Top critical review
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Enjoyable, and thorough, biography
on 3 October 2010
I shall keep this review brief as previous reviewers have covered the pros, and cons, of this book. All in all, I enjoyed the biography. I have never read a biography of Mary, Queen of Scots before and here Antonia Fraser provides a thorough study of this unfortunate queen. The book is immensely readable (as are all of Fraser's books I have read so far), scholarly and passionate. Fraser is probably a bit too partisan and pro-Mary in some parts, and does seem to excuse, or skirt over, some of Mary's obvious flaws. Was Mary really innocent in the Babington Plot? Although it's obvious she was set up by Francis Walsingham and co, she must have known, or worked out, that her freedom obviously meant the assassination of Elizabeth I. Similarly, I refuse to believe that Mary had no inkling of the plot against Darnley at the Kirk o'Field, and if she didn't, she was very naive.
On the whole though, I tend to agree with Fraser's sympathetic portrait of Mary Stuart. I felt that, despite her flaws as a ruler of Scotland (with its admittedly mind-boggling religious/political factions) and her possible role in Darnley's death, that she did not deserve to be imprisoned in England for 19 years, or to be executed following a rigged trial and being set up. Her execution was in any case illegal, as Mary was not a subject of Elizabeth but a queen in her own right.
In summary, I would recommend this book. Watch out for the typos though.