Mary ueen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley PDF/EPUB


  • Kindle Edition
  • 720 pages
  • Mary ueen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley
  • Alison Weir
  • English
  • 17 July 2015

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Mary ueen of Scots and the Murder of Lord DarnleyHad I known the degree of excruciating research that must have stood at the base of this book and the arduous account it produced I don’t think I would have purchased this bookBut chance guides ones life including that delicious part of it – our books and our reading I used to live in a place where bookstores rarely offered the books one sought; instead they presented surprises Visiting these shops was twice as fun I always came out with treasured and unexpected purchases This was one of themIt has sat however for several years in my bookshelves but as I am in dire need of book space I am pulling out and giving priority to the bulkier ones Once read I will give them away So I finally took this big tome outI must confess that I have been about to abandon the read than once for I found the extremely detailed account in excess to what I wanted to learn Neurotic that I am however I persevered and am glad because I could then come to admire Alison Weir’s extraordinary featFirst there is the extraordinary research she has conducted on what must be one of the most intractable episodes in Western renaissance history the assassination of Henry Stuart Lord Darnley second husband of Mary Stuart Weir has done so in great order presenting us the succession of events literally on a day by day basis uestioning at every node of a decision tree the alternatives the sources the interpretations etc I don’t understand how she did not lose her witsAnd the second reason to hold Weir in high esteem is that she undertook the investigation believing one thing but as she advance in examining and uestioning the evidence she changed her mind This open mindedness and flexibility in her reasoning are highly commendableIf she had first thought that Mary was guilty of the assassination of her husband she ended up absolving her This book is thus her exculpationIt would have suited my interest better a biography that had dealt with Mary’s complete life rather than concentrate so much on this ghastly episode; and also one that presented a broader look at Mary’s world Nonetheless Weir does succeed in portraying a convincing Mary My idea of her now is of a too idealistic and foolish woman inept at politics and for whom becoming ueen was a fatal tragedy And it felt disheartening to see her embroiling herself and into a trap that grew as a spider web trapping her further and further BONUS This edition contains an excerpt from Alison Weir's  Mary BoleynHandsome accomplished and charming Henry Stuart Lord Darnley staked his claim to the English throne by marrying Mary Stuart who herself claimed to be the ueen of England It was not long before Mary discovered that her new husband was interested only in securing sovereign power for himself Then on February 10 1567 an explosion at his lodgings left Darnley dead; the intrigue thickened after it was discovered that he had apparently been suffocated before the blast After an exhaustive reevaluation of the source material Alison Weir has come up with a solution to this enduring mystery Employing her gift for vivid characterization and gripping storytelling Weir has written one of her most engaging excursions yet into Britain’s bloodstained power obsessed past This book is essentially an exploration and 'whodunnit' of the murder of Mary ueen of Scot's second husband Henry Stuart Lord Darnley rather than a biography of Mary herselfMary was certainly an interesting and tragic figureThe book itself is essentially a very interesting expose and Weir certainly has researched her work and presented her conclusions as to the evidence painstakingly wellThe first three chapters of this work are concerned with Mary's early life her growing up in the French court where she was sent to be educatedWeir touches on the moral laxity of the French court which she actually go's as far as to refer to as a moral cesspit in which Mary was exposed from an early age to it's promiscuity and corruptionInterestingly there are two paintings that show the teen aged Mary later to be ueen of France in the nudeIn 1558 the 16 year old Mary was married to the Dauphin who succeeded his father as Francis II the following yearWhen Francis died in 1560 his mother the vindictive Catherine de Medici made it clear that Mary was no longer welcome at the French court so she returned to her native Scotland where John Knox was playing a dominant role The Reformation was in full swing but Mary made no attempt to interfere with the new religion merely insisting that she was to be free to worship as a CatholicAt this stage she had the peoples supportRenowned for her beauty she was charming intelligent and talented but she was surrounded by vicious and scheming lords hungry for power and got caught up in their intrigues and plots She never had a trustworthy and wise counsellor like her cousin Elizabeth to whom she could turn for adviceAfter a number of princes were considered for her she eventually agreed to marry her cousin Lord Darnley the nearest heir after her to the thrones of Scotland and England Beneath his courtly veneer Darnley was spoiled wilful petulant immature spiteful arrogant and uncouthHe seems to have had bisexual tendencies and Weir premises that he had a homosexual relationship with the Italian courtier and Mary's secretary David RizzioWeir provides evidence that he suffered from syphilisFurther there is evidence that Mary's bouts of ill health were the result of attempted poisoningDarnley was a key player perhaps manipulated by a cabal of lords in the assassination of RizzioOf course the main of the book involves Darnley's murder and who was responsible I do believe that Mary was innocent and that her relationship with Bothwell does not in any way implicate her in Darnley's assassinationIt is records of meetings with other lords that seem to incriminate BothwellNonetheless Darnley had deeply unpopular figure and was miraculously rehabilitated after his death only his youth and his cruel end remembered His own crimes and cruelty were forgotten Ironically he a Catholic who had plotted the overthrow of the Protestant establishment became a figurehead after his death in the propaganda campaign by Protestant Lords against Mary and BothwellMany later came to see how badly Mary had been calumniatedWhile Weir's detailed proof that the casket letters were forged can be tedious to read it is a vital part of Weir's detective work in proving Mary's innocence Alison Weir thoroughly presents and critiues what is known about this complex and murky affair Most of the book is readable some of it is a page turner and on some technical parts who was at a meeting; legal precedents; translation issues it can be a slog Written in 2003 I believe it remains the definitive work on Lord Darnley's murderWeir covers the main elements of the story with clarity than I have seen anywhere specifically How Mary came to marry Darnley inclusive of Elizabeth’s mixed signals and the possibility of Leicester as a husband the Rizzio murder and after it Mary’s attempt to portray a “good family” up to the birth of James witnesses on the night of the Kirk o’Field explosion the cover ups and the power grabs that followed the murder how Bothwell took and used Mary and the civil war that followed The trial in England and Elizabeth’s evolving motives A thorough dissection of the Casket Letters – particularly how some dates can’t be possible and how the words are not Mary’s manner of writingRather than write a review I’ll make some observations Mary had to living in a constant state of PTSD She lost her father in her first week on earth and was shipped off to France to marry the Dauphin at age 5 By age 18 she was a widowed ueen of France and the orphaned ueen of Scotland and or less sent back to rule a land she knew little about and hardly spoke its language Her second husband for whom she fought a civil war was most likely alcoholic and syphilitic sleeping with men and women and had tried to kill her – or maybe just get her to abort their child by having her lute player stabbed 50 times while she watched at gunpoint This is just the start Both Mary and Darnley were 6 feet tall There has to be something to this perhaps in Mary’s falling in love and the people’s awe of their towering royal couple Mary’s imprisonment saved her life The nobles can uickly raise armies with thousands of soldiers at what seems to be a day or two notice How is this done? Mary spent very little time with her baby James and until captivity seems not to miss him What should be expected of an 18 year old monarch raised to dance smile and embroider? For centuries people believed in the divine right of kings Mary wasn’t the first to let her sense of entitlement to ruin her life Alison Weir surpassed herself penning this tome the first in my opinion to rival Antonia Fraser's 1969 Mary ueen of Scots Via Mary Stuart runs the continuous line of succession from Plantagenets Tudors down to England's current royalsMary has always polarised debate first when alive and then through the centuries from the grave Regardless which account we accept she cannot be seen as entirely blameless for her unfortunate life It's also beyond uestion that too much blinkered blame has gone her way backwards in timeHer murdered second husband Henry Lord Darnley was a hideous character who arguably deserved his comeuppance If Mary was privy to his murder plot we can hardly blame her It's an eually short sighted assumption that anyone put in Mary's position would not have conspired towards her liberty when so unjustly imprisoned for so long by ueen Elizabeth I She was viciously provoked set up and entrapped into her 'treason' against Elizabeth Mary Stuart great niece of England's King Henry VIII was 6 days old when her father King James V of Scotland died and she acceded to his throne Uniting France and Scotland against conflict with Henry VIII's England France's King Henry II negotiated little Mary's marriage to his three year old son the Dauphin Francis Five year old Mary was shipped to France and spent thirteen years at the French royal courtDespite that regal upbringing largely moulding her character Mary's detractors criticise her limited grasp of her native Scottish subjects who were then largely backwater bog and highland dwellers Yet this eventually anointed ueen of France had not seen Scotland since being spirited away as an infantWidowed at eighteen Mary was no longer wanted in the French court by her mother in law France's new regent Catherine de Medici Though she could have retired there in splendour remarrying any prince in Christendom Mary instead returned to her homeland to start anewIn vain she reached out to her surly Scottish subjects who after ceremonial formalities snubbed her as a high flying foreigner They eyed her with suspicion from the minute she disembarked in her mourning garb a grown woman and stranger They considered this newly arrived Catholic head of state in their Protestant land anomalous This sentiment was fuelled by Protestant reformist preacher John Knox who vehemently campaigned against MaryWorse still she was femaleAcross the border her less beautiful but wily cousin Elizabeth remained contentiously unwed Resentful of Mary's youth and fecundity the childless Elizabeth also felt threatened by Mary's strong claim to England's shaky throneAfter two short and unpopular marriages Mary was overthrown and imprisoned in Scotland Eventually escaping she shaved her head for disguise donned peasant's clothing and fled by fishing boat to England Hoping for Elizabeth's support Mary was instead imprisoned and held captive for eighteen and a half yearsAfter despairingly plotting towards her liberty making herself complicit in linked plots for Elizabeth's assassination Mary was entrapped and executed This unprecedented regicide officially triggered the Spanish Armada Catholic Philip of Spain had been waiting for an excuse to take England and curb the spread of Protestantism in Europe As was her final wish Mary became a Catholic martyrMary's apologists argue she was a kind intelligent woman a romantic icon of her day She was indeed the subject of sonnet and pros by Ronsard no less Her beauty and personal charm are legendary Neither her cruellest detractors nor most ardent apologists are fully right or wrong The truth as always lies somewhere in the middle This is where Alison Weir's insightful brilliantly researched and presented account places it The reader is left with a balanced understanding of events while empathising with and recognising the obvious mistakes of a desperate woman I loved this book and reread it to reabsorb the literary uality and exuisite detail This book is partly a biography of Mary ueen of Scots and partly an indepth examination of the source material surrounding the explosive murder of her second husband Lord Darnley with some conclusions over who was involvedI have been slowly ploughing through this over long book Although the title focusses on the murder of Lord Darnley the early chapters are of a biography as they go in great depth through Mary's early life and the actual murder comes uite late on in the book Then there is a rather elaborate and lengthy examination of the source material surrounding the events with the same conclusion Mary is innocent being made over and over againThe book is complicated further by the reams of reams of different names of Lords etc who all seem to have names beginning either with M or B Mar Maitland Moray Morton Bothwell Buchanan etc Although this is obviously not Weir's fault and some attempt has been made to rectify this through an introductory section on each of the key figures this doesn't really help when you are reading through the mire as you have to keep flicking backwards and forwards to work out which person is now being consideredHowever the book wasn't all bad As someone who has studied this period of history before it was refreshing to realise for example that Elizabeth I wasn't always hostile towards Mary indeed she seems to have been positively encouraging in the early years of her reign There were some other little gems and snippets and the chapter surrounding the murder itself was very thrilling and excitingThis might be a book to dip into rather than read cover to cover as a lot of the material seems to be covered repeatedly so that it did become a bit too much for me but I managed to persevere to the bitter end I have encountered yet another historical work that bears accurately the maxim that truth is indeed stranger than fiction I'm sure that the master of Scottish historical fiction Sir Walter Scott would struggle to concoct a dastardly series of plots that Alison Weir sets to untangle in her 2003 publication 'Mary ueen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley' In fact it is a piece of Scott's verse which springs to mind that sums up this book precisely Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceiveAfter a span of four hundred and fifty years this epic conspiracy theory can be laid to rest as a conspiracy fact I finished this read on November the fifth a day celebrated in England after Guy Fawkes's Gunpowder Plot But here is Scotland's original perhaps even the inspiration for Catesby's treason With Peter Falk like tenacity Weir has hounded down the truth exposed the guilty parties and to uote the books review from the Observer this is 'a monumental piece of historical detective work'Of course history shows that as a captive ueen frustrated and foolish Mary lost her head at Fotheringay after dabbling in the Ridolfi Throckmorton and Babington plots However before the years of incarceration in England Mary ueen of Scots became entangled in Scottish plots resulting in the Rizzio murder the Darnley murder the Bothwell marriage and finally her forced abdicationHistorians down the centuries have swallowed the bait hook line and sinker Such is the complexity woven into the thread of sixteenth century power politics the reader has to keep the eye on the ball I've had to re read many pages to keep my nose on the trail and there are over five hundred pages here but what a worth while read Normally I love Alison Weir's books The reader can always count on extensive research and astute reasoning but this one was a slog We're talking about one of the most perplexing historical figures of all time in Mary ueen of Scots and yet it just dragged on And on and onShe was the bosom serpent The 16th Century Princess Diana of her day Emotional needy irrational and limelight loving she just couldn't handle the heat Her first husband was the King of France and her second was found dead after his abode blew apart in the middle of the night though he himself was not blown apart Who actually killed Lord Darnley? History always seemed to be written by the powerful Tudors so Mary probably received too much blame but she didn't appear to be the brightest stalk in the fieldGranted there is excitement in the beginning as we learn of her early life and the constant non stop intrigues of the always false Scot Lords Then it all bogs down as Weir tries to convince us of Mary's non compliance Yes I get that Buchanan and Knox and Morton and Moray were her enemies and lied I just didn't need several hundred pages of the he saidshe said paragraphing In fact the most exciting character in the book is Lord Bothwell who was Mary's and Scotland's one loyal subjectuntil he raped her and married herand then died stark raving mad in a horrible Swedish dungeon Poor MaryBook Season Winter Snow Scotland Enough said Like a couple of other readers I could not finish this book I retreated at the half way mark It is without doubt a well researched book but I had a lot of trouble keeping up with the Scottish nobles getting confused about the Huntley's Hamilton's Maitland's Melville's Moray's and then they were all related by marriage at some point it seemed I think that personally I might be better served by reading historical fiction about Mary as the personalities are better shown by dialogue and might assist in understanding the motives of these characters in getting involved in the political machinations that unfolded I do appreciate the research undertaken to write this book and may revist it at a later date I've been re reading this over the last monthWeir does a good analysis of the whole murder of Darnley and while she believes Mary to be innocent she doesn't show the Scots ueen as truly a white sheep The last 100 hunderd pages however are a little slow


About the Author: Alison Weir

Librarian Note There is than one author in the GoodReads database with this nameAlison Weir is a British writer of history books for the general public mostly in the form of biographies about British kings and ueens and of historical fiction Before becoming an author Weir worked as a teacher of children with special needs She received her formal training in history at teacher training