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Crown of Thistles: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary Queen of Scots Hardcover – Unabridged, 15 Aug 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Unabridged, 15 Aug 2013
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; 1 edition (15 Aug. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230753647
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230753648
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 5 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 543,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


' ... coolly crafting the authentic story of how Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I came to be, rather than simply who they were. This is Porter's unique selling point in a crowded field ... Her writing is bold, insightful and vivid.' 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.' Mail on Sunday

'... the book is elegantly written, decently researched and, crucially will alert a new readership to a neglected subject.' The Herald

'... Crown of Thistles is to be applauded as a highly courageous, pioneering attempt to brush the cobwebs off the existing national histories. Linda Porter has a considerable talent for synthesis and in this genre she is likely to excel in the future. Always professional in conception and dispassionate in style, her book deserves a wide readership.' Literary Review

'This gripping account has as many over-lapping branches as a monkey-puzzle tree, but as she weaves those warring kingdom's affairs the author maintains a firm grasp ... The jacket blurb promised rape and violence, and the latter is delivered with regularity. But this many-layered book offers much more, including fresh insights into Mary's downfall, especially the parts played by James V's discarded mistress.' Country Life

'Mary's life was rich in incident and Linda Porter recounts it with judiciousness and verve.' --New Statesman

Book Description

Mary Queen of Scots fervently believed she had a right to the English throne - a belief that cost her her head. A vivid account of why she came to this belief from an acclaimed Tudor historian

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent book - well researched and objectively written, as usual with this historian. It gives the background, so often missed, behind the well known story of Mary, Queen of Scots.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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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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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 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.
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