Today in Mary Queen of Scots History

Today in Mary Queen of Scots History.
November 25, 1569. Mary is removed from Tutbury Castle to the walled city of Coventry.

(c) Government Art Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Government Art Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Because of the Catholic Rebellion in the North earlier in November, which focused on Queen Mary as the queen who would take the English throne after Elizabeth was overthrown, the government in London directed Lord Shrewsbury to move Mary Queen of Scots away from Tutbury Castle, which could be easily reached and taken by the rebels, and put the romantic Queen in a more secluded spot. However, she could not be housed in Coventry Castle; it had been uninhabited since the War of the Roses and was largely demolished, its stones being carted off and used to construct other buildings.
According to Roderick Graham, “…to Elizabeth’s council in London, Coventry was no more than a conveniently placed dot on their map, they had no idea that there was no convenient castle or aristocratic house in which Mary could stay. In desperation, Shrewsbury lodged her first in the Bull Inn, where she arrived after dark and was confined to her room to avoid ‘fond gazing and confluence of the people.’ Elizabeth was apoplectic that the presumed focus of the Northern Rising was lodged in a common inn and demanded that Mary be sent to ‘some convenient house.’ (340)
There was no “convenient house”. Finally, Mary was moved to the only section of Coventry Castle still standing, called “Caesar’s Tower”, and housed in an upper room there. To this day, the room is called “Queen Mary’s room” and can be seen by tourists, although it is a banquet room now.


In early January, 1570, Queen Mary was return to the hated Tutbury Castle, the Catholic Rebellion fully suppressed and its leaders all executed or exiled.
Mary was terribly upset about this rebellion; she did not wish for it as she always shrank from violence but also as Antonia Fraser noted, “but also on the very sensible ground that she did not believe it would do her cause any good, since the moment was hardly ripe for such a demonstration.” (485) However, it would not be the first nor the last time men acted like idiots for Mary’s cause and did her more harm than good.

Fraser, Antonia. Mary Queen of Scots. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1971.
Graham, Roderick. An Accidental Tragedy: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots. Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2008


The White Queen by Frederic Fallon

I recently had jury duty. Although I wasn’t picked for the jury, I spent the better part of a day sitting in the waiting room, waiting to be called. At the end of the day, I was dismissed with everyone else who had been sitting and waiting all day.
Being the kind of person that I am, I brought a book along to read while I waited. I picked The White Queen, by Frederic Fallon, mostly because it was a smaller paperback and would fit into my purse easily. I didn’t want to carry anything bulky or heavy.
I had read The White Queen years ago, when I worked at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. The book I read looked like this:

white queen 2
The copy I bought several years ago looks like this:

white queen 1

Other than that, they are the same book. Although it has been at least thirty years since I have read this book, I recognized many aspects of it, both enjoyable and annoying.
Let’s talk about the annoying aspects first. Before the novel even starts, there is a note from the editor stating that “The White Queen is a novel, not a biography, and the author has taken liberties with certain historical facts.” (n.p.) It is difficult to assess whether or not Fallon actually took liberties with facts or if he was simply sloppy with his research. This was his only novel – it was published posthumously after his death following a car accident when he was twenty-five years old. Whatever his intentions were, they mar what would have been an otherwise terrific novel. First off, there is only Mary Beaton as Queen Mary’s lady-in-waiting – Marys Seton, Fleming and Livingstone are completely missing. Second, Beaton is in love with John Stewart, Queen Mary’s illegitimate half-brother. Beaton may or may not have flirted with John, since she was somewhat of a social butterfly but she was most notably known for her relationship with Thomas Randolph, the envoy from Queen Elizabeth’s court. Randolph wanted Beaton to spy on Mary for him and she refused to do so. When Randolph was banished after being accused of helping Moray during his rebellion, Beaton’s attentions turned to Alexander Ogilvy of Boyne, the beloved of Jean Gordon, who eventually married Bothwell.
Fallon also takes liberty with John Stewart. John married Bothwell’s sister Jean in 1562 but died a year later. But in The White Queen, Fallon has John dallying with Beaton’s emotions as he is having an affair with Henry, Lord Darnley. Which of course would have been impossible, since the real John Stewart was dead before Darnley even came to Scotland!
I have said this many times – most recently about that idiotic TV show “Reign” – Mary Stuart’s life has so many dramatic situations that are true – or that can be verified, at any rate – there’s no reason to make up events that have no basis in historical fact.
The one thing I did like about this book is the initial love scene between Mary and Bothwell is a love scene, not a rape scene – in fact, he is comes between a domestic incidence between Mary and Darnley – which Mary breaks up – and in the aftermath, Bothwell admits that he wants “to lie” with Mary (224). And so they do. But the amorous feeling is soon over – Mary turns on him, calls him a madman, and tells him to commit suicide like his father did. Again – this is totally made-up – Bothwell’s father died young by our standards but nothing I can find says he in any way suffered from mental illness or ended his own life. Mary’s and Bothwell’s love affair is like this – hot and cold and totally dependent upon Mary’s whims. Fallon makes clear that “their love would survive – nothing could destroy it” (250) but that their love was all about good sex first and trusting friends second. Maybe it was the other way around for Mary – trusting friends first and good sex second – but overall, there is the sense that Bothwell shared Mary’s dreams – or he was willing to do whatever it took to make her dreams come true. Fallon makes it clear that Bothwell is the hero of the novel.
But he is the only one. Every other man in Scotland is against Mary and Fallon certainly gets that right. The book ends soon after Mary tells Bothwell that she is pregnant. Chapter Seventeen opens with a proclamation of Bothwell’s outlaw status and then there is an Epilogue – which happens in 1670 – wherein John Stewart upbraids his brother James, now the Regent of Scotland, about driving their sweet sister out of Scotland. Except that John died in 1663 so that’s a little bit impossible. But hey! It’s a novel. And honestly – it’s quite entertaining, even with all the historical errors.

The White Queen, by Frederic Fallon.  New York:  Doubleday & Co., 1973