I've always been a pushover for the underdog. That is probably the reason I became a counselor in my other life. Helping people solve their problems, pointing out their alternatives and helping them map out a course of action was always very gratifying. So I suppose it was no wonder I felt drawn to Mary Queen of Scots even though it was half a dozen centuries too late to help her.
My husband and I were living in England when I first became aware of this woman's sad plight. Oh, I had read enough history to know the general outline of what happened but I had never been close enough to the events to care.
As we traveled the country on weekends, it seemed that Mary had stayed for a time in almost every castle we visited. I began to wonder why. When we went to Scotland and toured Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, we were shown the bed where Mary slept. It looked rather dilapidated and uncomfortable, covered with a nondescript gold spread, yet in another room a glass enclosed bed was covered in fine tapestry. Why was a queen's bed left for tourists to bounce on if they chose while another bed was preserved simply for its finery, I asked myself. And much later, on another National Holiday weekend, we saw the site where Fotheringhay Castle had stood, and where the queen had lost her head, literally. There was only a small sign in a weed-covered field stating the castle's former location and no reference to Mary at all.
I began to ponder the inconsistencies. It seemed every castle in England wanted to claim the queen had slept there, but the castle where she had been beheaded no longer existed and castles are not easily destroyed. Even in her own country, she was almost ignored. I began to think of Mary Queen of Scots as an enigma and wanted to know more about her. And the more I learned, the more sympathy I felt. When I mentioned this to any of my English friends, it was quite clear they didn't share my sentiments. I suppose this had something to do with how the course of history would have been changed if Mary had somehow usurped the throne of her cousin, good queen Bess. But in my opinion as an outsider, I think Mary would have been happy to return to Scotland and rule her own native land and bring up James. And perhaps that might have made a difference in this boy king who allowed his own mother to die without lifting a finger to save her though he did finally relent and have her entombed in Westminster Abbey.
In retrospect, I think it a pity that Queen Mary didn't have better counselors to guide her. There was her early marriage to Francis, that sickly boy who was heir to the throne of France. Then the vain, ambitious Lord Darnley, and worst of all the ruthless Bothwell. Not a one of them were worthy of her. By all accounts, she was beautiful and intelligent but she needed to learn to trust her own instincts. She made a lot of poor decisions, like stopping in England instead of going on to France when she fled Scotland for her life. My heart breaks for her always longing, throughout all the years of her English captivity, to be invited to London to meet her cousin Elizabeth. And in her final hours, the way she met her death was an example of true courage.
And so, Queen Mary inserted her strong personality into my thoughts until I was forced to put her into a book to get her out of my head. I had intended to give her a minor "walk-on" part but she had other ideas. She insisted on speaking! And I found myself creating other characters to showcase her. She did allow me to write a sweet romance between her innocent waiting-lady and a handsome, stalwart castle guard but she stayed in control of the story most of the time.
However, I can't begrudge her that. It was the least I could do for her. I really wanted to help her escape back to Scotland but one can't rewrite history without changing fiction to fantasy, can one? I hope you'll read Maid of the Midlands and that the tragedy of this queen will touch your heart as it did the hearts of Matilda, Jondalar, and me.
Tell us your favorite queen and be entered into a drawing for a copy of Maid of the Midlands.
About the Author:
Linda's first two books were published by Kensington. She currently has nine e-books(eight also in print)available from the publishers below. Two books of fiction, a haiku collection, and four short stories are scheduled for 2012. For more information, please visit her website at www.LindaSwift.net