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on 10 June 2002
Fantastic amount of information. How did she manage to put it all together in the 1960s, before the days of word processors? But it's not an easy read, because the politics of Mary's time were complicated and it's hard to tell one of the Protestant lords from another if you don't know something about the period before you start. She does manage to bring Mary to life, though, without doing too much of the 'Mary must have thought...' or 'It probably occurred to her', which is the downfall of lesser biographers. I like the way she gets faintly exasperated by her heroine without ever falling out of sympathy with her. It makes a change from so many biographers nowadays, who devote themselves to debunking their subjects. All in all, very impressive.
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on 24 January 2002
Antonia Fraser tackles the life of Mary, Queen of Scots, in this excellent biography. Written originally in the late sixties this book details every twist and turn in the fateful Queens life. Not only does it give step by step accounts of those famous episodes in Mary's life - her 3 marriages, 2 widowhoods, incarceration by Elizabeth I and execution - but it gives the reader an insight into Mary herself. After reading this book I feel that I know a lot more about Mary's personal thoughts and what exactly made her the person she was. This is mainly in part to the excellent research by the author but the way this is brought into an easily readable script makes this book compelling without being too heavy as some big historical biographies can be. I honestly cannot believe that any other biography on Mary would better this one and for that reason alone recoomend it to anyone interested in her life. However even if, as I did, you thought you knew her story I would still recommend the book as it is a cracking good story, kept at a good pace throughout that it reads like an historical novel.
There are plenty of pictures to aid the text (although a map would of been a plus - to show locations of some the events in her life) and I learnt that Crichton castle, near where my brother used to live, has a part to play in her story which surprised me.
A must read.
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on 7 February 2004
I have been fascinated by Mary, Queen of Scots, since I first heard about her in a history lesson when I was about 9 years old. I was very shocked by the fact that she was executed, partly because she was a queen and partly because she was a woman. I felt that her fate was so unfair and have never come across anything to change that vivid first impression.
I loved this book about her. Antonia Fraser really brings her subject to life, truly a 3 dimensional portrait painted in words. This book is so full of detail, none of which feels unnecessary. There is no skipping bits because they are dull and/or irrelevant. I also got the impression that Antonia Fraser liked her subject, that she too had at some time felt distressed that this woman met such a horrible end, the culmination of a life spent largely in captivity. The author does a splendid job of conveying the frustration of Mary's position as a "guest" of Queen Elizabeth I.
This book is interesting and well-written. I find that even the most interesting history books and/or biographies often have dry sections that I skim but that wasn't the case at all with this particular book. There are long discussions of the moral and political issues surrounding Mary's captivity but they are written in such a way that they engage the reader. In some ways the author had a head start, given the subject matter. Even the bare bones of Mary's story are interesting but Antonia Fraser has certainly doen her subject justice.
I think this is one of the best historical biographies I have ever read. The subject comes alive and almost jumps out of the book. By the end of this book I felt like I had known Mary all my life and overall my impression of her was favourable. The detailed description of her last moments was difficult to read such was my sympathy for the vital woman described by the author. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has even a passing interest in Mary, Queen of Scots. I have read many good books by Antonia Fraser but this one, to my mind, stands head and shoulders above the rest.
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on 16 February 2002
A very detailed yet sympathetic (for the reader) book. It offers a great deal of information while refusing to be bogged down in description. It moves away from the simply scandalous view of Mary's life to show a much more understanding (but still detailed) view of her life. And it's easy to read.
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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.
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on 10 April 2001
This book is a masterpiece of scholarly work, it is also one of the most moving and compelling books I have ever read. Antonia Fraser takes you to the heart of Mary, Queen of Scots and into the heart of darkness which is 16th century intrigue. This book brings history to life and you cannot fail to be stirred as the tragic and romantic tale is unfolded. History presented and written straight from the heart, read this book and take it straight to your heart. I did.
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on 18 January 2015
This was the first Biography of Mary, Queen of Scots I ever read, as a teenager back in 1998. Found it in the School Library. Very well written and sympathetic to its subject. Have loved it ever since, recently bought my own copy for posterity.
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on 15 February 2009
I really wish I could like this book. I am fascinated by this historical period and I was eager to read this biography and at the beginning I really liked. However the book is way to biased to be a really useful reading: Mary is described as an icon, not as a woman, every achievement of her life being due to her saintly goodness and every failure (many) to her judgement being momentarily impaired by sickness or bad counseling. All of this would have been acceptable if some of the "different views" on Mary's disastrous life and political career had been examined at some length, giving a more objective portrait of her, but as it is the book is only a good read if you have already formed a religious opinion that she was a faultless saint and you want to read at length of how unjustly misused she was.
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on 21 June 2009
Mary Queen Of Scots The first time I read this book was in 1973 when I was 16 years old. I was enthralled with Mary's story and read this book several times over the years along with every other biography of her I could find. I still find Antonia Fraser's bio to be the best. I thought it meticulously researched and very "readable." I loved it when I was a teenager and I still love it now...
Several years ago a company called Papillion Creations produced a Mary Queen of Scots sampler chart (still in print at this time)that I stitched because of my passion for anything related to her, it is a version of this sampler that is pictured on the cover of this 40th anniversary edition.
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VINE VOICEon 3 November 2007
A magnificent biography of a woman who still courts controversy 400 years after her death. Fraser's biography is immensely sympathetic to Mary, and all the more readable for that. She has researched every aspect of Mary's life and times, I believe she visited every place associated with her while researching the book, and this attention to detail is obvious in every sentence. I've read this book at least half a dozen times and it is one of my favourite biographies. Fraser manages to make the politics of the French court and the Scottish nobility intelligible (especially important when every Scottish lord seems to be called James, Duke of Mar, Moray, Morton etc etc). The portrait of Queen Elizabeth during Mary's long captivity highlights her struggle with the daughter of debate, as Mary was called. Beautifully written, full of insights and intelligent interpretations of the facts, this is an outstanding biography.
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