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The Challenge to the Crown - Volume I: The Struggle for Influence in the Reign of Mary Queen of Scots 1542-1567 Hardcover – 26 Jul 2012
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"This book, and its sequel, can rightly claim to be among the definitive accounts of the most written about and turbulant periods of Scottish history. Robert Stedall claims to be an amateur historian but his attention to detail and use of original sources is astonishing. ... He gives [the story] a new twist and fresh resonance. For this alone the book is well worth reading. ... Mary herself appears in all her frail naivety as a mere pawn in the high stakes of European politics. She always picked the wrong men, but she never lacked for bravery, style and loyalty. For this she unquestionably deserves her very special place in Scotland's history."-- Geordie Burnett Stuart - The Stewart Society Edinburgh
About the Author
After the death of his mother in 2000, Robert Stedall chanced upon a bundle of perfectly preserved water colour sketch books from his fathers's estate. Each page was filled with beautifully illustrated, pen and ink sketches of hunting and country life. Further research showed that they had been drawn by Cecil Stedall, his great Uncle. This discovery paved the way for the publication of his first book Hunting from Hampstead (Book Guild, 2002), the story of Cecil Stedall and his brothers, who hunted from the family home in Hampstead, and travelled to Palestine with their horses to fight in the First World War. It was illustrated throughout with Cecil's drawings and photographs taken by his mother. The book was warmly received and offers a fascinating window into a family's life at the turn of the 20th century.
Throughout his adult life Robert Stedall has been fascinated by genealogy, researching in painstaking detail both his own family tree, and that of his wife Elizabeth Clay. It was in his wife's family tree that he discovered a number of connections to the personalities surrounding Mary Queen of Scots and her son, James VI, in particular the Earls of Mar, her maternal grandmother's family. The background to the writing of the books in Robert's own words: 'Having written a history of my own family, I decided to write about my wife's ancestors. Her grandmother, Dorothy Erskine, was the granddaughter of the 11th Earl of Mar and 13th Earl of Kellie, and I contemplated a history of the Erskine family. After some research, I realised that there were significant gaps in some periods of the history, so decided to focus on an area which was relatively better documented. There were two 'great moments' for the family. In 1715, John, 6th Earl of Mar, led the rebellion in support of the Old Pretender, and in 1572, John, 1st Earl of Mar was appointed Regent of Scotland for the infant, James VI. The 6th Earl was not an attractive personality, being known as 'Bobbing John', in view of his habit of changing sides (!), and he proved an unreliable ally. I thus focused on the somewhat stolid but reliable Regent of Scotland. With the Regent's family having hereditary responsibility for the upbringing of the royal children, inevitably, I became attracted by the childhoods of both Mary Queen of Scots and her son James VI of Scotland. This led me into researching a full blown history of both, particularly because, when looked at from the point of view of the Scottish nobility, I was unearthing a fresh assessment of their lives.'
Attracted by the challenge of writing a new history of Mary Queen of Scots, he embarked on an ambitious plan to map the inter-marriages within the Scottish Peerage, realising that these tended to underline new allegiances. In doing so, he was able to explain why certain members of the nobility seemed to be changing sides between rival factions. Working over ten years, Robert produced a single manuscript charting the decline of the Scottish monarchy under Mary, and its recovery under James, culminating in him ascending to the English throne after Elizabeth's death. The final draft has been divided into two volumes: Volume 1: The Challenge to the Crown - The Struggle for Influence in the Reign of Mary Queen of Scots 1542-1567 covers the period until Mary's enforced abdication at Lochleven in 1567. It was published by The Book Guild in 2012. The second volume, Survival of the Crown - The Return to Authority of the Scottish Crown following Mary Queen of Scots Deposition from the Throne 1567-1603, will be published in Summer 2013. Now retired, Robert Stedall spent his professional career as a chartered accountant and finance director. He was educated at Marlborough College and graduated from McGill University in Montreal. A keen gardener, sailor and occasional poet, he lives in Sussex.
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In the days when people were prepared to be burnt alive for their beliefs, how could anyone have moved from being Queen in Catholic France to Queen in a turbulent Protestant Scotland (and England) without compromising either their faith or their crown?
A difficult story well explained; suitable for the serious historian as well as the curious amateur. Although the early chapters would be much improved with a cast list, the book developes into a romping good tale.
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