The Other Queen is the culmination of years of research and resistance to the iconic character of Mary Queen of Scots. I always felt that she was too grand, too beautiful, too doomed too all round romantic and nonsensical for me to take much of an interest in her.
Her reputation in marriages of marrying one man by arrangement, and then another to irritate Elizabeth, and then finally the third who was her second husband's murderer seemed to add up to a woman whose judgment was disastrous.
How glad I am that I read the new biography of her by John Guy My Heart is my Own. He paints a very different picture of a young woman, without good advisors, struggling to survive and rule a country which was on the brink of chaos. It would have taken an extraordinary character and extraordinary luck to have successfully ruled Scotland and Mary the Queen had one, but not the other. Guy's sympathetic portrait of her difficulties, and her remarkable attempts to succeed made me see that Mary, as so many other women in history, has been given a reputation that she does not deserve. The contrast between her - the much married unlucky beautiful Catholic Queen, and the Protestant triumphant virgin Queen of England has been too easy for most historians to resist.
At about the same time I read Mary S. Lovell's wonderful biography, Bess of Hardwick, and realized that the greatest part of Mary's life was spent in captivity in England as the prisoner of George Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife the extraordinary Bess. Bess is a fantastic and surprising character of Tudor England - an enterprising businesswoman who made her own fortune through five successful marriages and a determined and businesslike to managing her fortune. I thought the contrast of these two women in the same house would be a wonderful starting point to a novel, and then I discovered that George, Earl of Shrewsbury fell in love with his beautiful prisoner and his wife Bess left him. Research doesn't get much better than this!