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Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Jean Plaidy's historical fiction stories are always full of murder and mayhem. History was turbulent and it seemed to always be a survival of the fittest and each man looked after his own. Men and equally women specially of the royal category were determined that they should hold on to the crown - never mind siblings, cousins or family. One seemed determined to keep it safe for one of your own children never someone else's (at whatever cost).

In this story it is poignant and very sad from the beginning to the end. The bit of romance in the book is doomed from the start and you know that Mary Stuart however beautiful, enticing and like a magnet to the men is never going to stand a fair chance against the encompassing all powerful Elizabeth I. Whether Mary was so naive that she thought that Elizabeth would help her to regain her throne in Scotland whereas Elizabeth looked on Mary as a threat to her own throne in England as well. On top of that the deeply Catholic Mary was a naturally divisive element in society which was divided on the Protestant/Catholic lines and Elizabeth knew that even her English citizens would flock to Mary as she was a devout Catholic.

The story opens with Mary's husband's death and the suspicions that hang over her head that she is somehow involved in his murder along with her lover. Fleeing Scotland she approaches Elizabeth for help. From that moment on, Mary is a prisoner - sometimes well looked after, most often ignored and in wretched circumstances but a prisoner for a very long time on English soil and she is finally brought to the Tower and executed for treason at the end of her very long imprisonment.

The turmoil that Mary underwent during her long years as a prisoner - the constant moving from one castle to the next at Elizabeth's whim, the animosity and anxiety that was the lot of those who had to host this royal prisoner, form the story. The day to day difficulties of hosting such an important prisoner, the fact that she had to be guarded at all times, that they did not know who was friend or who was foe was one important part of the story - not just for the guards of Her Majesty but for Her Majesty herself. She never knew whom to trust and her gaolers did not know whom to trust either as they were on opposite sides of a fence.

This was very different from the other Jean Plaidy reads. Very often her stories have a somewhat happy ending at least for some character of the drama. In this there was no such end. Those with a love of 16th century history of Britain should get to this particular book.


  1. I don't read a lot of historical fiction but I'd like to read one of her books because I understand she's one of the best.

  2. Thanks very much for this review. I have just finished reading Antonia Fraser's biography on Mary Queen of Scots which is fascinating reading for someone interested in Mary Queen of Scots. Philippa Gregory's The Other Queen sounds quite similar to Plaidy's book, although Gregory's only covers the first four years of Mary's captivity in England.