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Mary, Queen of Scots

Biography, History, Stewart and Canmore Dynasty
John Donald
Publication Date
10 August 2017
Paperback (also available as an ebook)
Available for Sale
Birlinn Ltd
12pp colour plates

Mary, Queen of Scots

A Study in Failure

Foreword and Afterword by Anna Groundwater

by Jenny Wormald - Find out more about the author

’A genuine tour de force, a devastating critique of the Queen of Scots’ – John Guy

A reissue of Jenny Wormald’s classic biography with a new foreword and afterword by Anna Groundwater

Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, has long been portrayed as one of history’s romantically tragic figures. Beautiful, often highly principled yet both devious and naïve, she was Queen regnant of Scotland and a source of hope to Scottish Catholics. Her plotting, including probable involvement in the murder of her husband Lord Darnley, led to her flight from Scotland and imprisonment by her equally ambitious cousin and fellow queen, Elizabeth of England. Yet when Elizabeth ordered Mary’s execution in 1587 it was an act of exasperated frustration rather than political wrath.

Unlike biographies of Mary predating this work, this masterly study set out to show Mary as she really was – not a romantic heroine, but the ruler of a European kingdom with far greater economic and political importance than its size or location would indicate. Wormald also showed that Mary’s downfall was not simply because of the ‘crisis years’ of 1565–7, but because of her way of dealing, or failing to deal, with the problems facing her as a renaissance monarch. She was tragic because she was born to supreme power but was wholly incapable of coping with its responsibilities. Her extraordinary story has become one of the most colourful and emotionally searing tales of western history, and it is here fully reconsidered by a leading specialist of the period. Jenny Wormald’s beautifully written biography will appeal to students and general readers alike.

Jenny Wormald was one of the most influential Scottish historians of her generation. She taught history at Glasgow University for 20 years, and then held a fellowship in Modern History at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, for a further 20 years. After retirement she became an Honorary Fellow in Scottish History at the University of Edinburgh and an Honorary Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. She wrote a number of significant books and articles, including Court, Kirk and Community: Scotland 1470–1625, ‘James VI and I: Two Kings or One?’ and ‘Gunpowder, Treason and Scots’.

Anna Groundwater is a cultural and social historian of early modern Scotland, and Britain, in which she lectures at the University of Edinburgh. She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

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