Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart

Written by John Guy
Review by Shannon Gallagher

This is without a doubt the definitive biography of Mary Stuart of all time. John Guy, truly one of the most distinguished scholars of the Tudor period, gives his reader a more human Mary Stuart, without the drama of infamy or legend, but the Mary that the historical record provides. It would seem that Guy read every document associated with Mary Stuart and considered the vast influences on her personality.

It is Guy’s mastery of the documents that reveals that throughout Mary’s life, she was dominated and ruled by letters. At her trial even she expressed that “I am not to be convicted except by mine own word or writing.” That she was manipulated by Francis Walsingham and William Cecil, Lord Burghley, of whom she had made a lifelong enemy and who saw her and the primary threat to his beloved queen and to his Protestant faith, was beside the point. She wrote the letter and sealed her fate, but more than that she acknowledged it. It is this sort of examination and interpretation of the documents that enables Guy to reveal the true character of Mary Stuart.