Two women competing for a man’s heart. Two queens fighting to the death for dominance. The untold story of Mary Queen of Scots.

Fleeing rebels in Scotland on Queen Elizabeth’s false promise of sanctuary, Mary Queen of Scots finds herself imprisoned as the “guest” of George Talbot Earl of Shrewsbury and his indomitable wife, Bess of Hardwick. Soon the newly married couple’s home becomes the center of intrigue and rebellion against Elizabeth, and their loyalty to each other and to their sovereign comes into question. If Mary succeeds in seducing the earl into her own web of treason, or if the great spymaster William Cecil links them to the growing conspiracy to free Mary from her illegal imprisonment, they will all face the headsman.

Using new research and her passion for historical accuracy, Gregory places the doomed queen into a completely new tale of suspense, passion, and political intrigue.

Behind the book

Released in 2008

It is a challenge to write a novel about Mary Queen of Scots – so much has been written about her already – a play and an opera as well as dozens of histories. In this novel I looked at her long years of imprisonment and the extraordinary triangle that developed between her, her gaoler the Earl of Shrewsbury and his wonderful wife Bess of Hardwick. The dynamic between these three makes this novel not just a historical novel about the times but a psychological study of three people trapped together.

Book opens in 1568

Elizabeth I has been Queen of England for ten years. She is still unmarried, despite considering several suitors and having conducted a love affair with the married Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester – whose wife had then died under suspicious circumstances. With no heir, Elizabeth refused to name a successor – leading to the dissolution of parliament and putting England in a potentially dangerous position. One possible successor to Elizabeth was her first cousin once removed – the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots, whom many English Catholics believed to be the true English heir to the throne. However Mary is under imprisonment in Loch Leven Castle after marrying her third husband James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell – the man widely believed to have earlier murdered Mary's second husband Lord Darnley – and she appeals to her cousin Elizabeth for support. 

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New York Daily News

"Gregory is so very good at what she does....A book that warrants a comfortable chair, a cup of tea and an afternoon off from life."

USA Today

"A delectable mélange of history, fiction and female feuding."


"Deftly weaving fact and fiction into a lyrical, literary tapestry....Gregory has once again crafted a mesmerizing novel that will keep readers turning pages deep into the night....As sweet and thorny as a wild English rose."

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The Express

"Philippa Gregory’s historical novels....combine superb storytelling with period detail."

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Tudor Book Reviews' by

"unputdownable....makes you want to research its characters....believable.... The charms of Mary Queen of Scots even got to me, the reader"

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Diana Gabaldon, The Washington Post

"Gregory's novel looks at Mary Stuart and her times from a fresh and engaging angle....One of the most admirable the delicate way in which Gregory drops bits of historical allusion into a very personal story....Above all, the book is an examination of the nature of loyalty"

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The Guardian

"Gregory's eye for detail and pacy storytelling bring to life a woman born to greatness but condemned to end her days on the scaffold"

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RT Book Reviews (Top Pick; 2008 Historical Biography Nominee)

"Gregory is a grand mistress of the craft, following in the footsteps of Jean Plaidy, Anya Seton and James Michener."

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Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Shrewsbury’s refusal to recognize superior intelligence and force of will in his wife, who runs the estate, and in Mary, who tries to make him her instrument at every turn, makes for one delicious conflict after another. The voices are strong throughout"

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People Magazine

"Mary's hell-bent assuredness combines deliciously with brisk chapters and rich historical detail. Indulge."


"Philippa Gregory is back with another fantastic historical novel....Gregory's books are methodically researched for spot on historical fact along with brilliant story telling. She's in a class of her own."

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