The Queen’s Mary by Sarah Gristwood

Book Blurb

 Mary Seton is lady-in-waiting to the legendary Mary Queen of Scots.

Torn between her own desires and her duty to serve her mistress, she is ultimately drawn into her Queen’s web of passion and royal treachery – and must play her part in the game of thrones between Mary and Elizabeth I.

Must she choose between survival, and sharing the same fate as the woman she has served, loyally and lovingly, since a child?

The Queen’s Mary is an engaging and insightful novel, which allows the reader to peek behind the curtain of history – and see into the heart and mind of a forgotten woman who helped shape the Tudor era.

Review by Lauren Davies

Gristwood begins her story on the voyage to France where the five-year-old queen Mary has been sent to meet the Dauphin—a scenario she captures wonderfully, especially in her delightful rendering of the four five-year-old girls, who would grow up to serve Mary. Gristwood’s vivid and lyrical writing ensures you never lose the sense that these characters once lived: their complicated and extraordinary lives radiate from each page.

The imagery puts you alongside the characters. The beautiful language that helps breathe new life into the historical figures also brings out the wild and wonderful Scottish landscape. The inclusion of Arthur’s Seat, and of the element of witchcraft, reminds you of the mythology and sense of long history and tradition that is held by this ancient Celtic land. It is an emotional book that will tie your sympathies to all five women (Queen Mary and her four attendants). The emotional element of the book is its biggest triumph; you’ll be thinking of it for weeks after you read it. Gristwood not only makes you sympathise with her characters, but she helps you empathise with them. The way in which she captures Mary Beton’s depression is masterful. I cannot recall a writer who has done it with such flair.

The Queen’s Mary offers the reader a new perspective on Queen Mary of Scotland. There is an intimacy here which I feel is lacking in other novels about Mary, which is perhaps down to this unique and refreshing slant. It helps us to see Queen Mary as human, an imperfect being who, as the story unfolds, gains the reader’s sympathy. The intimate perspective is so effective, there are times when we cannot help but feel the characters’ frustrations. Regardless of their status, the women of these times were all birds in gilded cages, their freedom in the hands of the men in their lives.

The inclusion of summaries of communication between Elizabeth I and Queen Mary show that Mary was trying to do her best.  She was trying to be a good queen and prove to Elizabeth that she was a worthy heir. Yet, even though we only have brief snatches of this relationship, we can see that Elizabeth had better counsel and an eye for seeing the bigger picture. Mary, on the other hand, appears more interested in courtly life, in dancing and young men and is rather desperate to be loved. Mary is a victim of her circumstances and of the savagery of the lords that surrounded her. They viewed her as a bargaining token, a prize to be won. From the point of view that Gristwood presents, you cannot help but feel that if Elizabeth had been placed in Mary’s position, she too would have found it difficult to prosper, and, like Mary, may have ended up fleeing her volatile country. While her absence made her unaware of the reality of the intense and deeply complicated political situation in her own Scotland, Mary was also simply unlucky.

Gristwood’s The Queen’s Mary is a beautiful book. The author is a natural storyteller and a gifted wordsmith. This book does what all good historical fiction should do – make you think. It invites you to consider new ideas and look on a situation with a fresh perspective, leaving you with a desire to look deeper into the history and learn more.

Lauren Davies

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  1. Charisse Lewis says:

    This book sounds very interesting where may it be purchased here in the US

  2. Reymie Lum says:

    I adore mary Stuart and this book would offer a new perspective on her from her friend

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