2008

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Mary Queen Of Scots: And The Murder Of Lord Darnley + Elizabeth, The Queen + The Lady In The Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn (Queen of England Series)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (3 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099527073
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099527077
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 55,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alison Weir lives and works in Surrey. Her books include Britain's Royal Families, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Children of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry VIII: King and Court, Mary, Queen of Scots and Isabella: She-Wolf of France.

Product Description

Amazon Review

The prolific Scottish historian Alison Weir, in her new book Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley, grapples painstakingly with a mystery that has dogged history for centuries.

At midnight on February 9 1567, a violent explosion ripped apart Kirk o’Field, the Edinburgh residence of Lord Darnley, the 20-year-old King and second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. His unmarked body was found lying under a tree, together with that of his valet. The cause of his death and its perpetrators have remained obscured since that night, though Mary was a prime suspect in her husband's murder. Her apparent apathy regarding the murder investigation was regarded with deep suspicion but more incriminating were the infamous "Casket" letters, said to have been written by her to her lover Lord Bothwell, the supposed architect of Darnley’s assassination. Yet if Mary had good reasons for wanting her (Catholic) husband dead, then so had much of Scottish nobility.

Using contemporary evidence Weir argues exhaustively that the letters could have been the work of forgers employed by Protestant lords "laying snares for the queen". Sympathetic to Elizabeth I, intent on justifying Mary's subsequent imprisonment and forcing her abdication, the prospect of a young foreign Catholic queen, unversed in diplomacy, refusing a Protestant alliance through marriage was anathema to the Scottish lords. Weir's book claims that Mary’s fate was sealed as much by the country of which she was monarch as by Elizabethan England.

Alison Weir’s carefully researched addition to the wealth of material on the myth and reality of Mary Queen of Scots is too long, at 600 pages, but nevertheless makes for a thoughtful, scholarly and compelling read. --Catherine Taylor --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


"Conspiracy, treason, perjury, and forgery, along with . . . political assassination, and several deadly sins . . . While Ms. Weir does not stint on the sensational details, she is above all a historian and dogged researcher. She sifts through sources, which were often compromised, and thinks like a forensics expert." --"The Wall Street Journal" "One of the most intriguing murder mysteries in European history . . . No stone is left unturned in Weir's investigation, and . . . her book is as dramatic as witnessing firsthand the most riveting court case." --"Booklist" (boxed and starred review) "The finest historian of English monarchical succession writing now is Alison Weir. . . . Her assiduousness and informed judgment are precisely what make her a writer to trust." --"The Boston Globe" "Alison Weir has perfected the art of bringing history to life." --"Chicago Tribune"

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 29 Aug 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I always really enjoy reading Weir's books but I've never been impressed by her as a historian, principally because of her very biased and uncritical use of sources. I've found it best to treat her as a historical novelist putting forward an almost fictionalised version of the story she is telling. In this book, she has attempted something a little different from the other books of hers I have read: to untangle a mystery, rather than elucidate a personality as she does in her books on Eleanor of Aquitaine and Isabella of France. And, sadly, this just serves to foreground and highlight her weaknesses.

While this purports to focus on the murder of Darnley, it's almost impossible to untangle that event from so much else in Mary's life, and so the book also treats their marriage, her possible affair with Bothwell, the murder of Rizzio etc etc. My main criticism is that in her discussion of the sources at the start Weir states she is basing her interpretation on Nau's `official' account, as if this is somehow unbiased and objective reporting. But she also admits that Nau's account probably came to him from Mary when he was acting as her secretary - not so unbiased after all then. How this is more objective than what she calls the `hostile' sources isn't tackled at all.

My second, broader criticism is that Weir appears to believe in her unproblematic ability to uncover, for once and for all, the `truth' of Darnley's murder. In her thought world there appears to be no room for possibilities, probabilities, no nuances and no alternatives - despite the fact people have been arguing over this question ever since it happened over 400 years ago.

And yet despite all this, Weir's Mary is not significantly different from the other Marys who have come down to us through history.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Bob Farquharson on 29 Jun 2003
Format: Paperback
Befeore I go any further let me say this is a truly excellent book. Having said that I can now be a little more critical. The book essentially splits into 3 parts. An introduction to Mary and the build up to her marriage with Darnley, the marriage to darnley and his murder and finally Mary's imprisonment and execution in England. I think this is a mistake. The book is essentially an in depth study of Darnley's murder. If it had stayed with this area of speciality it could have been reduced from 600 to 450 pages and not lost any if its impetus. We would also had greater focus. The first and third parts are general overviews, whereas the main part of the book is a very detailed account. The two styles sit uneasily with each other.
When we get to the main account of Darnley and his murder from being easy going, the book becomes hard work. It is extremely detailed and often difficult to work out who is who with so many characters entering the plot. However the author writes superbly and manages to tie up this immense level of detail in a highly readable manner. It is extremely well researched and very careful in it's dealings with highly biased source material. Alison's Weir's conclusions on Mary and the murder of Darnley hardly rock the boat, but nevertheless this is a readable and highly detailed account of a most interesting historical event.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 May 2004
Format: Paperback
I have read all of Alison Weir's books to date, and some of them (The Six Wives of Henry V111, Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Wars of the Roses) several times, but this one is a real marathon. The wealth of detail with regard to the murder of Darnley makes for some very hard going, and in the end I found I really didn't care exactly who had killed him! Page after page of speculation eventually made me lose interest. This is the first time I have given Ms Weir less than a 5-star rating. Hopefully this is a one-off and we will soon see a return to her readable, much more approachable style. If you're a student of this period, looking for some answers, then perhaps this is the book for you. It's not for me - too much speculation makes for a boring read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gary Selikow on 2 Nov 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is essentially an exploration and 'whodunnit' of the murder of Mary, Queen of Scot's second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, rather than a biography of Mary herself.
Mary was certainly an interesting and tragic figure.
The book itself is essentially a very interesting expose, and Weir certainly has researched her work and presented her conclusions as to the evidence painstakingly well.

The first three chapters of this work are concerned with Mary's early life, her growing up in the French court where she was sent to be educated.
Weir touches on the moral laxity of the French court, which she actually go's as far as to refer to as a "moral cesspit: in which Mary was "exposed from an early age to it's promiscuity and corruption".
Interestingly there are two paintings that show the teen aged Mary, later to be Queen of France, in the nude.

In 1558 the 16 year old Mary was married to the Dauphin who succeeded his father as Francis II the following year.
When Francis died in 1560, his mother, the vindictive Catherine de Medici, made it clear that Mary was no longer welcome at the French court, so she returned to her native Scotland, where John Knox was playing a dominant role. The Reformation was in full swing but Mary made no attempt to interfere with the new religion, merely insisting that she was to be free to worship as a Catholic.
At this stage she had the peoples support.

Renowned for her beauty, she was charming, intelligent and talented but she was surrounded by vicious and scheming lords, hungry for power, and got caught up in their intrigues and plots. She never had a trustworthy and wise counsellor, like her cousin Elizabeth, to whom she could turn for advice.
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