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Crown of Thistles: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary Queen of Scots

By Linda Porter

This book tells the story behind one of history’s greatest rivalries: Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I.

The struggle between the fecund Stewarts and the barren Tudors is generally seen only in terms of the relationship between two formidable women, Elizabeth I and her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots. Yet, little is said about the background to their intense rivalry.

Here, Linda Porter examines the ancient and intractable power struggle between England and Scotland, a struggle that intensified during the reigns of Elizabeth’s and Mary’s grandfathers. Henry VII aimed to provide stability when he married his daughter, Margaret, to James IV of Scotland in 1503, but he must also have known that Margaret’s descendants might seek to rule the entire island.

Crown of Thistles is the story of a divided family, of flamboyant kings and queens, cultured courts and tribal hatreds, rape and sexual licence on a breath-taking scale, blood feuds and violent deaths. It vividly portrays a neglected aspect of British history – the blood-spattered steps taken by two small countries on the fringes of Europe towards an awkward unity that would ultimately forge a great nation.

Beginning with the unlikely and dramatic victories of two usurping kings, one a rank outsider and the other a fifteen-year-old boy who rebelled against his own father, this book sheds new light on Henry VIII, his daughter, Elizabeth, and on his great-niece, Mary Queen of Scots. It is highly recommended for anyone interested in the Tudor/Stewart period and the history of the United Kingdom.

Praise for Crown of Thistles:

‘Stunning – an epic journey through the turbulent history of two nations, engagingly written and showing a masterly balance of politics and vivid personal detail.’ – Alison Weir

‘The authentic story of how Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I came to be, rather than simply who they were… bold, insightful and vivid.’ – Melanie Reid, The Times Saturday Review

‘In focusing on the family rivalries that led to Mary’s reign and fall, Porter has found a fresh approach to a familiar subject. She brings alive a thrilling story of cultured courts and violent deaths, of ambitious kings and tragic queens.’ – Leanda De Lisle, Mail on Sunday

‘Mary’s life was rich in incident and Linda Porter recounts it with judiciousness and verve.’ – Michael Prodger, New Statesman

‘Magnificent… proves that there was nothing predestined, or particularly preplanned, about the coming together of Scotland and England.’ – Giles Tremlett, Observer

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