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* Department of Political Science, UCLA, 4289 Bunche Hall, Los Angeles 90095-1472 RULE AND RESISTANCE: THEORIZING THE FEMALE SOVEREIGN IN SIXTEENTH-CENTURY EUROPE by Megan Gallagher* Susan Doran, Mary, Queen of Scots: An Illustrated Life (London and Chicago: British Library and University of Chicago Press 2007) 192 pp., ill.; Louis Montrose, The Subject of Elizabeth: Authority , Gender, and Representation (Chicago: University of Chicago 2006) 336 pp., ill.; and Kristen Post Walton, Catholic Queen, Protestant Patriarchy: Mary Queen of Scots and the Politics of Gender and Religion (New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2007) xiii + 220 pp., ill. The reader of any new work on the subjects of Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots almost inevitably approaches the text with one particular question in mind: is there anything worth saying left to say? Three recent offerings include an old story retold well, a new reading offering new ideas but argued inconsistently, and an over-crowded analysis argued superbly. The answer to that suspicious question thus appears to be a cautious yes. Susan Doran’s Mary, Queen of Scots: An Illustrated Life does not break new ground in terms of content, but the story of Mary’s life is smartly told and richly supplemented. The text, in fact, recedes into the background, leaving the reader to linger over beautifully reproduced images and documents, which often span an entire page or two and all of which are in color. Aside from the usual portraits of the cast of characters , An Illustrated Life features documents both relevant to the narrative and intriguing in their own right. For instance, included among the discussion of Henry VIII’s “Rough Wooing” is a full-page reproduction of a letter from the king’s commanders reporting on their progress in the Lowlands, with certain passages transcribed into modern English, allowing the reader to compare the text of the original. An Illustrated Life follows Mary from birth to death, and it is much to Doran’s credit that she manages to contextualize the story as she tells it without seeming to do so. The book provides the standard chronology and family tree, as well as a useful and clear map of places in Scotland and England particularly relevant to Mary’s life. Even without these materials, the text, without the padding of a historical introduction, manages to be accessible to the general reader. All pertinent informa- MEGAN GALLAGHER 220 tion is fluently included within the story being told. The specialist may not take away much in terms of original analysis from the text—Doran states her opinion of Mary’s reign in the final pages, judiciously referencing the standard interpretations both in the final chapter and the bibliography. It is moderate (Mary’s chief failing was flawed political judgment) and does not appear to color the preceding account. However , the images and documents reproduced will draw a specialist readership . The abundant illustrations of An Illustrated Life ground the reader firmly in both the time and place of the narrative and are matched by a well-told, if unobtrusive, account of Mary and her queenship . Less satisfying is Kristen Post Walton’s Catholic Queen, Protestant Patriarchy: Mary Queen of Scots and the Politics of Gender and Religion , a book intended for the specialist. Unlike Doran’s book, Catholic Queen is not a biography of Mary but a study of her contemporaries’ responses to her as woman, Catholic, and queen. The text frustrates with its vacillations between obvious generalities (“Mary’s gender remained significant throughout her reign” [92]) and what Walton calls “the intricacies of legalese” (54) which dominated much commentary on the succession of both Mary and Elizabeth and which dominate the substantial middle section of Walton’s book. More frustrating than the dizzying kaleidoscopic treatment, however, is the inconsistent logic one encounters. Walton initially argues that Mary’s gender (and religion), particularly her “willingness (and desire) to operate largely within the traditional boundaries of being female,” “should not be relegated to the sidelines when analyzing [her] reign” (96). However, after remarking upon the authoritative stance Mary eventually took with Darnley, Walton prevaricates: Mary “was an exceptional woman … and as such must be regarded differently from other women,” but she is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1557-0290
Print ISSN
0069-6412
Pages
pp. 219-224
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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