Book Review: Mary Queen of Scots’ Secretary, William Maitland – Politician, Reformer and Conspiratorby Robert Stedall

Genre: History, nonfiction
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Pub date: 30 January 2021
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟

Maitland was the most able politician and diplomat during the lifetime of Mary Queen of Scots. It was he who master-minded the Scottish Reformation by breaking the ‘Auld Alliance’ with France, which presaged Scotland’s lasting union with England.

Although he gained English support to defeat French troops defending Mary’s Scottish throne, he backed her return to Scotland, as the widowed Queen of France. His attempts to gain recognition for her as heir to the English crown were thwarted by her determined adherence to Catholicism.

After her re-marriage, he spearheaded the plotting to bring down her objectionable husband, Lord Darnley, leading to his murder, after concluding that English and Scottish interests were best served by creating a Protestant regency for their son, Prince James. With encouragement from Cecil in England and the Protestant Lords in Scotland, he concocted evidence to implicate her in her husband’s murder, resulting in her imprisonment and deposition from the Scottish throne.

Despite her escape to England, he remained personally loyal to her and attempted to conjure Scottish support for her restoration by backing her allies holding Edinburgh Castle on her behalf. When it fell in 1573, he resorted to suicide.

Most of us are well aware of the story of Mary, Queen of Scots but even as an avid reader of Tudor era books I knew very little about Maitland, Secretary to Mary.

Stedall’s book appealed to me in wishing to know more about the events behind the scenes of Mary’s life and reign.

Maitland was a politician and became a Protestant before Mary returned from France. Stedall explains how Maitland managed to join the reformers, liaise with Lord Burghley, Elizabeth I and remain in favour at the Scottish Court.

Maitland had an undeniable impact on Mary’s life and was involved in some of the most dramatic events of her reign. I enjoyed reading Stedall’s views of events as it is clearly the result of much research.

Maitland worked hard for the issues he believed in, mainly the Protestant cause in Scotland and faced a sad end for someone who spent his life in service to the crown and country.

I would say this is a book for those with an academic interest and not those wanting an easy read. It does not just center on Maitland so may also appeal to those with a general interest in the politics and religion of the era and of course Mary Queen of Scots.

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