Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Wild Queen

Meyer, Carolyn. The Wild Queen: The Days and Nights of Mary, Queen of Scots.
19 June 2012

Since Mary's father, King James V of Scotland, died when she was six days old (reportedly of a broken heart because she was a girl!), all she can remember is being queen. Her mother, who was French, decides that Mary should marry the French dauphin, Francois, and Mary is sent to France to be raised with the young heir apparent. She sees much of life in the court, and knows from a young age that political motives are more important than personal ones in her world. She is fond of Francois, and perfectly happy to marry him, although she begins to realize that not even being queen of France may help her to retain her rule of Scotland, since Elizabeth I is against her. Eventually, Mary and Francois marry, but because he is sickly, they do not have a child, and the dauphin dies while still young. Mary decides that the best thing to do is to return to Scotland and try to regain her kingdom. She enters into a disastrous marriage with Henry Stuart, whom she loves at first, but who is too fond of power and is eventually killed. She has a son by him, James. In addition to being under constant threat of attack by England, Mary is also struggling to keep the protestant John Knox from asserting too much influence on the Scottish people and having her removed. She is forced into marriage with the older Lord Bothwell, hoping that he could help her retain the throne, but even his help could not keep her from being imprisoned  by those who wanted her fourteen-month-old son to take the throne, and eventually beheaded.
Strengths: Even at 420 pages, the rich historical details and event filled life of this ill-fated queen kept me reading. It's hard to explain how good Meyer's Young Royals books are-- they are filled with historical facts and events, but these are all set against how the young girl feels about them, so they are very interesting as well. Mary certainly had quite a frenetic life!
Weaknesses: Being true to the historical setting and events, there is a fair amount of violence in this, as well as mentions of sex. Nothing graphic, but there is a lot of talk about Mary being a virgin even after being married to Francois for a while, and her third husband forces himself upon her to convince her to marry him. Still, Meyer does an excellent job at couching her language in vague terms; my favorite being "I knew at last the transports of love." (page 290) Sixth graders might have some questions; older students will guess whats going on, but I might give this a skip for elementary school.

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