cover image DYNASTY: The Stuarts, 1560–1807

DYNASTY: The Stuarts, 1560–1807

John Macleod, DYNASTY: The Stuarts, 1560–1807

The Stuart, or Stewart, dynasty ruled Scotland and later also England for a very long time. The first Stuart king, Robert II, headed Scotland in the 14th century, and James VI of Scotland became James I of England in 1603 after the death of Elizabeth. Even after James II of England (who also was James VII of Scotland) was deposed in a parliamentary coup in 1688, one branch of the family never abandoned its claim to the throne until the last of the so-called Pretenders died in 1807. They were a fascinating crew, and, as Macleod (No Great Mischief if You Fall; Highlanders: A History of the Gaels) points out, every English monarch subsequent to James I is descended from him and, therefore, from his mother, the notorious Mary, Queen of Scots. The author is a journalist who writes for a Glasgow newspaper, and his prose has a journalist's snap and flair. Unfortunately, he commits errors that a professional historian would have been trained to avoid. For example, his claim that before the Protestant Reformation "every science had been gagged and bound by the Roman Church and the dead hold of tradition" shows a remarkable ignorance of the history of science. Likewise, Macleod's anti-Catholic stance is tiresome. Macleod certainly entertains as much as he informs, but, in the end, those interested in a history of the Stuart dynasty would be better advised to go to that fine old sprig of Scottish enlightenment, the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Illus. not seen by PW. (Apr.)

Forecast:The British monarchy and its history seem to be of enduring interest, but Macleod is not up to the standard of Antonia Fraser, and this won't sell like her books do.