Betrothals, betrayals, and battles both domestic and political are the order of the day in Rosalind K. Marshall’s intriguing history Scottish Queens, 1034-1714.
From the mysterious but only possibly murderous Lady Macbeth to the hot mess that was Margaret Tudor and the tragically childless Anne, Scottish Queens shines a spotlight on Scotland’s women rulers. Each story is as devastating as it is fascinating.
Early chapters provide little information on the queens themselves, instead relating events that happened around them. This is the fault of misogynistic record-keeping, not Marshall; in the early days, not even the names of royal daughters were recorded. Marshall acknowledges where information is missing from the historical record and where the historical record may be unreliable due to biased sources. These gaps are poignant reminders of how much knowledge the world lost to sexism and time.
By the fifth chapter, information on Scotland’s queens becomes more plentiful. A chapter on Margaret of Denmark devotes a good four pages to her wardrobe-related expenditures, but for the most part, the book keeps a brisk pace. With seven hundred years to cover in a short space, there isn’t room to sustain that level of detail.
This bird’s eye approach is perfect for novice history students and readers uninterested in the nitty-gritty of foreign relations and battlefield strategies. The book’s introductory parades of names and titles can be dizzying, especially since so many of Scotland’s royals shared the same handful of names, but its family trees help.
Scottish Queens, 1034-1714 is a broad, impressive historical work and a solid introduction to Scottish history from an oft-ignored perspective: that of the queens who exercised power whenever and wherever they could find it.
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