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Mary Queen Of Scots: And The Murder Of Lord Darnley [Paperback]

Alison Weir
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 April 2003
On the night of 10 February 1567 an explosion devastated the Edinburgh residence of Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. The noise was heard as far away as Holyrood Palace, where Queen Mary was attending a wedding masque. Those arriving at the scene of devastation found, in the garden, the naked corpses of Darnley and his valet. Neither had died in the explosion, but both bodies bore marks of strangulation. It was clear that they had been murdered and the house destroyed in an attempt to obliterate the evidence. Darnley was not a popular king-consort, but he was regarded by many as having a valid claim to the English throne. For this reason Elizabeth I had opposed his family's longstanding wish to marry him to Mary Stuart, who herself claimed to be the rightful queen of England. Alison Weir's investigation of Darnley's murder is set against one of the most dramatic periods in British history. Her conclusions will shed a brilliant new light on the actions and motives of the conspirators and, in particular, the extent of Mary's own involvement.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; First Edition, First Printing edition (3 April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224060236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224060233
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.2 x 5.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,100,361 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


"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" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
TO EVERYONE'S DISMAY, THE BABY born to James V of Scotland and his second wife, Marie de Guise, on 8 December 1542 at Linlithgow Palace was a girl. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Biased and uncritical use of the sources 29 Aug 2009
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
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
5.0 out of 5 stars An in depth study. 29 Jun 2003
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
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a slog 10 May 2004
By A Customer
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars mary queen of scots
another brilliant book by Alison weir. she keeps you interested from beginning to end. quite simply, this book tells you all about the life of mary queen of scotts.
Published 6 months ago by susan
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing - convoluted, tedious and full of speculation presented...
The murder of Lord Darnley at Kirk o'Field is one of the most celebrated mysteries in Scottish history, and with Alison Weir being one of the most well-known historians writing... Read more
Published 12 months ago by C. Ball
4.0 out of 5 stars Mary Queen Of Scots: And The Murder Of Lord Darnley
The book progressively reveals a fascinating but turbulent time in history that was built on a web of lies, deceipt & treachery. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Valerie Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Weir's best
When I pick up an Alison Weir book I know that I'm in for a good time (this is my 4th book by Weir in a row. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Boyd Hone
4.0 out of 5 stars Mary Queen of Scots and the murder of Lord Darnley Alison Weir
Alison Weir's in depth research is evident in the reading of this book. It is not a book for you if you are looking for the romantic tale of the delightful young woman whom... Read more
Published 22 months ago by gail
4.0 out of 5 stars A marathon historical whodunnit
Alison Weir aims to revisit the murder of Lord Darnley and decides 'whodunit' - this is a real historical murder mystery. Read more
Published on 4 July 2012 by History Geek
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard Going
I have not read quite all of Ms Weir's books but I've read most of them. As I have written before, on these pages, she is responsible for getting me interested in Tudor history in... Read more
Published on 7 May 2012 by Graham James
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommends it for those who want to learn about English/Scottish...
Mary Queen of Scots was blessed with many gifts, but unlike Elizabeth, her contemporary and cousin in England, she did not have the right gifts to be able to reign as a medieval... Read more
Published on 22 Dec 2010 by Rebecca
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Ive read most of the reviews written by others here. Most have some criticisms about her subject or the way the book is written.
Personally I loved it all! Read more
Published on 17 May 2010 by Mrs. F. M. Pinsker
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb treatment of historical material
A very thoroughly researched and comprehensive study of Mary Stuart and Darnley. The language is fluent and readable at a variety of levels - if a little colloquial in places. Read more
Published on 26 Mar 2010 by Dark Angel
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