Bought this as part of my MLitt course in Scottish history, the book examines the life and fitness to rule of Mary Queen of Scots from her birth, within days of her father's death, to her move to France at the age of 5 as the fiancee of the Dauphin, to her return to Scotland in 1561 at age of 18/19 as a widow, and subsequent attempts to rule. It is a highly critical account, and gives a very different view than the popular idea of Mary.
Jenny Wormald's book caused quite a stir when it was first published with the title "Mary Queen of Scots: A Study in Failure." It's now been re-issued with a rather less provocative title, but her argument has lost none of its original force. Wormald's basic argument is that Mary was a weak, self-indulgent and hesitant monarch, crippled by her own personal weaknesses and French upbringing. This is not a personal biography of a woman who "could be personally delightful" but a political study of a queen who "was one of the rare - strangely rare - cases of someone born to supreme power who was wholly unable to cope with its responsibilities." The many who still have a deep-rooted love for Mary, Queen of Scots might find some of Wormald's argument unsettling, even offensive. She is dismissive of the romanticism which has surrounded Mary since "she has given people far more pleasure, and far less pain, after her death... than she ever did in life." Although Wormald downplays the difficulties facing any ruler of 16th-century Scotland, her arguments that Mary's entire Scottish reign was a political embarrassment which achieved nothing is sadly true. Whatever one thinks of Mary as a woman, Wormald's readable and well-written account of her political career is a must for anyone interested in Mary the queen.
The book itself is generally an excellent academic resource, accepted by the majority of Universities, however, Wormald has some clear bias which needs to be declared, this is evident in almost all of Wormalds writings that include even a hint of Mary.
This idea that Mary was a complete failure that Wormald continues to hold(pages 11-13) is moronic at best, Wormald gives Mary absolutely no credit despite her being one of the most loved and popular monarchs of the Stewart dynasty; no taxation, declared Scots to worship as they please, travelled, and so forth. It is ironic that almost all of Mary's problems are centred on her marriages, Darnley and Bothwell, yet Wormald some how twists these incidents to fit her argument.
If you are to use this book as an academic reference you must at least briefly mention her obvious bias towards Mary.