Fatal Majesty by Reay Tannahill

fatalThis is a novel that has sat on my shelf for a long time that I have not go round to reading before now. It primarily cover the period from Mary Queen of Scots return to Scotland in 1561 to her flight and imprisonment in England in 1568.The novel is clearly well researched and much thought has been put into the characterisation of the hitherto minor players particularly Lethington and Lord James Stuart.

Mary Queen of Scots has always been a character of fascination for me and this novel portrays her in the manner which I have imagined her – an impetuous and fun loving woman who didn’t take the serious political state of Scotland serious and wasn’t able to own and admit to her own mistakes. Most people see Mary as a victim  but Tannahill goes further an shows her as what she really was a victim of her upbringing (in the French court), a victim of the Reformation and ultimately a victim of her own actions.

The seven years which are the main focus of the book are detailed and pacey with the various crises of Mary’s short and tumultuous reign seen from different viewpoints with clarity and insight. However, I have to say that the end of the book annoyed me. We all know that Mary was eventually executed on the orders of Elizabeth I after 19 years of captivity and I feel that there was no need to jump to the execution in the last 40 pages. I would have been much better to stop the novel after her initial imprisonment in England and detail the remainder of her life as a post script.

That being said I enjoyed the novel greatly and any student of Mary Queen of Scots should read it as it does add a different dimension to a woman about whom so has been much written.


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