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Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  1,091 ratings  ·  81 reviews
The eminent British historian John Guy has unearthed a wealth of evidence that upends the popular notion of Mary Queen of Scots as a femme fatale and establishes her as the intellectual and political equal of Elizabeth I.
Guy draws on sources as varied as the secret communiqués of English spies and Mary’s own letters (many hitherto unstudied) to depict her world and her ac
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Hardcover, 608 pages
Published April 7th 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2004)
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Community Reviews

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Elizabeth
Interesting insight on what Mary was really like but the author is VERY biased in her favour and bends over backwards to show her in a favourable light, often to the detriment of others. I wonder how he feels about the recent revelations by medical historians that for it to be apparent that Mary had miscarried Bothwell's twins (rather than a single baby), she must have been at least five months pregnant - 16th century medicine would not have been able to discern twin foetuses before that stage. ...more
Elizabeth
Aug 01, 2009 Elizabeth rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone more interested in hagiography than the truth
Shelves: history
Good read but too biased and tries to present Mary as a far better person than the evidence suggests she could possibly have been.

What are we to think of a woman who, when the husband she loathes is murdered, gives his horse and some of his clothes to the man EVERYONE says is the killer?

What should we think when she refuses to allow more than a "show" trial at which the court is surrounded by armed men employed by the defendant, who threatens to kill anyone who speaks out of turn?

What should
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Elaine
Mary Queen of Scots, when she's not being muddled up with Mary Tudor, is generally known as a scandalous Queen. She is the emotional, flighty counterpart to Elizabeth I's steely calculation. John Guy does a wonderful job of rubbishing this stereotypical view.

He is obviously a fan of Mary and does his best to show the other, lesser known facets of her character. Unlike her English cousin, Mary became the Queen of Scotland when she was only six days old and she left Scotland to marry the French Da
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Katie
Jan 15, 2008 Katie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who don't like stupid theories
I hate most of the contemporary literature on Mary. It's all a bunch of did she or didn't she a. murder Darnley b. plot to murder Darnley c. write the casket letters d. consent to marry Bothwell e. plot against Elizabeth f. die a tragic martyr g. all of the above. Let it rest, people (Alison Weir, I AM LOOKING AT YOU). And yes, Guy takes an opinion on all of these subjects, but stays within reasonable factual boundaries and doesn't spend chapters and chapters on ridiculous theories about Darnley ...more
Katherine
I returned from Scotland and a visit to the National Museum of Scotland wanting to read a biography of Mary Stuart that wasn't through the Tudor lens. This was a great one. Inherently readable. I learned a lot. I always had the Darnley/Bothwell timeline screwed up in my head. I also now understand much better why Mary was seen as such a threat to Elizabeth. That being said, William Cecil is an ass. I had no idea Mary made such an effort to have a positive working relationship with Elizabeth. I f ...more
Jessica
Mary was in my estimation was still a nitwit, but I enjoyed this book immensely.
Mari Biella
Centuries after her execution, Mary Queen of Scots remains one of the most divisive and enigmatic figures in British history. Was she manipulated and betrayed by those around her? Or was she conniving, untrustworthy, and perhaps even a party to the murder of her own husband?

Those wanting to find out the truth (insofar as “the truth” can be recovered after so much time) could do far worse than to read John Guy’s scholarly, masterful biography. Guy presents Mary as a sympathetic, generous woman wh
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Nick Sweeney
This is a very detailed look at the story of Mary Stuart. I always looked upon her as a tragic figure, churned helplessly up in her times and circumstances, but this book makes that into a convenient myth. The truth was that Mary was as much of a player in what led to her ultimate downfall as all of the other people around her. In her early life she was up against the machinations of the french court, led by her own Guise family - her mother was the scheming Mary de Guise - who inflated Mary's s ...more
Danielle Reily
I found this in-depth biography absolutely fascinating. I love Tudor history, and of course I have read about Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots before. She has always been more of a background character in the books I've read. I knew the basic facts of her life and death and how she impacted the English monarchy, but there is a lot more to her than I expected. I had made a lot of assumptions regarding her and her actions as a queen.
John Guy goes through all of the contemperary records and evidence i
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Meredith
I'll admit it: the reason I wanted to read this book is because I watch (and love) the CW show "Reign," which is loosely based on the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. How loosely? Pretty darn. But one thing is the same-I am Team Mary forever and ever, amen. She may occasionally make some pretty bad decisions about her love life, but that doesn't change my love for her. She was an awesome lady. And if everyone around her hadn't sucked so much (if you don't believe me, read the book. They were all th ...more
Heather
This is a very thorough and interesting account about Mary Queen of Scots. The author, John Guy, attempts to answer the questions of the murder of her husband Lord Darnley, the marriage of Mary to Bothwell, and her plots against Elizabeth I. The author depicts Mary not as a "femme fatale" as many other historians have. He believes that she did not conspire to murder her husband. What is interesting is the extent to which the author explains the plot against Darnley and the whole marriage to Both ...more
Shannon
This is without a doubt the definitive biography of Mary Stuart of all time. John Guy, truly one of the most distinguished scholars of the Tudor period, gives his reader a more human Mary Stuart, without the drama of infamy or legend, but the Mary that the historical record provides. It would seem that Guy read every document associated with Mary Stuart and considered the vast influences on her personality.

It is Guy’s mastery of the documents that reveals that throughout Mary’s life, she was dom
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Sarah Finch
A meticulously documented overhaul of the centuries of scurrilous myths surrounding Mary Queen of Scots. John Guy makes no bones about where his sympathies lie, and yet that strengthens rather than weakens the experience of this historical narrative. Mary comes alive to the point where I almost expected her to leap off the page and start reciting a Ronsard verse. The various factions of the Scottish lords are similarly well-drawn, and it is to Guy's credit that the confusion of the reader during ...more
Fiona
I enjoyed this book but found it difficult not to be furious with Mary's stupidity and short-sightedness, not to mention her vanity which allowed her to be easily led by similarly vein and ambitious men. Guy perhaps is a little in love with Mary and the book lacks incisiveness and impartiality because of it but it's still one of the best biographies I've read.
Sydowg
This was an enlightening historical account of Mary, Queen of Scots. The author, John Guy, brought her to life for me, and he intermingled factual writings along with many discrepancies written throughout the years. This book gives a detailed account of her life from childhood to death. It makes me wonder, what if? Very well written as a biography.
Simon Reid
This is an outstanding biography of Mary Stuart and confirms John Guy as my favourite historian. Her life is a thrilling story in his hands, and the pace achieved is all the more impressive in that he never forgoes scholarly rigour or simplifies for convenience.

Even when things get fiendishly complex for Mary, he keeps all the plates spinning - her handling of the pesky Scottish lords, her shifting favour with the Guise dynasty in France (her mother's side of the family), the religious tensions
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Grace
I did it. I read the whole book. I am very proud of myself. I have never not finished a book. It is very detailed which is what made it difficult for me. There are alot of characters with alot going on. Keeping it straight was hard. I may read it again just to make sure I got everything.
Jacob hurt
I originally bought this as an "anti-Elizabeth I" book. But, I really enjoyed it. I gave it 3 stars because it's really one-sided, and it tries to prove that Mary was a saint... yeah right. But very enjoyable.
Robin Evans
I finally finished this book! Over 500 pages of very thoroughly researched information about Mary Stuart. The queen of Scotland by birth, later the queen of France by marriage, aspiring to be the queen of England too...she was ultimately imprisoned and later executed by Queen Elizabeth. I learned a great deal from this book, and if you like history you will enjoy it. The author is obviously partial to Mary and tries to clear her name in many instances, but does a great job of giving the facts fr ...more
Brittany Nelson
John Guy’s biography is hailed as a sympathetic biographyl s0 I was excited. Indeed, I did enjoy the first 300 pages. It established Mary as a complete capable as a political player, whereas she is usually seen as tone deaf to politics. While also pointing out her flaws, like to trustworthy of people she considered family. It shows her dealing with Elizabeth and also setting up her band of councilors and battling the different factions in Scotland. After her marriage to Lord Darnley, his strengt ...more
C.S. Burrough
Aug 12, 2014 C.S. Burrough rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History readers
An essential element of any historical biographer's task is to put colour into the cheeks of their subject, which Professor Guy effects with aplomb in this meticulously penned tome. This queen, who has has for centuries polarised commentariats, is a personal favourite, this being the twenty-something book of her I've relished. Each biographer depicts her as predominantly innocent or guilty. This one is firmly on Mary's side and puts his case supremely.

The details that divide on the Queen of Scot
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Robyn LoveForbiddenLoveEternal
This is a masterful biography, wholly and unequivocally sympathetic to Mary, effectively presenting her as a doomed queen from the very moment she returned to Scotland. I completely concur with this view, but I've never read it so explicitly presented until now in John Guy's sensitively written, meticulously researched bio. He sets Mary against the backdrop of a violent, blooded Scotland, where she lacks a unified and loyal nobility as opposed to her cousin, Elizabeth. Mary has to deal with the ...more
Lydia
A Queen beheaded. Is it a result of her own doing or is she a victim of circumstances?

Every historian has certain innate biases and points of view he or she is wanting to discover or reveal. However, John Guy is an award winning historian/biographer of high caliber, and according to his research, the ill-fated Queen was as much a victim of conniving Scottish noblemen and English royal advisers as she was a scheming member of the Royal family.

From reading this book it comes to light that being a
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Lauralee
Mary, Queen of Scots has captured many imaginations today. Indeed, the latest historical tv drama, Reign, focuses on the young life of Mary, Queen of Scots. She is portrayed in history as a femme fatale who uses her beauty and charms and manipulates those around her to get the throne of England. She is also portrayed as a failed ruler whose country would have been better had she never been queen at all. However, in John Guy’s biography of Mary, Queen of Scots portrays her as a woman of intellige ...more
Marilyn
Nov 01, 2012 Marilyn rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mary Mae Callan-garcia
Queen of Scots, written by John Guy has become one of my personal favorite books. John Guy certainly did an incredible amount of research, in putting this book together. It was touching to read Mary's personal accounts, written to Elizabeth I.

Mary made poor choices in men, and she trusted her beloved cousin Elizabeth to a fault. She also trusted her noblemen more than she should have. It is a shame that she was betrayed by so many trusted people whom she held dear. I have to say that I changed
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Leah
A sympathetic portrait…

Having thoroughly enjoyed Guy's recent biography of Thomas Becket, I had high expectations of this book, which Guy more than fulfilled. A meticulous historian who prides himself on stripping back the layers of accepted history by returning to and re-evaluating the original sources, Guy also has the skill of a true storyteller. For a non-historian like myself, it is this skill that makes his books so readable, that makes his characters emerge as rounded human beings with st
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Kerry
I have always been fascinated by the figure of Mary, Queen of Scots, so much so, that I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on her. At the time I was very much influenced by Jenny Wormald's A study in Failure which led me to be very critical of Mary and to view her as a bit of an idiot (obviously I wrote this conclusion up in more academic language). John Guy's Tudor England was my bible during my degree, so I was interested to read this biography of Mary.

Mary is a fascinating character for hist
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Lindsay
This biography is well-researched with a strong narrative arc. I docked it for the author's frequent and absurd editorializing about Mary, particularly her supposed superiority to Elizabeth I. For example, Guy's assertions that Mary Stuart was more disciplined or politically astute than Elizabeth I at any point are just laughable. These biases made me wonder what else he was telling me that wasn't accurate.
Christa - Ron Paul 2016
This was an extremely interesting biography about Mary Stuart who, like the title says, was Queen of the Scots, and as far as I can tell the last monarch of that country before England and Scotland became one.
Her life was very interesting,exciting and a little tragic, and the writing of John Guy was far from boring. I thought everything was laid out in a very comprehensive style with all the connections between family's made very clear so I always knew who everyone was and how they related to ea
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Bree Bielawski
The story of Mary Stuart is told in depth with lots of details, which is great if you are a history buff. I knew from the attention of detail told in the first chapter that this was not a book to be taken lightly. The author does give their opinion of what they believe Mary and other figures were like, but that happens with most biographies. The truth generally lies somewhere in the middle.
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John Guy studied medieval and Tudor history and is acknowledged as a leading authority on castles.
More about John Guy...
A Daughter's Love: Thomas More and His Dearest Meg Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel The Children of Henry VIII Tudor England The Tudors: A Very Short Introduction

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