Crown of Thistles: The fatal inheritance of Mary Queen of Scots
Linda Porter

Crown of Thistles: The fatal inheritance of Mary Queen of Scots

The rivalry between the Tudors and the Stewarts was crucial to the history of Britain in the sixteenth century. It shaped a successful nation that would grow from the ashes of centuries of border warfare, intense suspicion between the two competing monarchies and the ever-present threat that interference from the great European powers might turn the entire island into a client state of either France or Spain. Yet the struggle between the fertile Stewarts and the barren Tudors is generally only seen in terms of the relationship between Elizabeth I and her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots.

In fact, the power struggle between England and Scotland was both ancient and intractable. The strong personalities of the Tudor and Stewart monarchs who preceded Mary and Elizabeth (James IV and Henry VII, James V and Henry VIII) and their quarrelsome nobility influenced the character of this prolonged and far-reaching dispute. We still have a surprisingly limited view of Tudor history and especially of the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Scotland was a constant thorn in their sides. Domestic security, international prestige, financial cost and, above all, personal animosity brought about relentless tension in the British Isles.

The first Tudor, Henry VII, no doubt hoped to avoid all this and bring about stability when he married his daughter, Margaret, to James IV of Scotland in 1503. But he must also have appreciated the possibility that Margaret’s descendants might seek to rule the entire island if his male heirs died out. This became the acknowledged ambition of Mary Queen of Scots, Margaret’s granddaughter, and a major factor in her downfall.

This is the story of a house divided, of flamboyant kings and queens, cultured courts and tribal hatreds, blood feuds, rape and sexual licence on a breathtaking scale, violent deaths and disastrous battles. Some of the most colourful personalities in British history are here: James IV and James V, who each had seven illegitimate children, the canny but insecure Henry VII, his tenacious and much-maligned daughter, Margaret. Also revealed is a little-known side of Henry VIII, best remembered for his six wives. He tried to dominate Scotland but did not succeed. And the international dimension of what is often still viewed as a domestic dispute was of great importance. The influence of France in Scotland, and its enmity towards England, was of long-standing. What came to a head between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots had been many years in the making.

Crown of Thistles will shed new light on Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. It brings alive a neglected aspect of British history – the blood-spattered steps of two great families ruling an island on the fringes of Europe towards an awkward unity that would forge a great nation. For when James VI of Scotland and I of England crossed the border to claim the English throne in 1603 it seemed that the Stewarts had won. But his great-grandmother had been a Tudor.

Book Details:

  • Author: Linda Porter
  • Published Year: 2013
  • Rights Sold
    • UK: Macmillan
    • US: St Martin's Press

Linda Porter

Dr Linda Porter has a B.A. and a D.Phil from the University of York, where she studied under the direction of two inspirational professors, Gerald Aylmer and Gwyn A. Williams. She spent nearly ten years lecturing in New York, at Fordham and City Universities among others, before returning with her American husband and daughter to England, where she embarked on a complete change of career. For more than twenty years she worked as a senior public relations practitioner in BT, introducing a ground-breaking international public relations programme during the years of BT’s international e...
More about Linda Porter

Book Reviews

  • "Crown of Thistles is to be applauded as a highly courageous, pioneering attempt to brush the cobwebs off the existing national histories. Linda Porter has a considerable talent for synthesis and in this genre she is likely to excel in the future. Always professional in conception and dispassionate in style, her book deserves a wide readership."
    John Guy, Literary Review
  • "...bold,insightful and vivid ..."
    Times
  • "...elegantly written, decently researched and crucially, it will alert a new  readership to a neglected subject."
    Herald
  • "Mary's life was rich in incident and Linda Porter recounts it with judiciousness and verve."
    New Statesman
  • "In giving us the history of family rivalry to Mary’s reign and fall, Linda Porter has found a fresh approach to her biography, and told it with grace and humanity. She brings alive a thrilling story of cultured courts and violent deaths, of ambitious kings and tragic queens: executed on Elizabeth’s orders in 1587, Mary’s family’s past had indeed proved a fatal inheritance. "
    Leanda de Lisle, Mail on Sunday
  • "...magnificent account of Scotland's feuding factions .... Porter analyses these battles wonderfully and does not spare us the brutality of the ensuing routs. "
    Giles Tremlet, Observer
  • "...impressive...gripping account...this many-layered book offers much more, including fresh insights into Mary’s fall ."
    Country Life
  • "Porter’s work relates the oft-neglected Scottish perspective and is recommended for anyone interested in Tudor England. "
    Publishers Weekly
  • "A wonderfully thorough history of the Scots that thankfully avoids dwelling on stories that have been explored countless times before—especially fitting now as Scotland decides whether to withdraw from the union with England."
    Kirkus
  • "Porter’s highly readable account offers a fresh perspective for readers who look forward to each new book on the Tudors. "
    Booklist
  • "It brings alive a neglected aspect of British history --- the blood-spattered steps of two small countries on the northern fringes of Europe towards the union of their crowns. Beginning with the dramatic victories of two usurpers, Henry VII in England and James IV in Scotland, in the late fifteenth century, TUDORS VERSUS STEWARTS sheds new light on Henry VIII, his daughter Elizabeth I and on his great-niece, Mary Queen of Scots, still seductive more than 400 years after her death"
    Book Reporter