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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 20 August 2013
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 Stuart 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 Stuart'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. It is also full of detailed descriptions of the Scottish court during the late 15th and early 16th centuries, when it was clearly a vibrant and cultured place and not some desolate backwater.

The author's use of language is excellent, the illustrations are excellent, and this is as good an introduction to the life and times of Mary Queen of Scots as you will ever read.

Highly recommended reading.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 December 2014
This is an interesting book which tells what was going on in both Scotland and England from around 1485 to 1603, and explains clearly how Mary came to be Queen of Scots and why her claim to the crown of England too was so strong but never achieved. The political manoeuvrings, in which France also played a key role are explained, along with the battles which often followed in an interesting and very readable manner.

There are of course quite a cast of characters in these pages - the dramatis personae at the end of the book is very useful, as are the genealogies at the front to help to try to keep track of who is who especially if you have to put the book down for a few days.

Only about half of the book is about Mary - but this approach helps to set the scene in which she became queen, and what caused the very difficult times during which she reigned.

There is so much betrayal, double dealing, and self interested treachery in these pages- difficult times indeed
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on 17 March 2016
Having read several reviews if this book, I was well aware that it gave a history of both English and Scottish monarchy and Mary was not mentioned until way into the book. With this in mind, I totally enjoyed this book. The history from Richard III right upto Mary was fascinating and well researched. Some of which is a personal view, because with all history, we do not know.
This history is a little too modern for me, I prefer medieval, but still an interesting book. I first read Mary's history many years ago with Antonia Fraser's book and nothing seems to have changed. Way back then Mary's rape especially was only just mentioned, whereas now it is a definite. Still so much is surmised, we will never know the true story. She had a sad, tragic life and death.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 January 2014
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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on 20 September 2013
A most interesting book in which I feel Linda Porter is to be congratulated in how she described the complex but very close relations between Scotland and England in the 16th Century. What I found very pleasing on the way Linda Porter described and gave an excellent insight into the lesser known Stewarts, that many particularly English authors ignore or gave a very brief comment on and those historians who largely describe Scotland as a backward and unimportant country, with the odd references, so consumed with the Tudors. Well Done Ms Porter in showing that The Stewart monarch's despite being very unlucky and many set backs ultimately were the family that did unite the Crowns and bring Britain into existence, they actually reigned in Scotland from 1371 to 1603, then ruling both Scotland and England for 104 years more, unlike the Tudors who were a flash in the pan, ruling for a mere 118 year. Ms Porter has beautifully described the importance and influence of King James III , IV and V and just how important Scotland was to Europe and the rulers of Spain , France, England , something most English authors fail to acknowledge. Where I feel the book was let down is on Mary herself, I felt it was quite hurried and rushed, which for me was disappointing. I would have liked more in-depth study on Mary, who without doubt is the most famous Scottish Monarch, who was greatly let down by those who should have put their Queen and Countries interests first. Overall a very good interesting book, just lt down by not enough on Mary, hence my 4 star rating, but a well worth reading.
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on 17 October 2013
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 iii, iv and v, but there wasn't enough of it. I had to wade through hundreds of pages on Henry vii, I know he was her great grandfather, but there was more about the battle of Bosworth than I have read in biographies of Henry himself and I thought unnecessary detail on Perkin Warbeck and Lambert Simnel. Conversely, Mary's exile and death is confined to the Epilogue. Surely her inheritance was a factor in how she handled her imprisonment. The issue of her rape or not by Bothwell is a bit of a red herring. Porter tells us that romantic novelists make much of a great love between Mary and Bothwell, but she herself inflates the importance of contemporary sources that shouted rape. The fact is the sources all had their own agenda, it is almost impossible to untangle the web of arguments around Mary, she is still the "daughter of debate".
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on 29 January 2015
Excellent biography. Its interesting in that her story starts well before she is born and this book put Mary Queen of Scots in context of the logn rivalry (hundreds of years) and dynastic complications between the ruler of England and Scotland. As independance grows ever nearer one wonders if that naked jealousy and friction will do both partners harm in the near future. Mary is a fascinating historical figure who was also perhaps not a great judge of character. He life from provincial heir to the Scottish throne to Queen of France and then suddenly dumped back in Scotland finally deposed and feld to England. Its a very sad story. Enjoy. Worth buying and reading.
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on 23 September 2013
Loved this book I do believe BBC are making an historical series about her at the moment so I would say read this book and get the back ground knowledge .I can not make my mind up if she was a scheming women who had a hand in her husbands murdered ,and plotting in captivity to have Elizabeth assassinated
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on 16 March 2014
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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on 16 September 2013
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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