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Mary Queen of Scots

(Medieval Women Boxset)

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  13,123 ratings  ·  388 reviews
Author of Marie Antoinette

She was the quintessential queen: statuesque, regal, dazzlingly beautiful. Her royal birth gave her claim to the thrones of two nations; her marriage to the young French dauphin promised to place a third glorious crown on her noble head.

Instead, Mary Stuart became the victim of her own impulsive heart, scandalizing her world with a foolish passion
Paperback, 568 pages
Published September 1st 1993 by Delta (first published 1969)
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Yaaresse She probably would have preferred to live long enough to write an autobiography. :)

It's a very solid biography, but, no, it's not a breezy read. You …more
She probably would have preferred to live long enough to write an autobiography. :)

It's a very solid biography, but, no, it's not a breezy read. You really can't fully cover Mary's life without going into the history of England/Scot politics and the absolute mess Henry set up that Elizabeth and Mary had to navigate. You'll probably find some historical fiction, but there's not a lot of non-fiction about this period that is going to not include that backgroud. And, I hope, no non-fiction in first person. (less)

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Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful example of what research and excellent writing can do for history. The queen of Scotts was murdered by Elizabeth the first. She escaped Scotland following her grandmother's bid for power, as well as the new religious beliefs in the country.
Antonia Fraser gives us a look into the life of this fascinating woman as well as her captivity in England by Elizabeth.
This book is educational and easily read. Factually correct, the details of her suffering are most important.
This book is highly
Jan 09, 2014 rated it liked it
I’ve never read a nonfiction book about Mary Stuart, and the last (and, I think, only) fiction book I’ve read about her was back in elementary school, when I read her book from the Royal Diaries series. (I think it was called Mary, Queen of Scots: Queen Without a Country or something like that, and I remember not liking it very much.) What I knew about her going into this book was taken almost entirely from Elizabeth-centric history books, which obviously don’t always show Mary in the best light ...more
Helen (Helena/Nell)
Oct 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I won’t hiver-haver here: this is a wonderful book. From about page twenty onwards (it took a little while to get me into the swing of things) I was riveted. I arrived at page 691, on my third day of reading at 1.30 a.m., having been unable to put the volume down for the final three or four hours. As I lay in bed at the end of each day of reading, my mind returned to this astonishing woman, who was a Queen in the sixteenth century, and acquired mythic status. Which she deserved—which indeed she ...more
Oct 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
I have to admit that before reading this, I mainly knew Mary Queen of Scots from the film Elizabeth, where she was presented in a minor part as a sensual French Catholic traitor prolonging a bloody war with England.
In actuality, her story is almost more fascinating than that of Elizabeth, her cousin: Mary serves as Queen of France until her husband the King dies, when they're both barely 20. She returns to Scotland as Queen. But Scotland is still very medieval, plus it's protestant and she's Cat
Aug 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
Remember that time you thought your closest cousin was trying to have you assassinated and you thought it might be a good idea to execute her (after wrongfully imprisoning her for nineteen years)? Don't bother, 'cause you're going to die childless and her son is going to take over your throne, thus ensuring the survival of her line--not yours--for at least thirteen generations.

That's what I got out of this book. Oh, and also that rebel lords aren't nearly so fun as they sound.
Apr 30, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
I hesitate recommending this book because the writing is often dull and the author has an annoying habit of placing latin and french quotes without a translation. But in the end I do recommend this book because the story of Mary Queen of Scots tragic life is compelling. Twice a Queen, first of France than of Scotland. Mary was almost six foot tall in an age when five feet for woman was average. Beautiful, athletic, pampered, intelligent, naive and a magnet for misfortune. Her first husband died ...more
Jun 04, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: july-2016
I am very much interested in Mary's story, but haven't studied any history of the period since I was at secondary school. I chose to read Fraser's account of hers because she is so well revered; I thought that if anyone could present her tale in a fascinating and memorable way, it would be her. Alas, I have a few issues with the book. Mary Queen of Scots held my attention for the first 150 pages or so, but I felt as though it shifted after that point, losing some of its initial sparkle. Fraser's ...more
Karen Witzler
Aug 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
1969 - that sounds about right. I used to stare at it on the high shelf in K-Mart's very limited section of books during our weekly shopping. It was such a leap from what the World Book Encyclopedia had to offer. Mary, so regal- and Antonia on the back cover, so equally regal and so sexy. No one ever seemed to buy it and the copy became shopworn (was that from me?)... and then one day there was a paperback edition on a low shelf and I saved my pocket money and bought it. It was dense with words, ...more
Erik Graff
Feb 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mary fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
This tome represents an impressive amount of research--too much if one expects a quick and easy read. While the portrayal is sympathetic, the picture which emerges of Queen Mary is not very positive. She was, as might be expected, spoiled, selfish and adolescent, certainly not one who might have been competent as an autocrat unless shepherded by ministers. As it was, she was poorly guided, both by her supposed allies and by her own unregulated desires. I was reminded of the late Princess of Wale ...more
Mar 06, 2009 marked it as to-read
Shelves: history-british
I want to read this because I want to answer the question, 'Why is everyone so fascinated by this damn woman??'. I've never liked her. I've always thought she was stupid, petty, petulant and self-indulgent. I pity her, but I've never respected her in the least. She seems to have some rabid fans. I'm curious as to why. Perhaps Fraser, whose voice I really like in her stories of Henry VIII's wives, will be able to explain it to me.
Caidyn (BW Reviews; he/him/his)
This review can also be found on my blog!

I did a buddy read with the ever lovely Jaynie, who I read Elizabeth I with earlier this year!

And, this was really good. At times, it was pretty dull because it felt bogged down by details I didn’t need to know — names, family history, etc. — but most of the time it was interesting. I think it picked up speed after her second marriage to Darnley because that was when everything kind of went downhill for her.

One thing that came up when Jaynie and I discuss
Oct 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Mary is cast in a very understandable and sympathetic light. The author does a marvelous job of showing Mary’s intelligence, courage, queenly bearing, and strength, while also including her education, style, travels, appointments, involvement in games and sports, her reading, political stances, her choice of clothes and jewelry, and motivations in her choice of husbands. Mary is brought thoroughly to life by the author’s skill in portraying the historic woman and equally the feminine woman, the ...more
Michela Marie Mifsud
A heavy read for's definitely not for bedtime as one has to be focused and attentive in order to grasp the history...also a basic knowledge of British history would not do harm in reading this book, as is perhaps the norm when reading such biographies. The story of this sad, unfortunate queen is of great interest to all lovers of history. It is riddled with tragedies and injustices and while reading one perhaps asks himself how much more this queen could have endured especially during ...more
A sad biography of the Queen of Scots. I have given this book three stars though my enjoyment was edging towards two stars. This is my second book of Antonia Fraser and I much prefer The Wives of Henry VIII. My interest lagged even though I love Fraser's writing style, I never felt pulled into this sad account of the misunderstood queen of Scots. I plan on reading her other books and I hope that I can enjoy them much more than I had of this one. ...more
Carolina Casas
One of the best biographies on Mary, Queen of Scots. It is well researched and detailed; you don't have to be a history buff to enjoy this book. Fraser's writing style is very good, she keeps you hooked from the start. I do have some minor criticisms, one of them is how she presents Mary at tragic moments in her life. I felt like she was romanticizing her there. Other than this however, the book was great. I highly recommend it.
This was the first book about Mary Queen of Scots that wasn't boring. I still think Mary was an idiot but the book was good.
Gayla Bassham
I read this (gasp) thirty years ago in high school and decided to revisit it after seeing the Mary Queen of Scots movie this year. I was really pleased with how well it holds up! Meticulously detailed, so you have to really commit to understanding the finer points of Scottish history, but well-written. And it's hard to be bored when there are so many moments that feel like they were ripped from a modern soap opera.
Dec 30, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys detailed facts over just pure story telling
Well I have finally finished this book; it only took me 28 days (that was pure sarcasm by the way).

Let’s start off with all the positives about this book.

Antonia Fraser loves detail and it comes through, she really does her research and that definitely impressed me. I learned things about Mary Queen of Scots that I probably would have never thought to look up, but was nice to know, the subtleties which really bring a character from history to life. Not to mention I enjoyed learning of all the h
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book in the beginning was a huge challenge because there were too many names and I felt my brain capacity was limited then. But thanks to my deep passion for historical stories, I persevered and made a reader's decision to just read the names along and not to be too bogged down about who is who in the early parts. The only important characters to remember are Mary Stuart, Mary Guise, King James IV, King Francis II, Mary Queen of Scots mother in-law, uncles from her mother's side and ...more
Charlotte Liebel
Jul 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: British History
Magnificent. Detailed historical drama of Mary Queen of Scots. Gripping story of a brave woman who had to endure an end sentence in death and who, ultimately, lived in squalid surroundings. The last few pages were dear and touching ~ particularly disheartening and tragic.

I loved reading this book. The writing was so vivid as to become aware and to share the joys and tragedies of Mary Queen of Scots.

~Charlotte Liebel
The 30 year old paperback copy I read had folios falling out as I went. Towards the end, I threw each page into the trash once completed.

3.5 stars. This was dry as dust and hard to get into for the first couple of chapters, but once it gets going, you can't set it down. It's hard to believe any of this actually happened, and yet here we are. Fraser sifted every particle of Mary's story. It's easy to see why no other book on Mary has come up to this standard.
Colleen Chi-Girl
May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have been reading strong women classics since after college when it was a choice. And a good one. Everyone should know the history of those who came before us. Mary Q of S!! So compelling. Bravo Antonia Fraser!
There is something about Mary, isn't there? Did she know or didn't she?

Fraser's book is perhaps a little dated at this point, but, despite its pro-Mary bias, is a very good book at Mary.
May 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio
So far I like the way Antonia Fraser goes about things...brisk but factual, leaving you with the impression that she really has done her research. We'll see if it lasts!
Elizabeth Blake
Jul 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I love reading books about English history. Antonia Fraser is one of my favorite authors. If you like English history, you'll like this book.
Helen Carolan
Nov 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A second read of the wonderful biography by Ms Fraser. Still a terrific read.
Bookishnymph *needs hea*
May 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 round up.

Not bad; the end was rather gruesome.
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was so good. It took a long time to read and I am reading two lighter books along with it - one literally lighter, because it is a paperback ("Sex With Kings") and I can carry it around in my purse, and one ("Royal Sex") because sometimes I need something light and humorous because "Mary ..." is dense. Dense and complex and detailed and fascinating. Antonia Fraser is Team Mary Stewart all the way, and the book is both a long paean to her wrongs and her character and her essential innoc ...more
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Having binge-watched the TV series "Reign" which was VERY loosely based on a portion of the life of Mary Queen of Scots, I decided I needed to know more facts about her life. To my delight, I found this book for $2. "Reign" was a guilty pleasure, although I felt slightly ashamed to be watching it since my daughter informed me it won a lot of "Teen Choice" awards on TV. The actors were all stunningly beautiful people, and the costumes were magnificent, although very oddly modern and historically ...more
Peter Corrigan
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I thought maybe I'd read the story of Mary somewhere before and probably I did hear the story but certainly not in this detail and told with such passion. Though could ever forget the convoluted saga of the 'Casket Letters'? Bewildering. But Antonia Fraser is a wonderfully empathetic author toward her poorly understood heroine Queens of history. Actually I only read her Marie Antoinette and enjoyed it greatly, and maybe I did read the 'Six Wives of Henry VIII'. Yet 'Mary' was I believe her firs ...more
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Antonia Fraser is the author of many widely acclaimed historical works, including the biographies Mary, Queen of Scots (a 40th anniversary edition was published in May 2009), Cromwell: Our Chief of Men, King Charles II and The Gunpowder Plot (CWA Non-Fiction Gold Dagger; St Louis Literary Award). She has written five highly praised books which focus on women in history, The Weaker Vessel: Women's ...more

Other books in the series

Medieval Women Boxset (6 books)
  • The Warrior Queens
  • Medieval Women: A Social History of Women in England 450-1500
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Biography
  • Elizabeth I
  • The Weaker Vessel

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20 likes · 2 comments
“Darnley, who, like Banquo's ghost, seemed to play a much more effective part in Scottish politics once he was dead than when he was alive.” 7 likes
“sunken to that of an old woman in the harsh disguise” 2 likes
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