of Crown of Thistles
Literary Supplement - 7, March 2014
appearances to the contrary, Crown of Thistles: The fatal inheritance
of Mary Queen of Scots, with a picture of the fatal lady on the dust
jacket, is not simply another book about Mary Queen of Scots. We encounter
Mary in a four-page prologue before going back to 1485 and the battlefield
of Bosworth; we do not meet Mary again until, several battles later and
much more besides, she comes back into the story on page 332, and takes
a leading role on p378.
Porter explains what her book is about in an introductory note, and a
very welcome message it is. Her knowledge of sixteenth-century history
in the British Isles was 'heavily weighted towards England'. 'For most
English-speaking people, Mary Queen of Scots is the only Scottish ruler
they have heard of, with the possible exception of Robert Bruce' . . .
Porter sets out to broaden the picture of Tudor—Stuart rivalry well beyond
that of Elizabeth and Mary. It is a very ambitious project. In a period
crucial to the histories of Scotland and England, which began when the
long-standing hostility between the two countries persisted, and ended
with the Union of Crowns under the Scottish king who became James VI and
I in 1603, she sets out to give a balanced account both of the histories
of the two kingdoms and of their interaction with one another.
this she very largely succeeds. Scottish historians in particular can
have no complaint about their kingdom, their history, being neglected."
Tablet - September 2013
account is enlivened by vivid anecdote and she is good at drawing cross-border
comparisons and contrasts. Perhaps only in light of the serial philandering
of James IV and James V are we likely to appreciate the peculiarity of
Henry VIII's marital fastidiousness. If the fecundity of the Tudors caused
instability in England, the Stewart kingdom had almost the opposite problem.
. . The close unravelling of dynastic threads perhaps risks the impression
that eventual union was genetically predetermined. Yet a careful reader
of this book will come away convinced of how great a role chance and contingency
played. Porter passes no judgment on whether it was all for the best.
Voters in the 2014 independence referendum will have to make up their
own minds on that. "
Observer - Sunday, 25 August 2013
Crown of Thistles, Linda Porter tells the backstories of England and Scotland
as they head towards a union which we often assume was inevitable. There
was nothing inevitable, however, about James I of England. Porter's magnificent
account of Scotland's feuding factions makes that clear - even if the
battles were more to control monarchs than to replace them."
Mail on Sunday - Sunday, 18 August 2013
heir to two kingdoms, Mary, Queen of Scots was to be a victim of terrible
violence in both. Brutally deposed from her throne in Scotland, Mary fled
to England only to be imprisoned and eventually beheaded by her cousin,
Elizabeth I. Yet as Linda Porter describes, this was only the last chapter
in the long, bloody family rivalry that was Mary's fatal inheritance.
Hearld (Glasgow) -10 August 2013
Family rivalry and blood feuds
claims that "for most English-. speaking people, Mary Queen of Scots is
the only Scottish ruler they have heard of, with the possible exception
of Robert the Bruce". This, surely, is an exaggeration but it is certainly
high time that we heard more about the many interesting characters who
feature in this charming and informative book."
REVIEW - August 2013
Marriages of Inconvenience
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."
New Statesman - Friday
9, August 2013
Stuart's "fatal inheritance" was the long-standing power struggle between
the English and Scottish royal families. Her fatal tussle with her cousin
Elizabeth I was just one stage in a battle for supremacy that had started
with their grandfathers and would not be resolved untio Mary's son, James
VI of Scotland, became James I of England. Mary's life was reich in incident
and Linda Porter recounts it with judiciousness and verve."
Times - Saturday, 10 August 2013
killing and plotting: why we all love the Tudors
racy tale of Mary, Elizabeth and the dawn of a dynasty grips Melanie Reid
Is a nation, it appears, of Tudorholics. Little seems to satisfy the public
appetite for the humping, whoring, scheming and massacring that characterised
the period: not the BBC's The White Queen and The Tudors, not Philippa
Gregory's bestselling novels, not the might of Hilary Mantel and David
Starkey, and not even Dr Lucy Worsley's recent BBC documentary Tales From
the Royal Bedchamber of which she said, apparently without irony, that
we pay too much attention to Henry VIII's sex life. Tudors are hot, and
we pant for them.
all this power and war steps the historian Linda Porter, coolly crafting
the authentic story of how Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I came to
be, rather than simply who they were. This is Porter's unique selling
point in a crowded field. She looks at the Tudors and Stewarts from the
period of the queens' great-grandfathers: two dynasties, English and Scottish,
fighting like vicious neighbours over a Leylandii hedge, yet ultimately
converging within the Union of the Crowns under James I & VI in 1603.
problem, of course, is that sources from the period are finite and so
much, too much, has already been said. Porter's forte, though, lies in
reappraising figures who have been neglected, as her biographies of Mary
Tudor and Katherine Parr demonstrated.
book is at its best when she alights on largely forgotten characters,
in particular Henry VI and James IV, the grandfathers of the famous queens.
Henry, the first Tudor, returned from exile in Franc to defeat Richard
III (and leave him in a Leicester car park). Porter portrays a man less
cold and avaricious than convention has him.
IV, by contrast, emerges as a war-loving womanizer, making payments to
"Bare Arse Jane" and generally enjoying life. His 800,000 subjects were
described contemporaneously as brave yet cantankerolus yet also very European
- "an antidote to the English", said one Pope. The two kings signed the
somewhat ambitiously named Treaty of Peretual Peace between the two countries
in 1502, integral to which was the marriage of Henry's daughter Margaret
to James. The treaty failed - James IV died at the battle of Flodden just
11 years later, when the English routed the Scots - but it opened the
door to the eventual arrival of the Stewart line on the English throne.
passing, James V tempts Porter as another subject for investigation. "There
is considerable workstill to be done on his reign and he awaits a worthy
biographer," she says wistfully. Her writing is bold,insightful and vivid
but is also, given the sweep of history that she covers and the brevity
of life then, ocassionally exhausting in its detail. It is, however, at
least action-packed. One must pity the writers of the future who will
have to seek inspiration in the 21st century's ultra-safe Windsors.
if only the Scots would vote for independence, Anne could take the Scottish
throne, and if the House of York could rise again, with Beatrice and Eugenie
claiming the throne from William, then things might get interesting."