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Friday, November 16, 2012

“The Kings & Queens of Scotland”, by Richard Oram

336 pages, Tempus Publishing, ISBN-13: 978-0752438146

The history of the Scottish monarchy can be presented as a long tale of triumph over adversity, characterized by the personal achievements of its truly remarkable rulers who transformed their fragile kingdom into the master of northern Britain. The Kings & Queens of Scotland charts this process, tracing it through the lives of the men and women whose ambitions drove it forward on the often rocky path from its semi-mythical foundations to its integration into the Stewart kingdom of Great Britain. It is a route filled with such towering personalities as Macbeth, Robert the Bruce, and Mary Queen of Scots, whose lives have made an indelible imprint in world history, but directed also by a host of less well-known figures, such as Causantin mac Aeda, who challenged the heirs of Alfred for the mastery of Britain; David I, who extended his kingdom almost to the gates of York; and James IV, builder of the finest navy in northern Europe. Their will and ambition, successes, and failures not only shaped modern Scotland, but have left their mark throughout the British Isles and the wider world.

The collection of biographical essays on Scottish monarchs, edited by Richard Oram, offers the reader a unique opportunity to learn Scottish history through the lives of her kings and queens. Due to scarcity of available materials, the early Scottish kings are presented in one chapter. Starting with Malcolm III, each of the monarchs is given a brief separate presentation of their lives and achievements both before their ascension and during their reigns. The book clearly concentrates of the medieval history (the reigns of “The British Stuarts” from Charles I to Anne comprise less than 10% of the volume) but I can hardly object as the early Scottish kings are quite obviously the least known and, probably, the most interesting. The essays are illustrated with photographs of coins, seals, and portraits of the monarchs, adding to the value of the book.

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