Bittersweet Within My Heart: The Collected Poems of Mary, Queen of Scots

Today as part of ‘Monarchy Week’ (a theme I’ve invented to cash in on the Queen’s official birthday on Saturday, as an excuse to blog about more books. She’s been cashing in on me for years, so this all feels legitimate) a collection of poems that reminds us that THE ROYALS HAVE FEELINGS AS WELL, Y’ALL!

For me, Mary, Queen of Scots is the 16th century’s Kerry Katona. Good woman, awful choice in men. I can imagine Jeremy Kyle introducing her on his TV (freak) show: ‘Her childhood sweetheart left her a widow at 18, she is implicated in the murder of her second husband, her rapist became her third husband, her cousin locked her in the Tower…she’s Mary Stuart and she’s on the Jeremy Kyle show, ladies and gentlemen!’ These poems provide some insight into how Mary felt about her chaotic life, from the death of her first husband to her imprisonment and execution.

The most powerful – and strangest – poem is that written to declare her love to the Earl of Bothwell, the Scottish nobleman who allegedly abducted and raped Mary in order to force her to make him her husband (to restore her post-rape honour. Yep, that sh*t’s been going on for THAT long) and therefore King of Scotland. Historians are divided regarding how far Mary was actually implicated in this abduction plot – her life really was that complicated – and her lines below provide another interesting viewpoint on this:

And I have shed for him so many a tear.

First when he took my body and made it his own

Although my heart was not yet won.

Therefore, regardless of one’s consideration of the artistic merit of these poems, they are elevated by being a very personal voice from history that aids our understanding of these turbulent times. I began to think of all the major historical events for which there is not a similar emotional narrative. How did Boudicca feel the day she razed London? How did Empress Matilda feel as she escaped from rival forces at Oxford Castle during that first-civil-war-that-everyone-forgets-about?  How did Lady Jane Grey feel about the family that pushed her to the throne, and therefore the executioner’s block, at the age of 16? How frustrating that we’ll never know, and how wonderful that we have these poems.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Jan Hicks says:

    I’m by no stretch a royalist, but I find Mary QoS interesting. Have you read Reay Tannahill’s novel about her? It’s called Fatal Majesty and it’s a political thriller – there’s a solid historical base with plenty of skillfull filling in the gaps.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow that sounds brilliant! I want to read more historical thrillers so this could be right up my street! Thanks Jan!


      1. Jan Hicks says:

        You’re welcome! I couldn’t put it down when I read it. I think you’ll enjoy it.

        Liked by 1 person

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