Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Wild Queen

The Wild Queen

Carolyn Meyer
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2012   ISBN: 978-0152061883

Mary is the daughter of Marie of Guise and King James V of Scotland. Just days after her birth her father dies, and at nine months of age little Mary is taken to Stirling Castle and crowned Mary Stuart, queen of Scotland. When she is not even one year old the Scottish Parliament agrees that when she is ten Mary will marry Prince Edward, the son and heir of King Henry VIII of England. Such a marriage will, it is hoped, unite the two kingdoms and bring about a peace between them.

When the English continue to attack Scotland’s borders, Mary’s mother decides that she will marry her daughter to the heir to the French throne, Francois, thus securing a strong ally for the Scots, an ally who will come to Scotland’s aide should she need it.

When Mary is just six her mother sends her to live at the French court so that she will learn the language and French ways. Mary’s close companions, four girls all called Mary, go with her, along with many other people whose job it will be to watch over Mary and guard her interests at the French court.

Mary is not at the French court long before she comes to appreciate that the real power is held by King Henri’s favorite mistress, Madame de Poitiers. Queen Catherine is always sidelined by her rival and there is nothing much that she can do about the situation. Guided by Madame de Poitiers, Mary learns the language of her future husband’s county, how to dance in the French style, how to dress, and much more. Mary gets to spend a lot of time with Francois, her future husband, and the two children become very close. Francois is younger and smaller than Mary and she becomes protective of the boy, who is frail and immature for his age.

Mary’s mother eventually comes to visit and Mary finds out how hard her mother has had to fight to protect her interests in Scotland. There are many there who do not like Marie of Guise and who would like someone other than Mary Stuart on the throne. What Mary does not realize is that she has enemies in France too; people who want to use her to further their ambitions.

As she grows up Mary learns to be wary of her Guise uncles, who will do anything to make sure that they gain power when Mary becomes queen of France. They also push for Mary to be declared the rightful queen of England, insisting that Mary, as James V’s legitimate heir, has precedence over Elizabeth I, who was Henry VIII's illegitimate child.

When Mary is not yet sixteen she and Francois get married and the following year she becomes queen of France when King Henri dies after being injured during a joust. A little over a year later King Francois dies, leaving Mary a powerless and distraught widow just a few days shy of her eighteen birthday. After much thought Mary decides that it is time for her to return to Scotland. At least there, she hopes, she would be able to do something useful and serve her people. What Mary does not know then is that many of the powerful lords in Scotland do not want her to return, and she was going to have to fight for the power that she feels is her due. She is also going to have to figure out how to keep the peace between her Catholic and Protestant subjects, which is not going to be easy thanks to the efforts of John Knox. Knox is fiercely anti-Catholic and he also feels that a woman is unfit to be a monarch. Mary faced many challenges when she lived in France, but the ones that await her in the land of her birth are even greater.

This beautifully written book takes us into the heart and mind of a girl and woman whose life story has fascinated people for centuries. As the story unfolds we witness Mary’s struggles and her mistakes, and appreciate, perhaps sadly, how ill-equipped Mary was to deal with the problems in her country.