Cat Johnson Braves Doll Lil’s Word Association Challenge!

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Cat Johnson Braves Doll Lil’s Word Association Challenge!

August 7, 2013 – 12:48 am | One Comment

I’m back from vacation and ready to get down and dirty finding new free and amazingly bargained books for you! But first this week I have something special. I convinced super hot and crazy talented …

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Passport France: Mary, Mary, quite contrary…Three Marys and a French Connection

Submitted by on February 24, 2011 – 4:00 am3 Comments

This post started out as a funny query that went something like this:
Day: I know you love history, want to focus on Mary of France for Passport: France?
Noa: Mary Tudor (Queen of France), Mary Queen of Scots (Queen of France for a bit) Mary De Guise (French)?
Day: All of them? *grins*
Noa: LOL! You got it!

See, I love British history but French History (unless connected to said British history) was never my chief interest. So for me – this was a perfect chance to combine the things I love and contribute to Passport: France – History, great books and some kick-ass historical figures who happen to have a French (or British) connection.

There are quite a few biographies out there, and some of them I truly enjoyed, but you don’t have to read about these women from biographies alone – many works of fiction include historical background, detailed information about the period and the famous characters in each period… And yes, sometimes fiction fibs on pesky things like facts – but what you need to remember is that even biographies tell a point of view. That said, I like my historical fiction based on fact which is why I enjoy finding really good biographies to back up the fictitious tales I read…

Here are a few about some contrary Marys:

Mary Tudor ‘The French Queen’ 

Mary Tudor (18 March 1496 – 25 June 1533) was the younger sister of King Henry VIII of England and queen consort of France through her marriage to Louis XII.

While her story is quite a romantic one, I haven’t seen many biographies that focus on her history specifically. She is usually included in various books about the Tudors. Alison Plowden’s does give some insight into her story, but the truth is, most of the info I have about this particular Mary comes from fiction. In Cynthia Harrod Eagles’ (book 2 in the Morland Dynasty books) we learn that Anne Boleyn and her sister Mary were ladies in waiting to Mary Tudor. Which could explain why Mary wasn’t pleased with her brother’s decision to marry Anne. Antonia Fraser’s also mentions Mary, her French marriage and her later return to England, as does book by the same title. One work of fiction that does focus on ‘The French Queen’ is Jean Plaidy’s – in this book Mary’s story becomes a romantic tale of a woman seeking to marry the love of her life – in this case Charles Brandon, while her status as King’s sister stands in the way.

A few facts about Mary: As a daughter and later, sister of a king her marriage was never expected to be a love match. At first she was betrothed to the man who would later become the Holy Roman Emperor, but when a change in alliances made the French connection a preferable one, the beautiful 19 year old was betrothed to Louis the XII of France – a man 30 years older than her who was known to be ‘old feeble and pocky’. Still, she made the best of it, she was the darling of the French court and her husband, and while she may have looked upon a certain Charles Brandon with longing, she never embarrassed her husband or her brother.

Like you wouldn’t use any
excuse to put up this picture?
‘Charles Brandon Duke of Suffolk’

She also didn’t let anyone make marital decisions for her anymore. In spite of a long period of seclusion in the French court after her husband’s death, and fears that either her brother or the new king would marry her off before she could have a say in the matter, she decided enough was enough and married Charles Brandon Duke of Suffolk, in defiance of her brother’s wishes – a move that almost got her new husband hanged for treason. Instead, they had to grovel before the king and part with most of her wealth in order to gain his approval and a place in court. Still, she did get to keep her title as ‘The French Queen’ until she died. Hey, she worked hard enough to get it…

Mary of Guise and Mary Queen of Scots

Mary de Guise

Mary of Guise (22 November 1515 – 11 June 1560) was the Lorraine-born queen consort of Scotland as the second spouse of King James V. She was the mother of Mary, Queen of Scots (8 December 1542 – 8 February 1587) and served as regent of Scotland in her daughter’s name from 1554 to 1560. She was a member of the powerful House of Guise, which played a prominent role in 16th century French politics.

She was also, through her Marriage to James V, the niece of Mary Tudor, whose sister Margaret (yeah, even though the TV show totally decided to ignore the fact that Henry VIII had two sisters, he did!) was queen of Scotland. Her story is incredibly interesting since for the most part, it is through her daughter’s story that we get to read about her. Yet, in many ways, without her – Mary Queen of Scots would have been a very different person. For one thing, she may have grown up in the English court rather than the French one…something which completely changed her outlook as the French court was firmly catholic while the English court was (at the time) firmly protestant.

I have only found one biography about Mary of Guise, and that one focuses mainly on Mary’s political efforts in Scotland – by Pamela Ritchie is extremely detailed and gives an in depth view but lacks a bit of the color that makes a biography feel like you are getting to know the person on a more intimate level.

It would have been fun to learn more about her childhood in France, growing up in the powerful house of Guise.

Mary Queen of Scots
(and France for a time)

As for Mary Queen of Scots, well, I think my ‘bible’ on this issue is Antonia Fraser’s . This book is incredible and while most biographies are the kind of books you read once, maybe twice – Fraser’s book is one that I come back to again and again. Maybe Ms. Frasier’s experience as an author of fiction is what makes Mary’s story come to life.

Thanks to her mother’s influence, Mary had a strong alliance with the Catholic French, she was engaged and later married to the dauphin of France spending most of her childhood growing up in the French court, leaving the Scottish throne in the hands of regents and caretakers. Her life was never without strife – both as a child and an adult and it seems as if she made quite a few bad choices.

As for fiction, well, two of my favorite historic fiction series feature Mary Queen of Scots – in Dorothy Dunnett’s (second book in Lymond Chronicles) the focus is on a young Mary newly arrived in the French court to marry the dauphin. This book is spectacular but not for the faint hearted – it is very convoluted but once you get sucked in, it is worth every minute! This is the French court at its best and worst – intrigue, pageantry, assassinations and fighting between factions. Here we also get to see more of the Guise family and so, it can also give a bit of insight into Mary of Guise’s character. On a side note, Dorothy Dunnett’s series are a must for any lover of historical fiction. My favorite (anti) hero ever is the star of these books – Francis Lymond.

For a look at an adult Mary’s court, I once again turn to Cynthia Harrod Eagles and her Morland Dynasty series – this time, we hop one book forward to . While it is mainly about Elizabethan England, we also get to see quite a lot of Mary of Scotland and her court, including the problems she is faced with – a mostly French queen with loyalties torn between those of her protestant nobles and French catholic supporters.

Then there is by Tasha Alexander. This book was the basis for the screenplay of the movie starring Cate Blanchett and as seen in the title, while this may be a book that sees Elizabeth I as the star, we also get to see the final years of Mary Queen of Scots. Not a happy ending that’s for sure.

There are so many books to add – I realize this is only the tip of the iceberg, and I really could go on and on about each of these women and their French Connection…but if history is your thing, or you have other book titles to share – please do so – comment away!

Au revoir for now and enjoy Passport, France!

Noa first fell in love with books when she discovered 100 acre wood and its inhabitants. To this day, the last pages of “The House at Pooh Corner” make her cry. In a good way. From“Calvin and Hobbes” to “The Iliad and the Odyssey” and lets not forget “Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes”. Biographies, mysteries, history books and romances all have a place on her bookshelves. Who needs furniture? This 29 year old singleton’s dream is to invent the zero-calorie chocolate. But until that day arrives, she tries to create sweet confections with whatever chocolate she can find. An MA in conflict studies (need a mediator?) means Noa loves a good debate, especially when she wins. If she were in charge, books would be free for everyone.
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