Synopses & Reviews
Handsome, accomplished, and charming, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, staked his claim to the English throne by marrying Mary Stuart, who herself claimed to be the Queen 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 Britains bloodstained, power-obsessed past.
About the Author
Alison Weir is the author of four other books on English history, including Eleanor of Aquitaine. She lives outside London with her husband and two children.
Reading Group Guide
1. The author describes four views of Queen Mary: the adulteress and murderess, the Catholic martyr, the romantic heroine, and the inept woman with poor judgement. How true is each view? And how much have these images obscured our view of the real Mary? What was the real Mary like?
2. In the authors view, Mary made two fatal errors that blighted her life. What were these? Would you say that Mary was the victim of circumstance and unscrupulous men, or of her own poor judgement?
3. Who was the most guilty: Elizabeth I for keeping Mary prisoner for nineteen years and then having her executed? Or Mary, for seeking aid from Elizabeth, whose crown she coveted, and for ceaselessly plotting her ruin?
4. Some people think it incredible that Mary could not have known of the plot against Darnley, given that so many people were involved. Yet she had certainly not known of a similarly orchestrated plot against Rizzio. Do you think that, after the conference at Craigmillar, she should have realized that Darnleys life might be in danger?
5. How do you account for Marys inertia after Darnleys murder? Does the author make a convincing case for it being due to a physical and mental breakdown?
6. Did Mary collude in her own rape by Bothwell? What evidence is there that she was forced into marriage with him?
7. Suppose Elizabeth had sent Mary back into Scotland with an English army in 1568 and it proved victorious in winning her back the throne, what do you think the consequences might have been?
8. This question was asked by a reader at an event: Did Darnley have any good points? The author, at a loss for an answer, mentioned his youth and his good looks! Is there anything you think she could have added?
9. Has Mary ever been well-portrayed on screen? How would you rate the performances of Katharine Hepburn (Mary of Scotland, 1936), Vanessa Redgrave (Mary, Queen of Scots, 1971), Vivian Pickles (Elizabeth R, 1971), Clémence Poésy (Gunpowder, Treason and Plot, 2004), Barbara Flynn (Elizabeth I, 2005), and Samantha Morton (Elizabeth: The Golden Age, 2007)?
10. Having read the book, do you agree with the authors conclusions?