Friday, January 8, 2016

Mary Stuart

8th January 2016

Books always pile up over Christmas, but I am heavy into Hilary Mandel's very well written Wolf Hall, so I won't be getting to any of them soon. I am eating and sleeping Henry 8th and his conniving second wife Anne Boleyn.
It almost makes me want to take up my own pen and write about Scotland's history. What?
Scotland has a history? Well, yes it does, and these days they are even teaching it in Scottish schools. But in my day, Scottish kids learned English history - Henry 8th, not William Wallace; the Wars of the Roses, not the Wars of Independence. It's the way empires function. Ask any Native American.

It took Hollywood to introduce me to William Wallace, though of course I already knew about Mary Queen of Scots because she was beheaded by the daughter Henry had by Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth 1st. She's a bit of an anomaly, is Mary - schooled in the role of monarch, and yet unable to keep up the front for long. She was a lady of passion - smart enough to hold her own in a debate with the church's John Knox, but running headlong into torrid romances. Her worst crime was that she lacked the cool calculation of the Tudor dynasty. Mary was emotionally starved and needy as that social class has been down the ages,  a sixteenth century Diana.

She would be a juicy topic, right enough, but then the biographies of Mary are legion and it's hard to see what I could add. This didn't stop Hilary Mandel - who hadn't already heard of Henry the Fatty and his famous array of wives? It didn't stop the Mann Booker board awarding her a prize either - for both this book and its sequel. Clever writer that she is, Mandel sidestepped the issue by slipping into the head of Henry's secretary, Thomas Cromwell. Good move. It makes me think I could take Mary from the angle of one of her hand maidens. Maybe I will.

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