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No one could guess what the soul of a woman was capable of He would interpret Mary Stuart as a strong-willed person but easily misdirected by her passion 4. He would interpret Mary Stuart as a strong-willed person but easily misdirected by her passion and idealized romantic values, who carved out her own destiny with flawed judgement to her ill-fated end.
Zweig believed Mary came "to realize that there were limits to her royal power," and, like a heroine from his novels, gave "way to her bitterness of soul in a passion of tears. A life or death battle took place between them and only death was able to settle the playing field.
Unlike her royal cousin, Mary rose to power with good fortune, unmarred by scandal, a queen since infancy, and hardly more than a child when she was anointed a second time, anticipating a second throne; whereas Elizabeth fought illegitimacy and charges of treason, barely keeping her own head from being axed while imprisoned, eventually succeeded the throne from the half-sister who first sought to annihilate her.
Not only did they differ in their rise as monarchs, but were equally different in feminine traits; their natures "were diametrically opposed. Nature had not only excluded Elizabeth from motherhood - well, not voluntarily as she purported - but perforce that she remained a "virgin queen. Elizabeth lived for her country, was a realist, contemplating her position as ruler and looking upon it as a profession. While Mary gave in to primal basic feminine instincts, Elizabeth learned from her past to have dominion and reserve over hers.
Passion is needed in order that a woman may discover herself, in order that her character may expand to its true proportions; love and sorrow is needed for it to find its own magnitude. Mary innately succumbed to impulsivity and the passion of love; to be swept off her feet and swallowed up in her desires. We have a vision of black thoughts fluttering through the darkness like bats. Hatred flames up between the lines; compassion overwhelms it for a moment Very few documents have been preserved that revealed so admirably as this the hyperexcitability of one who is in the course of committing a crime.
It is with this same folly and the belief in her infallibility as a sovereign that she later married Bothwell, defended him, maintaining that she could not separate herself from him: "for if she did so, his child, which she bore in her womb, would be a bastard. Conspiracy and intrigue up to the very last, Mary continued to ensnare herself in a net of her own making, while Cecil and Walsingham stood by to reel her in. Mary falls as a result of the impetuosity she imperially wore like a jeweled crown.
One of the most remarkable capacities of persons of hysterical disposition is, not only their ability to be splendid liars, but to be imposed upon by their own falsehoods. For them the truth is what they want to be true, what they believe is what they wish to believe, so that their testimony may often be the most honorable of lies, and therefore the most dangerous. Zweig prescribes that from a political standpoint, England was right in ridding the world of Mary Stuart. Morally, however, the execution was an unjustifiable action considered in a time of peace, but more especially from one monarch by another.
Although Zweig concluded that Mary Stuart was culpable of criminal actions, having never learned to act with caution or forethought, he praised her nobleness of character and called her a morally superior individual, while he condemned Elizabeth as a dissembling, political murderess.
We all know the historical facts surrounding Mary Stuart, the most infamous of queens; and at this point, one more biography may not yield much difference than the next, especially one as dated as this. But seldom would we find a biographer such as Zweig whose flair for dramatizing psychological behavior in his characters brought freshness to a legend. Commendable, readable, recommended.