Feb 9, 2009

Jean Plaidy's THE CAPTIVE QUEEN OF SCOTS

If this is the first time coming to read the Mary Stuart Reviews then I would suggest starting a few posts down with the Fotheringay post and then upwards to the recent Captive Queen Post so that you get the chronological order of my musings. It is pretty tough to keep up with me even that way, but it's worth a shot.

Jean Plaidy has written herself another fun-to-read novel and this was a follow up to her "Royal Road to Fotheringay". I found this book to have a sympathetic view on Mary more so than usual. Mary does not want any harm to come to Elizabeth I, her captor for almost 20 years, and in this (fiction) book that is repeated continually in order to propose the more innocent side of Mary.

As I have not ready many non-fiction or in-depth books specifically on Mary and her involvement in the many plots that sprang up in order to promote her release, I can not say for sure how involved she was.
In this book, Elizabeth is portrayed as indeed wanting Mary to die as soon as possible, because of the religious strife that England had undergone. Before Elizabeth, there was her older half-sister, Mary who had ruled England as a Catholic nation and persecuted the "heretics" with zeal. Smithfield became the place where the executions were taking place and caused so much fear that Protestantism had to be practiced behind closed doors. After Mary I's death, Edward VI was crowned King at 9 years old, allowed Protestantism again through the rule of his Advisers. At Edwards' death, Lady Jane Grey was queen for nine days and finally we come to Elizabeth. She was crowned in 1558, and she was a Protestant.

Mary Stuart was very Catholic, although she vowed she would allow her people to freely pray regardless of their beliefs, since that one God was the same God between the two. Due to this tolerance, some of the English would not have minded Mary Stuart being an heir to the throne, and of course, many of the Scottish believed Elizabeth had no right at all to the throne since Elizabeth's mother was Anne Boelyn, who was beheaded and no friend to the Catholic Church. The Catholics liked to call Elizabeth a bastard and therefore felt that Mary Stuart, as a great-granddaughter of Henry VII, had a stronger claim to the throne.
It was because of these facts that Elizabeth felt a very strong threat from Mary Stuart, and kept her imprisoned for almost 20 years. The book shows how Mary tried to escape several times. The Babington Plot existed due the arrogance and stupidity of Anthony Babington, for it was just a ruse set up by Walsingham, Elizabeth's agent. Babington was executed, as was the Duke of Norfolk for an earlier plot who wished to marry Mary, although they had not met. In this book, it is portrayed as Mary trying not to have a lot of responsibility in the plots, but that she indeed wanted out of captivity. In reality, she was probably much more shrewd and willing to stop at nothing to get herself out of Elizabeth's grip, and to rule Scotland and England together as eventually Mary's son did. There were many plots created in her name, but not endorsed by Mary.

Elizabeth is shown much less sympathetically in this book and is eager to find a way to do away with Mary for good without making it look like she ordered it done.
Eventually Elizabeth gets her wish at the end of this book, and a very solemn Mary is beheaded at Fotheringay. There are some who like to believe that Elizabeth did not know she was signing a Death Warrant for Mary, as it was with 'a pile of papers.'

I will be eager to read more non-fictions books on the Queen of Scots and try to see where the line is between the truth and fiction regarding her involvement in the many plots, and if she truly loved Bothwell or the Duke of Norfolk. And did George Douglas's love for her exist?
I give "The Captive Queen of Scots" 5 stars, of course.