This book is essentially an exploration and 'whodunnit' of the murder of Mary, Queen of Scot's second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, rather than a biography of Mary herself.
Mary was certainly an interesting and tragic figure.
The book itself is essentially a very interesting expose, and Weir certainly has researched her work and presented her conclusions as to the evidence painstakingly well.
The first three chapters of this work are concerned with Mary's early life, her growing up in the French court where she was sent to be educated.
Weir touches on the moral laxity of the French court, which she actually go's as far as to refer to as a "moral cesspit: in which Mary was "exposed from an early age to it's promiscuity and corruption".
Interestingly there are two paintings that show the teen aged Mary, later to be Queen of France, in the nude.
In 1558 the 16 year old Mary was married to the Dauphin who succeeded his father as Francis II the following year.
When Francis died in 1560, his mother, the vindictive Catherine de Medici, made it clear that Mary was no longer welcome at the French court, so she returned to her native Scotland, where John Knox was playing a dominant role. The Reformation was in full swing but Mary made no attempt to interfere with the new religion, merely insisting that she was to be free to worship as a Catholic.
At this stage she had the peoples support.
Renowned for her beauty, she was charming, intelligent and talented but she was surrounded by vicious and scheming lords, hungry for power, and got caught up in their intrigues and plots. She never had a trustworthy and wise counsellor, like her cousin Elizabeth, to whom she could turn for advice.
After a number of princes were considered for her, she eventually agreed to marry her cousin Lord Darnley, the nearest heir after her to the thrones of Scotland and England. Beneath his courtly veneer, Darnley was spoiled, wilful, petulant, immature, spiteful, arrogant and uncouth.
He seems to have had bisexual tendencies, and Weir premises that he had a homosexual relationship with the Italian courtier and Mary's secretary, David Rizzio.
Weir provides evidence that he suffered from syphilis.
Furthermore there is evidence that Mary's bouts of ill health were the result of attempted poisoning.
Darnley was a key player, perhaps manipulated by a cabal of lords, in the assassination of Rizzio.
Of course the main of the book involves Darnley's murder and who was responsible. I do believe that Mary was innocent and that her relationship with Bothwell does not in any way implicate her in Darnley's assassination.
It is records of meetings with other lords that seem to incriminate Bothwell.
Nonetheless Darnley had deeply unpopular figure and was miraculously rehabilitated after his death, only his youth and his cruel end remembered. His own crimes and cruelty were forgotten. Ironically, he a Catholic who had plotted the overthrow of the Protestant establishment became a figurehead after his death in the propaganda campaign by Protestant Lords against Mary and Bothwell.
Many later came to see how badly Mary had been calumniated.
While Weir's detailed proof that the casket letters were forged, can be tedious to read, it is a vital part of Weir's detective work in proving Mary's innocence.