97 books like Mary Queen of Scots

By Antonia Fraser,

Here are 97 books that Mary Queen of Scots fans have personally recommended if you like Mary Queen of Scots. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

Nazila Fathi Author Of The Lonely War: One Woman's Account of the Struggle for Modern Iran

From my list on the feeling of having your identity taken from you.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with historical novels as a kid after I began reading books by French authors Alexandre Dumas, the father and the son. I was the kind of kid who read for days and even nights to finish a story. Books moved me, inspired me, and gave me the strength and wisdom that I have today. I cannot imagine a world without them. 

Nazila's book list on the feeling of having your identity taken from you

Nazila Fathi Why did Nazila love this book?

This was a page-turner and a great introduction to Russian history. Massie described her so vividly that years later, I can still visualize Catherine. The most fascinating aspect of the book for me was how a German child named Sophie reinvents herself to become Catherine the Great, the longest-serving Russian empress. 

By Robert K. Massie,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Catherine the Great as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The fascinating true story behind HBO's Catherine the Great starring Dame Helen Mirren as Catherine the Great.

Born into a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself into empress of Russia by sheer determination. For thirty-four years, the government, foreign policy, cultural development and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands. She dealt with domestic rebellion, foreign wars and the tidal wave of political change and violence churned up by the French Revolution.

Robert K. Massie brings an eternally fascinating woman together with her family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers and enemies - vividly and triumphantly to life.

History offers…


Book cover of The Life of Elizabeth I

Kevin O'Connell Author Of Bittersweet Tapestry

From my list on fascinating women of 16th and 18th century Europe.

Why am I passionate about this?

Whilst I was born in America, growing up in an old Irish family with a long history and a powerful sense of its past, I learnt a great deal of Irish, British, and European (especially French) history from an early age – proving valuable in both of my careers – one, as an international business lawyer, the other as a full-time writer of historical fiction. As a result of a “very Irish” numinous connection with the Gaelic poet, Eileen O’Connell, I frequently find myself drawn to books about strong, courageous, and memorable women – particularly those who lived in interesting times, such as the tumultuous days of Sixteenth and Eighteenth-Century Europe.  

Kevin's book list on fascinating women of 16th and 18th century Europe

Kevin O'Connell Why did Kevin love this book?

It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to recommend this particular work of Alison Weir. A brilliant historian, she – by means of both traditional, meticulously-researched biographies, as well as in her historical fiction offerings –  chronicles many aspects, and a number of personages of Tudor England in all of its – and their – colourfully untidy turbulence. 

Her account of Elizabeth I’s life is amongst her best. I especially appreciate the skillful way in which Weir continuously “introduces” the reader to Elizabeth, as the compelling figure she is – fascinatingly intricate, brilliant, and annoyingly contradictory. Just when one seems to understand her – Weir drops yet another paradox – as the reader learns that this supposedly staunchly Protestant daughter of Henry VIII maintained most aspects of orthodox Roman Catholic practices – including a crucifix – in her private chapel royal.

By Alison Weir,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Life of Elizabeth I as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Elizabeth the Queen begins as the young Elizabeth ascends the throne in the wake of her sister Mary's disastrous reign - both a woman and a queen, Elizabeth's story is an extraordinary phenomenon in a patriarchal age.

From Elizabeth's intriguing, long-standing affair with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, to her dealings - sometimes comical, sometimes poignant - with her many suitors, her rivalry with Mary, Queen of Scots, and her bizarre relationship with the Earl of Essex, thirty years her junior, here, in rich, vivid and colourful detail, Alison Weir helps us comes as close as we shall ever get…


Book cover of Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France

Kevin O'Connell Author Of Bittersweet Tapestry

From my list on fascinating women of 16th and 18th century Europe.

Why am I passionate about this?

Whilst I was born in America, growing up in an old Irish family with a long history and a powerful sense of its past, I learnt a great deal of Irish, British, and European (especially French) history from an early age – proving valuable in both of my careers – one, as an international business lawyer, the other as a full-time writer of historical fiction. As a result of a “very Irish” numinous connection with the Gaelic poet, Eileen O’Connell, I frequently find myself drawn to books about strong, courageous, and memorable women – particularly those who lived in interesting times, such as the tumultuous days of Sixteenth and Eighteenth-Century Europe.  

Kevin's book list on fascinating women of 16th and 18th century Europe

Kevin O'Connell Why did Kevin love this book?

I am perhaps more familiar with – and fonder of – Marie Antoinette than I am of any other historical personage. Emersed in French history since an early age, I have had a near-lifetime fascination for this complicated woman – who never said, “Let them eat cake!” 

Having researched Antoinette exhaustively (most recently, in connection with her periodic appearances in my own books), since first reading Evelyn Lever’s masterful, beautifully-written work some twenty years ago, I have found myself frequently returning to it. I am drawn to it for its depth and detail, as well as her balanced treatment of an, in many ways, controversial figure. I recommend it as it is a perfect introduction to the life of a captivating woman, as well as presenting a highly satisfying experience for any lover of fine biography. 

By Evelyne Lever,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Marie Antoinette as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Married for political reasons at the age of 14, Marie Antoinette was naive, impetuous, and ill-equipped for the role in which history cast her. From her birth in Vienna in 1755 through her turbulent, unhappy marriage, the bloody turmoil of the French Revolution, her trial for high treason during which she was accused of incest, and her final beheading, Marie Antoinette's life was the tragic tale of disastrous circumstances colliding.

Drawing upon her diaries, letters, court records, and memoirs, Evelyne Lever paints a vivid portrait of Marie Antoinette, her inner circle, and the lavish court life at Versailles. What emerges…


Book cover of Dancing to the Precipice: The Life of Lucie de la Tour Du Pin, Eyewitness to an Era

Kevin O'Connell Author Of Bittersweet Tapestry

From my list on fascinating women of 16th and 18th century Europe.

Why am I passionate about this?

Whilst I was born in America, growing up in an old Irish family with a long history and a powerful sense of its past, I learnt a great deal of Irish, British, and European (especially French) history from an early age – proving valuable in both of my careers – one, as an international business lawyer, the other as a full-time writer of historical fiction. As a result of a “very Irish” numinous connection with the Gaelic poet, Eileen O’Connell, I frequently find myself drawn to books about strong, courageous, and memorable women – particularly those who lived in interesting times, such as the tumultuous days of Sixteenth and Eighteenth-Century Europe.  

Kevin's book list on fascinating women of 16th and 18th century Europe

Kevin O'Connell Why did Kevin love this book?

Having read numerous books about the French Revolution, amongst my favourites is this fascinating biography of Lucie Dillon – who became Lucie du la Tour du Pin – by Caroline Morehead. I unhesitatingly recommend it, certain that, from Morehead’s striking presentation, most readers will experience a keen sense of what it was like to live during the twilight of the Ancien Régime, and thence on, into and through the nightmare that followed. As an Irish-French aristocrat, whose father commanded the regiment of the Irish Brigade of France that bore the family’s name, whilst her mother was a lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette, Lucie was in a singular position to observe and chronicle the tragic upheaval. 

Relying in part on Lucie’s own published memoir, as well as numerous primary sources, including family papers, which her meticulous research uncovered, Morehead tells a powerful story of loss and survival. 

By Caroline Moorehead,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dancing to the Precipice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lucie de la Tour du Pin was the Pepys of her generation. She witnessed, participated in, and wrote diaries detailing one of the most tumultuous periods of history. From life in the Court of Versailles, through the French Revolution to Napoleon's rule, Lucie survived extraordinary times with great spirit. She recorded people, politics and intrigue, alongside the intriguing minutia of everyday life: food, work, illness, children, manners and clothes.

Caroline Moorehead's richly novelistic biography sets Lucy and her dairies in their wider context, illuminating a remarkable period of history.

Dancing to the Precipice was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award…


Book cover of Royal Road to Fotheringhay

Gill Arbuthnott Author Of The Amazing Life of Mary, Queen of Scots: Fact-Tastic Stories from Scotland's History

From my list on Mary Queen of Scots for people who aren't into history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was utterly uninspired by history at school—couldn’t see the point of it at all—but then I discovered Jean Plaidy’s books and realised history was about people, real people. Dorothy Dunnett propelled me headlong into a fascination with sixteenth-century Europe, a period full of larger-than-life characters and an unusually high number of strong women. Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Catherine de Medici, Mary of Guise, Hurrem Sultan (wife of Suleiman the Magnificent): they wielded real power. And Mary Queen of Scots was so young—it makes her the perfect starting point to interest young readers in history. I hope I’ve done her story justice.

Gill's book list on Mary Queen of Scots for people who aren't into history

Gill Arbuthnott Why did Gill love this book?

I was never interested in History at school: it just seemed to be boring lists that didn’t involve relatable human beings. I can’t remember why I picked up this book in the library, but it opened history up to me as something completely different—and fascinating. These Queens and Kings and plague victims and soldiers were people like the people around me—and the story was as exciting as many of the plots in the non-fact-based fiction I read. 

By Jean Plaidy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Royal Road to Fotheringhay as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The haunting story of the beautiful—and tragic—Mary, Queen of Scots, as only legendary novelist Jean Plaidy could write it

Mary Stuart became Queen of Scotland at the tender age of six days old. Her French-born mother, the Queen Regent, knew immediately that the infant queen would be a vulnerable pawn in the power struggle between Scotland’s clans and nobles. So Mary was sent away from the land of her birth and raised in the sophisticated and glittering court of France. Unusually tall and slim, a writer of music and poetry, Mary was celebrated throughout Europe for her beauty and intellect.…


Book cover of Rizzio: A Novella

Gill Arbuthnott Author Of The Amazing Life of Mary, Queen of Scots: Fact-Tastic Stories from Scotland's History

From my list on Mary Queen of Scots for people who aren't into history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was utterly uninspired by history at school—couldn’t see the point of it at all—but then I discovered Jean Plaidy’s books and realised history was about people, real people. Dorothy Dunnett propelled me headlong into a fascination with sixteenth-century Europe, a period full of larger-than-life characters and an unusually high number of strong women. Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Catherine de Medici, Mary of Guise, Hurrem Sultan (wife of Suleiman the Magnificent): they wielded real power. And Mary Queen of Scots was so young—it makes her the perfect starting point to interest young readers in history. I hope I’ve done her story justice.

Gill's book list on Mary Queen of Scots for people who aren't into history

Gill Arbuthnott Why did Gill love this book?

I was given this as a present at the launch of my book on Mary. I took it home and devoured it the next day. It’s a short, punchy, and very immediate version of a single incident in Mary’s story: the dreadful murder of David Rizzio. Denise Mina does what I most admire in writers of historical fiction and somehow fills the story with suspense, although you know with your head how the story ends.

By Denise Mina,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rizzio as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'a tour de force work of art' - The Wall Street Journal, Best Books of the Year

Longlisted for the 2022 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award

It's Saturday evening, 9 March 1566, and Mary, Queen of Scots, is six months pregnant. She's hosting a supper party, secure in her private chambers. She doesn't know that her Palace is surrounded - that, right now, an army of men is creeping upstairs to her chamber. They're coming to murder David Rizzio, her friend and secretary, the handsome Italian man who is smiling across the table at her. Mary's husband, Lord Darnley,…


Book cover of Mary, Queen of Scots: Escape from Lochleven Castle

Gill Arbuthnott Author Of The Amazing Life of Mary, Queen of Scots: Fact-Tastic Stories from Scotland's History

From my list on Mary Queen of Scots for people who aren't into history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was utterly uninspired by history at school—couldn’t see the point of it at all—but then I discovered Jean Plaidy’s books and realised history was about people, real people. Dorothy Dunnett propelled me headlong into a fascination with sixteenth-century Europe, a period full of larger-than-life characters and an unusually high number of strong women. Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Catherine de Medici, Mary of Guise, Hurrem Sultan (wife of Suleiman the Magnificent): they wielded real power. And Mary Queen of Scots was so young—it makes her the perfect starting point to interest young readers in history. I hope I’ve done her story justice.

Gill's book list on Mary Queen of Scots for people who aren't into history

Gill Arbuthnott Why did Gill love this book?

This is a great introduction to Mary’s story for young readers. I love the clever way it centres the whole story of Mary’s life on her true, action-packed escape from Loch Leven Castle, helped by a young boy called Will Douglas. It’s beautifully illustrated and written. This is how to get ‘em interested in history at an early age!

By Theresa Breslin, Teresa Martinez (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mary, Queen of Scots as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

The true story of the daring escape of Mary, Queen of Scots from the island castle in Lochleven is well-known throughout Scotland and the world.

Multi-award-winning author Theresa Breslin, who has carefully researched Mary's life, has adapted this famous adventure into a picture book for children.

Through stunning illustrations and a gripping story, both packed with historical detail, children will feel the tension of Mary's imprisonment and the excitement of her escape plans, gaining insight into this fascinating period of Scottish history.

A full and engaging historical tale for children from a fabulous Scottish storyteller.


Book cover of The Game of Kings

Leigh Grant Author Of Mask of Dreams

From my list on capturing a moment in history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started out on this journey with an entirely different book in mind based on a Chinese tale about beauty, masking, and deception. Somewhere along the way, I transposed the idea to 15th-century Venice where Neo-Platonic beliefs were parallel to those in the fairy tale. The country that preceded Montenegro became part of the story and I fell in love with both those places. Finally, I read everything I could find in nonfiction on the 15th century, and developed two characters, a Slav brigand, Rade, and a Venetian maiden, Caterina. To my great surprise, the book began to write itself.

Leigh's book list on capturing a moment in history

Leigh Grant Why did Leigh love this book?

In the character of Francis Crawford of Lymond, Dorothy Dunnett created one of the most memorable heroes in historical fiction. I lived for the next book in the series. Lymond was mercurial, malicious, loving, insouciant, flawed, and fearless – and yet believable and very human. Dunnett brought 16th-century Scotland and the borderlands to life, even to the songs and the literature. It was a world entirely real to the reader and one in which, despite unexpected tragedy, elsewhere in the story, there could be a sense of humor.

By Dorothy Dunnett,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Game of Kings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this first book in the legendary Lymond Chronicles, Francis Crawford of Lymond, traitor, murderer, nobleman, returns to Scotland to redeem his reputation and save his home.

It is 1547 and Scotland has been humiliated by an English invasion and is threatened by machinations elsewhere beyond its borders, but it is still free. Paradoxically, her freedom may depend on a man who stands accused of treason. He is Francis Crawford of Lymond, a scapegrace nobleman of crooked felicities and murderous talents, posessed of a scholar's erudition and a tongue as wicked as a rapier. In The Game of Kings, this…


Book cover of Mary Queen of Scots: An Illustrated Life

Anne J. Cruz and Mihoko Suzuki Author Of The Rule of Women in Early Modern Europe

From my list on women who ruled in early modern Europe.

Why are we passionate about this?

Mihoko and Anne first met at the University of Miami, where Mihoko was a specialist in early modern England and Anne, in early modern Spain. Sharing their interests in gender studies, literature, and history, and combining their expertise, they team-taught a popular course on early modern women writers. Anne’s publications range from studies of women in Cervantes’ Don Quixote, female rogues, and religious women to early modern Habsburg queens. Mihoko has published on the figure of Helen of Troy in classical and Renaissance epic; and women and politics in early modern Europe, especially in the context of the many civil wars that upended the political and social order of the period.

Anne's book list on women who ruled in early modern Europe

Anne J. Cruz and Mihoko Suzuki Why did Anne love this book?

In many ways the opposite of her cousin Elizabeth I whom she sought to replace as queen of England, the thrice-married Mary Queen of Scots ruled Scotland for only six years before she was deposed; she then was imprisoned in England for almost twenty years before she was executed for plotting to overthrow Elizabeth. Susan Doran’s richly illustrated biography, which includes portraits of the queen, images of letters by her and by Elizabeth, and sketches of her trial and execution by eyewitnesses, brings to life this enigmatic figure concerning whom many questions remain unresolved: Were the “Casket Letters” written by her to her lover Bothwell or were they forgeries? Was she complicit in the murder of her second husband? Did she join English Catholics in a conspiracy to assassinate Elizabeth? Doran judiciously weighs the evidence on these controversies and concludes that Mary’s lack of political judgment was largely responsible for…

By Susan Doran,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mary Queen of Scots as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mary Queen of Scots has been the subject of innumerable plays, poems, songs, operas, films, novels and biographies. It is not difficult to see why. The first 21 years of her life were packed with dramatic incident, including her flight to France, widowhood at an early age, the murder of her secretary and second husband, abduction and rape by a third, and finally captivity and escape from a remote castle in the Highlands of Scotland. Her last 18 years as a prisoner in England, while certainly quieter, were nonetheless marked by conspiracy and intrigue; and her execution in February 1587…


Book cover of Mary of Guise (Scots' Lives)

Marie Macpherson Author Of The First Blast of the Trumpet

From my list on Mary, Queen of Scots and her people.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in the Honest Toun of Musselburgh near Edinburgh, I was surrounded by bloody battlefields, haunted castles, ruined abbeys and palaces. In particular, Scotland during the turbulent 16th century Reformation and the tragic reign of Mary, Queen of Scots fired my imagination. I was curious to know more about the lives, loves, and destinies of these fascinating historical characters. I wanted to delve deeper, go beyond dates and events–what happened when–to explore why and how people acted. I’m passionate about writing historical fiction as it involves researching the tiniest details about everyday life–clothes, food, methods of travel, language, beliefs–to bring people from the past to life for the reader.

Marie's book list on Mary, Queen of Scots and her people

Marie Macpherson Why did Marie love this book?

The more I learnt about Mary of Guise, mother of Mary Queen of Scots, the more I admired this inspiring woman whose life is overshadowed by that of her more famous daughter. The French widow who spurned Henry VIII’s advances in favour of James V proved to be a wise, sharp-witted politician ruling as regent for Mary. Despite suffering great personal sorrow–the loss of two husbands and four sons–she held her daughter’s throne against opposition from the Scots lords until her premature death in 1560.

I often wonder how Mary’s life would have turned out had she been brought up by her shrewd and politically astute de Guise mother.

This is more a sketch than a full-length portrait but, like all Dr. Marshall’s studies, offers a wealth of information and telling details.

By Rosalind Marshall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mary of Guise (Scots' Lives) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As mother of Mary Queen of Scots, Mary of Guise is often overshadowed by her more famous daughter. However, this intelligent and energetic woman also led an intriguing life of her own. Daughter of a powerful French family, a staunch Roman Catholic and subtle politician, she acted as Regent for her young daughter and was keen to ensure that Scottish loyalties lay with France rather than Protestant England. This is the story of a strong-willed woman who lived through turbulent times.


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