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Men with poetic names such as the Wolf of Badenoch, Bell-the-Cat and the Black Knight of Lorne make their dramatic entries and — all too often — their equally dramatic exits. And we have not even started on the big names of the family history: Mary Queen of Scots beheaded in , James VI and I died naturally in and Charles I beheaded in The Restoration and the Glorious Revolution are epilogues to a drama that makes Italian opera look humdrum.
Allan Massie is a gifted writer and his story is full of sympathy for the characters. What it lacks in scholarly precision it makes up for in spirit. This is the very opposite of revisionism.
The royal Stuarts : a history of the family that shaped Britain
Yet there are pointers for more profound reflection, too. Massie draws attention to a paradox: the Scottish nobility were loyal for centuries to this family even though they were so often prepared to fight and kill its individual kings. Why were there no usurpers, despite a string of minorities? The answer is a matter of human understanding as much as historical scholarship. Evocative, visceral — haunting, even — this is a well-written introduction to the vulnerability of the royal family in medieval Scotland and early modern Britain.
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