"Homecoming: The Scottish Years of Mary, Queen of Scots" by Rosemary Goring tells the story of, perhaps, one of the three most internationally famous characters to have emerged from Scotland's turbulent history (alongside, arguably, Robert Burns and William Wallace). Pretty much everyone with any interest in Scotland's story knows something about Mary, Queen of Scots, a woman who, but for the untimely death of her first husband, could have brought together the thrones of Scotland and France; who thereafter exhibited a rather unfortunate taste in men and other lapses of judgment; and who was executed by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England because of Elizabeth's fears that Mary had designs on the throne of England. Yet she also triumphed from beyond the grave when the thrones of Scotland and England were brought together by her son James, following Elizabeth's death.
Mary's story has been told and re-told many times. What is there left that's interesting to say? We approached this book thinking that if anyone was able to add anything fresh to the story of Mary's life after her return from France as an eighteen-year old widow then it would be Rosemary Goring, who has carved out an eminent role for herself as a highly respected author of books about Scottish history. We weren't disappointed and would highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to know more about Mary, a woman whose story is so endlessly fascinating partly because of her very human frailties.
The publishers blurb says that: "Homecoming tells the dramatic story of her Scottish years through the many atmospheric places where the events that shaped her life and the country's future played out. In doing so it paints a compelling, controversial and poignant portrait of one of history's most famous and enigmatic queens." It's certainly true that as you visit historical attractions across Scotland the number that could (or do) carry plaques noting that "Mary, Queen of Scots stayed here" is quite astonishing.
Everyone will have their own take on aspects of Mary's life. One question that has always intrigued us revolves around the violent death of her second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, following a plot against him concocted at Craigmillar Castle on the south side of Edinburgh. Was Mary a knowing party to the "Craigmillar Bond"? Or was it discussed and agreed without her knowledge by a group led by the man who wished to become her third husband, James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell? You'll have to read Rosemary Goring's excellent book to find out what she thinks: suffice it to say we found her analysis convincing.