History, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 2004


Published in Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 57, No. 1 (Spring, 2004), pp. 349-350. Copyright © 2004 Renaissance Society of America; published by The University of Chicago Press. Used by permission.


Mary of Guise, widow of James V of Scotland, is a fascinating woman, though one with a very different life than was portrayed in the 1998 film, Elizabeth. There are only two earlier studies of Mary of Guise, those by Rosalind Marshall (1 977) and Marianne McKerlie (1931). For those who wish to know more about this important political player, Ritchie's book is a welcome addition. As she points out, Mary of Guise is usually discussed only in connection with her daughter Mary Stewart, her French family, or the Reformation Rebellion of 1559-60. Ritchie provides a far more complete view of her political career in Scotland from 1548 to 1560, and by using a much wider range of sources than has been usually tapped, demonstrates that the most significant issue during Guise's political career was not Catholicism but the dynastic interests of herself and daughter both in relation to France and to Mary Stewart's eventual claim to the English throne. Ritchie attempts to demonstrate that Mary of Guise was a shrewd, and effective ruler, and she places Guise and Scotland in the period from 1548-60 within the broader realm of European politics. Ritchie's book tells us not only about the religious and political conflicts in Scotland but how they connected particularly with England and France, and Henri I1 of France's hope that the marriage of Mary's daughter and his son might lead to a Franco-British empire. ... Though at times overly repetitious, Ritchie makes a solid case and her book is well worth reading, providing scholars with valuable information and insight into a important and enigmatic woman of the sixteenth century.

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