Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots by Carolly Erickson

This is yet another entertaining volume in Ms. Erickson’s outlandish series of historical entertainments. This one is about a woman who throughout history down to the present day has been seen as a martyr, murderess, whore, or a fool, or some combination of all. She’s Elizabeth I’s cousin and rival, and to this day historians and readers of historical fiction side with one against the other; few seem capable of impartiality when faced with these two larger than life characters.

The Mary of this novel is married at fifteen to the Dauphin of France, but he dies soon afterwards of “a worm in the ear” as diagnosed by her mother-in-law, Catherine de Medici’s astrologer, Nostradamus. He reads Mary’s palm and proffers some rather grim news—she was meant to die as a baby, and her survival has upset the natural order of things. The eighteen year old Catholic widow returns to Scotland, but receives a rather dismal welcome from her Protestant subjects, including the Reverend Knox, who protests petticoat. Mary has to fight her own people just to hold her throne. She soon finds herself smitten with her kinsman from England, Lord Darnley, a man so handsome Mary is blind to all his faults. She ignores all warnings that Lord Darnley is just a beautiful piece of sexual bait sent to her by her cousin Elizabeth, and that he fancies boys in the boudoir. They marry, but the union is obviously doomed, and when Darnley dies under mysterious circumstances, Mary’s life becomes a lot more complicated, she is denounced form the pulpits, and becomes a prisoner of her own people, and is forced to flee Scotland with her lover, the Earl of Bothwell, and throw herself on the mercy of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth. Then Ms. Erickson, who has been playing fast and loose with the facts throughout, throws them all out the window and sends Mary to Rome, to enjoy the Pope’s hospitality and plot a religious revolution, but when she returns to England to find letters hidden with the corpse of the Queen’s lover’s murdered wife, Amy Robsart Dudley, she is captured and lays her head on the block soon after.

Ms. Erickson’s novels definitely break the tradition of firmly fact based historical fiction, and those who relish picking through the novels they read in the quest for inaccuracies are going to be very busy indeed if they pick up this novel, but those capable of just reading it in the spirit of fun in which it is intended might have some fun with this one, as well as the rest of the series, many of which you can find reviewed on this blog.


lizzie said...

I read this one too! It has a beautiful cover but is defiantly loose on the accuracy. I loved the opening it was so detailed it felt like you were there but when they went to Rome I found it so outlandish it spoiled the rest of the novel for me. I hope you enjoyed it.

Brandy Purdy said...

I entirely agree about Rome, she flew TOO far on that flight of fancy in my opinion. Every time I read one of these books I wonder how far is she going to go this time?

lea nichols said...

I am related to Mary queen of Scots ,I resemble her image that has been painted .....I can say she is almost twin in the facial bone structure. Direct decendant of her traced through family tree on fatherys side . My father looks like king Henry the 8th ......I live a life nothing the same as she had lived of course , I can't wait for my reading this book