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Saturday, January 28, 2017


I've always been a pushover for the underdog. That is probably the reason I became a counselor in my "other life." Helping people solve their problems, pointing out their alternatives, and helping them map out a course of action was always very gratifying. So I suppose it was no wonder I was drawn to Mary Queen of Scots although it was several centuries too late to help her.
Skipton Castle where Mary Queen of Scots was a "guest." * 
My husband and I were living in England when I first became aware of this woman's sad plight. Oh, I had read enough history to be aware of  what happened but I had never before been close enough to the events to care. As we traveled the country on weekends, it seemed that Mary had stayed for a time in almost every castle we visited. I began to wonder why. When we went to Scotland and toured Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, we were shown the bed where Mary slept. It looked rather dilapidated and uncomfortable, covered with a nondescript gold-colored spread; yet in another  room a glass-enclosed bed was  covered with a spread of find tapestry. Why was a queen's bed left for tourists to bounce on if they chose while another bed was securely preserved simply for its finery, I asked myself.
Courtyard at Skipton Castle *

Much later, on another National Holiday weekend, we saw the site where Fotheringhay Castle had stood, and where the queen had lost her head, literally. There was only a small sign in a weed-covered field stating the castle's former location and no reference to Mary at all.

I began to ponder the inconsistencies. It seemed every castle in England wanted to claim that she had slept there, but the castle where she was beheaded no longer existed and castles are not easily destroyed. Even in her own country, she was almost ignored. I began to think of Mary Queen of Scots as an enigma and wanted to learn more about her. And the more I learned, the more sympathetic I felt. When I mentioned this to any of my English friends, it was quite obvious they did not share my sentiments. I suppose this had something to do with how the course of history would have been changed if Mary had somehow usurped the throne of her cousin, Good Queen Bess. But it is my opinion as an outsider that Mary would have been happy  to return to Scotland, rule her own land, and bring up her son James. And perhaps that might have made a difference in this boy king who allowed his own mother to die without lifting a finger to save her (though he finally did relent and have her entombed in Westminster Abbey)
Great   Hall at Skipton Castle *

In retrospect, I think it a pity that Mary didn't have better counselors to guide her.  There was her early marriage to Francis, that sickly boy who was heir to the throne of France.  Then the vain, ambitious Lord Darnley, and  worst of all, the ruthless Bothwell. Not a one of  them was worthy of her. By all accounts, she was beautiful and intelligent but she needed to learn to trust her own instincts. She made a lot of poor decisions, like stopping in England instead of going on to France when she fled Scotland for her life. My heart breaks for her--longing throughout all the years of her English captivity, to be invited to London to meet her cousin Elizabeth. And in her final hours, the way she met her death was an example of true courage.

And so, Queen Mary inserted her strong  personality into my thoughts until I was forced to put her into a book to get her out of my head. I had intended to give her a "walk-on" part but she had other ideas. She insisted on speaking! And I found myself creating other characters to showcase her. She did allow me to write a sweet romance between her innocent waiting-lady and a handsome, stalwart castle guard but she stayed in control of the story most of the time.

However, I can't begrudge her that. It was the least I could do for her. I really wanted to help her escape back to Scotland but one can't rewrite history without changing fact or fiction to fantasy, can one?  I hope that you will read Maid of the Midlands and that the tragedy of Queen Mary will touch your heart as it touched Matilda, Jondalar, and me. 

*Note: Skipton Castle (known as Hafton Castle in the book) was the setting for Maid of the Midlands. 





Thanks for reading my blog post today. I hope you'll leave a comment as I  always      welcome  hearing from others. And thank you for reading my books.  It is my wish that you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them. Stop by often. I'll be here again next month and there will be other authors posting in between.
Linda Swift
Tales that Touch the Heart


  1. This was such a wonderful tribute to Mary Queen of Scots. I have always held good thoughts about this queen since I first learned of her in my childhood. I can clearly understand how being a royal can be bad for one's health.
    Maid of the Midlands was one of the first books written by you that I ever read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked the manner in which you treated Queen Mary and allowed her to speak her truth. I was sympathetic to her fate.
    Most books, movies, and even TV shows such as "Reign", alter the truth about her to fit their story line until it's more fiction than history. I like that you kept her history.
    As always, I enjoyed reading your blog. You have such interesting things to say. All the best to you, Linda.

    1. Thank you for reading this blog, Sarah, and for your thoughtful comments. I'm happy that you liked the way I presented Mary's story. Yes, Mary is always presented as the villain (villainess?)when mentioned and I was fortunate to be given one of the most thorough and accurately researched biographies from Mary's birth through death to rely on for this story. It read like a tragic novel and I "suffered" all the way through it! I appreciate your compliments very much. The feeling is mutual. Your blog subjects always intrigue me.

  2. I remember reading this novel,but it must have been as an ebook. I have the print of Mistress of Huntleigh Hall, though.
    You must have felt some kinship, in some odd way, with Mary--you surely do have a detailed description of her sad life and the things she went through.
    And to be beheaded.Too tragic to comprehend.
    I'm sorry to be late with this comment...as you know, I'm sort of in a slump..which I feel is lifting!
    Thanks for this detailed post.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Celia. I'm glad the slump is lifting. Yes, Mary grabbed my heart but then, I'm always for the underdog and she was certainly that. At every twist and turn in her life, she made the wrong decision. This huge book by Antonia Fraser became my constant companion before and during the creation of this book. I'll mention again what a void the absence of Gerald Costlow is on this blog. He, like you and Sarah was such a loyal supporter of those who contribute here.

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  3. Linda,
    I loved this post and your passion for Mary's plight sure rings through here. I know, some people in history have a way of touching our hearts in a profound way. What a wonderful tribute to this strong woman.

    I have to agree with you about Gerald too. Yes, he would have been one of the first ones to comment. Sure missing him. :)

    1. Yes, Karen, Mary Queen of Scots really captured my heart and has never let go. After reading Fraser's book detailing her life, I felt comfortable speaking for her character in Maid of the Midlands even though I know we are cautioned not to put words in historical character's mouths. Thank you for your heartwarming comments re my post. And thank you for taking time to read and comment on all of our posts. It means a lot to have your support.

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  4. Beautiful blog, Linda! The entwined history of Scotland and England is so intriguing. Not only is it my ancestry, but I love visiting both countries, as well as Ireland. All three are fabulously rich in historical significance.

  5. Thank you, Vicki. I have enjoyed visiting both Scotland and England, too. And I am awed when I walk on the soil of those countries to think that my distant ancestors walked there, too. I also have Irish ancestors but unfortunately, have never visited Ireland. Thanks for your comments. It is always nice to hear from our fellow authors.

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