Episode 58: Mary, Queen of Scots

Posted 13 November 2015 by
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Mary, Queen of Scots had a good start: she was wearing the crown early and upgraded it at a young age under the watchful eye of many an interested party but once she started making decisions for herself? Ah, that’s when her life took dramatic twists and turns that ultimately took the crown off her head. Actually, those decisions got her whole head taken off, but let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Mary Stuart about age 16  wedding the Francis and before her life turned quite contrary. "MaryStuartbyClouet" by François Clouet - Royal CollectionNative nameRoyal Collection of the United KingdomLocationUnited KingdomEstablishedafter 1491Websitewww.royalcollection.org.uk. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MaryStuartbyClouet.jpg#/media/File:MaryStuartbyClouet.jpg

Mary Stuart about age 16 before her life turned quite contrary.
(François Clouet – Royal Collection via Wikimedia Commons)

Once upon a time in a rugged Renaissance land lived a king and a queen…

640px-Linlithgow_Palace by Alex Sanz flickr

Linlithgow Palace in Scotland where Mary was born, looks very storybookish…maybe Brothers Grimm but a            storybook nonetheless.                                                                                                                                                                (credit:Alex Sanz via Flckr)

Papa King, James V, Mama Queen Marie de Guise, he was out of the picture pretty quickly. (unknown artist, wikimedia commons)

Papa King, James V, Mama Queen Marie de Guise– he was out of the picture pretty quickly.
(unknown artist, wikimedia commons)

The fair Princess, Mary Stewart, quickly became the Fair Queen when her papa died right after her birth (which was pretty much following in the family business of baby rulers.)

YoungMaryStuart Francois Clouet age 13ish

Mary Stuart about age 13 by Francois Clouet                                (wickimedia commons)


Baby then toddler Mary was whisked from castle to castle by her mother who was trying to keep her safe (mostly from the English who would like nothing more than for her to NOT be Queen). In a spiffy piece of bargaining five year-old Mary and her four friends…the Marys (can’t make this up, People, fact is often cooler than fiction) were sent off to France where she was promised to the Dauphin, Francis.

Stirling Castle, one of the Keep-Mary-Safe places

Stirling Castle, one of the Keep-Mary-Safe places

The Coterie of Marys had a fairly decent next few years in France. Mary–now frenchified to Stuart— was treated very well and raised with Francis. She was educated, spent a great deal of time with her mother’s family and lived about ten years of princessy bliss cared for by Francis’ mother, Catherine Di Medici and regularly doted on by King Henri II. Okay, so Catherine was concerned because Mary would be the NEXT Queen of France and Henri was interested because he thought Mary was the rightful heir to the English throne.

What? We go over all this in detail during the podcast (or listen to our Tudor episodes numbers 22, 24, 43 and 44) but basically Catholics thought that any of Henry VIII’s marriages AFTER Catherine of Aragon –wife number one, mother of Queen Mary I of England– were null and void. Any children produced, they believed, were illegitimate. Mary Stuart was a direct and legitimate descendant of a Tudor (Henry VIII’s sister was her grandmother)…badda bing- she should be Queen of England after Mary I not Elizabeth who was the daughter of Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn.

Clear? Good. Now back to Mary…

Francis and Mary wed, then Papa Henri died in a jousting accident making Francis and Mary King and Queen (well there was a bit more to it, just listen to the podcast).

Francis and Mary about the age that they got married, Francois Clouet

Francis and Mary about the age that they got married, Francois Clouet

Great! They will rule happily ever after!

Not exactly. After a year and a half of their reign Mama Marie back in Scotland was dead and no one was guarding the roosters there anymore; Francis was dead, and Mary, not having gotten pregnant wasn’t really necessary in France. Several potential marriages were discussed but Mary decided it was time she went back to Scotland.

At first she was doing a decent job of balancing the Protestant and Catholic struggles, brought a little class to the joint and was doing a fair job of telling Queen Elizabeth I she wasn’t just her cousin but also her friend. No rivals here, ‘Cuz.

And then a man. *sigh* A man by the name of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. He was her 2nd cousin by marriage and she was smitten…or she thought it was a wise political move to marry him- so she did.

Mary Stuart and James Darnley, quite a fetching pair

Mary Stuart and James Darnley, quite a fetching pair, right? He looks full of himself, doesn’t he?

This bad decision quickly turned sour. Darnley was, well, the best word is petulant. And greedy, greedy is good, too. His attempts to usurp Mary’s power quickly put them at odds. To complicate matters: Mary was pregnant. HIGH drama ensued: there was a plot by Darnley that landed one man dead, Baby James was born and then another foiled plot led to a very curious murder of yet another man: Lord Darnley himself. *cue dramatic music*

Twice widowed and single mother Mary made a few more poor choices- she ignored pressure from both the public and Queen Elizabeth to bring the obvious suspect in the murder to trial. In fact in the most dramatic move yet- she married him mere weeks after he kidnapped HER. (Seriously, go listen to the episode.)

Husband number three: James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell- swarmy, mean and an emotional abuser. Mary sure can pick ’em.

Pretty much this. (oh please, you can google Bothwell)  credit: J.J. at English Language Wikipedia

Pretty much this. (oh please. You can Google Bothwell)
credit: J.J. at English Language Wikipedia

This is when the Nobility, who were in a power struggle with Mary since the beginning of her life, had enough. She quickly fell out of favor, Bothwell was run off and Mary was imprisoned. She then made yet another really bad decision: she misinterpreted Queen Elizabeth’s intentions, fled to England for protection by her cousin and soon was imprisoned again…

…for the next 19 years.

Elizabeth could hardly let this woman who was next in line for her crown and who had so much support from Catholics to be wearing said crown party across the land. Elizabeth debated what to do with Mary and ultimately several more bad decisions of trusting the wrong people sealed Mary’s fate. Evidence real, tricked or fabricated of a plot to kill the Queen will do that.

Mary stood trial and was convicted of treason. On February 8, 1587  44 year-old Mary’s life decisions were made for her and she was executed.

Mother and Son...that never happened because he was an infant the last time she saw him.

Mother and Son…that never happened because he was an infant the last time she saw him.

16 years later the son she never really knew succeeded Queen Elizabeth to become King James VI. He had his mothers body moved so that she could be buried in Westminster Abbey.


Flickr user Lisby

Fit for a Queen.                                                          (credit: flickr user Lisby)




First: CORRECTION!!! All you wise arborists (or arborist-wannabes) caught that Susan said the wrong tree when describing a family tree. Harry Lauder Walking Stick is the correct name. Here it is, and here you can read more about it at Missouri Botanical Garden.Sierra Exif JPEG

You want more, yes, yes we know…here is all the media that we referenced in this episode (we took notes so you don’t have to!)

Papa King James V…was very paternally prolific. Here is a post from Unusual Historicals about his many illegitimate children including the Favorite turned Adversary, James Stewart, Earl of Moray.

Cybervisit Stirling Castle, one of Mary’s residences in Scotland, or if you happen to be in the neighborhood, visit her birthcastle (it’s a word) (well, now it is), Linlithgow Palace or visit in person (lucky!) or online (the rest of us) The National Museum of Scotland.

The podcast we recommended that has the episodes about pregnancy and childbirth (and a lot more great content) is…


GET THIS ONE! We both liked it, lots of info but lots of photos and paintings, too. It’s lovely.

Mary Queen of Scots, by Susan Watkins and Mark Fiennes

Mary Queen of Scots, by Susan Watkins and Mark Fiennes

Also good:


John Guy


Kids book! Fiona MacDonald and David Antram

Kids book! Fiona MacDonald and David Antram

A couple historical fictions for you….

Phillipa Gregory

And for an easy to digest view of all things Tudor as well as amazingly charming illustrations by our friend and favorite History Witch, Lisa Graves (actually she’s the only History Witch we know)

Barb Alexander and Lisa Graves




with Katherine Hepburn

1936 with Katherine Hepburn

1971 with Vanessa Redgrave

1971 with Vanessa Redgrave

Or how about the 2013 Swiss version? Yes, how about it? We couldn’t get our hands on it so we can’t recommend it but Susan was on such a failed quest she needs to know how it is!

How is it?!

How is it?!

The meta referential, The Mirror Cracked


Can you pick out the historically correct Mary Queen of Scots from the CW Show, Reign Mary Queen of Scots? And that's all you need to know about Reign.

Can you pick out the historically correct Mary, Queen of Scots from the Reign Mary, Queen of Scots? And that’s all you need to know about Reign.(Which Susan didn’t hate once she could overlook the inaccuracies and stopped moaning, “They could have done so much more with this show!”)


Here is the Last Days of Mary, Queen of Scots documentary that we talked about. Go get yourself a snack, it’s about 45 minutes long.


What about the Nursery Rhyme? Is it about Mary, Queen of Scots? Disney sure thinks so (from 3:22)…


We know, you really want to see the 1895 silent film version of The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots: The 40 seconds that will traumatize any young child. If you are a young child, ask your parents before you click play. Actually, although the special effects aren’t all that special to our modern eye, it still might creep you out.

You have been warned.

QUICK! Get that image out of your head with this incomprehensible Monty Python sketch,

This episode is brought to you by the fine and generous people from Audible.com (the internet’s leading provider of audio books…BACKSLASH CHICKS, you know the drill) and The Message (a creepy audio drama with a pretty nifty website by GE Podcast Theater )

…And a super special shout-out to all the wonderful people we have partnered with at Panoply

Episode 57: Q & A and Random Bits Show

Posted 5 October 2015 by
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Heeeeere’s your seven word summary: We asked, you responded and we answer.

For the first time in the five years that we have been doing this show we sat down with a couple of glasses of wine to deviate from our normal format and answer some of your questions. We had asked for them and you delivered! From questions about specific episodes to hypothetical situations and research methods to some semi-personal questions…we answered them all. We even revealed some of the names on our extraordinarily long list of future subjects and did a really bad job of keeping our next subject secret. (In vino veritas and all)

We thought that this cocktail party chatter was a perfect way to give our new audio recording system the proper welcome that it deserves. Isn’t it pretty?




Ahhhhh! (Cool lamp in both of these shots)


Episode 56: Dorothy Parker, Part Two

Posted 30 August 2015 by
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dorothyparker framed


When we left Dorothy Parker in Part One she was hanging on tenuously at best. Her marriage to Eddie Parker was over, her relationship with George MacArthur was over and the fall-out somewhat stabilized and her suicide attempt was unsuccessful. Professionally she was cobbling together a career as a freelance writer but powered by a steady diet of alcohol she was dancing on the edge.

It was the wild 20s, afterall. (No, this isn't Dorothy)

It was the wild 20s, afterall. (No, this isn’t Dorothy, but you knew that)

Her first book of verses, Enough Rope (cheery title, right?) was fairly successful and she began to work on a novel…well, she traveled to Europe with Ernest Hemingway, socialized with the F. Scott Fitzgeralds (among others), and partied quite a bit under the guise of writing a novel.  After all, when you are teetering in a downward spiral, a grand tour with literary greats and heavy partiers is just what you need to help you focus on work.

enough rope framed

When she returned to New York she didn’t have a novel but had managed to put together another collection of verses. Her body of writing is very large, including an O’Henry award for her short story, Big Blond, short story collections, screenplays and other books of verses (don’t call them ‘poetry’) but Dorothy would never publish a novel:”I’m a short distance writer.”

Ernest Hemingway, who wouldn't want to travel with him! "See the bullfights in Spain" he said...

Ernest Hemingway, who wouldn’t want to travel with him? “Come! See the bullfights in Spain,” he said…

Dorothy’s life wasn’t all angst at a keyboard and clinking cocktail glasses, it was also dotted with strong political convictions and acts of social justice. Her first high profile, public demonstration of support occurred when several of the Algonquins were moved by the case of Sacco and Vanzetti (we give you a tutorial in the podcast) who, in 1927, were convicted and executed for murder. Dorothy thought that they were innocent, spoke loudly for their cause, marched in protest and was arrested.

As always, the juicy bits are in the podcast.

During the Depression, the lure of big salaries was drawing the New York Literati to Hollywood. When Dorothy was about 40 she answered the call, married writer Alan Campbell and headed off to California as the (better paid) half of a husband and wife script writing team. The pairing lead Dorothy to a (brief) folly into domesticity with a second home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and several years of unsuccessful attempts to have a child.

w alan campbell

Dorothy and Alan hard at work (or pretending to, this is Hollywood)

Hollywood wasn’t Dorothy’s favorite place and the work not her favorite writing genre, but she did find her people as she became more politically active in Left Wing causes. But involvement in these organizations would later catch the eye of the FBI during the McCarthy era and lead to her being blacklisted from Hollywood.

Dorothy and Alan, Courtesy Life Magazine

Dorothy and Alan, Courtesy Life Magazine

When the US entered World War II, Dorothy waved farewell to her second husband entering military service. When the war ended, Alan didn’t rush back to the turbulent marriage he had left and the pair divorced in 1947.

Then remarried in 1950.

Then separated in 1952. They would reconcile (more like “work out an arrangement”) in 1956 and remain married until Campbell’s unintentional suicide in 1963. (Yes, we talk about the details of that, too.)

After Alan’s death Dorothy returned to hotel life in New York, but her 70 years of hard living did her no physical favors. She was frail, ill and under the care of a full-time nurse. The four years after Alan’s death were painful, lonely and nothing like the fast pace of the rest of her life.

On June 7th, 1967 Dorothy Parker, author, poet, playwright, civil rights activist and critic died of a heart attack at the age of 73.

But that wasn’t the end of her tale, oh no! She left her entire estate (which wasn’t huge but did included the rights to her work) to Martin Luther King, Jr because she admired what he was doing to further civil rights. Upon his death a couple of years later, as she had stipulated in her will, the money was turned over to the NAACP much to the dismay of Dorothy’s friend Lillian Hellman. Either to in anger or forgetfulness, Lillian (the executor of of the will) let Dorothy’s ashes sit in a file cabinet at her lawyer’s office for 17 years. Eventually they were discovered and turned over to the NAACP who interred them in a memorial garden where her epitaph includes a classic Parkerism: “Excuse my dust.”

dorothy about age 50





Covering our bases with both whiskey AND a dirty martini.

Covering our bases with both whiskey AND a dirty martini.

Right now (go ahead and click, it will open in a new window) get yourself over to The Dorothy Parker Society. This is the mother-lode of all things Mrs. Parker. Photos, audio of her reading, tours, stories, gear and ways to meet other fans…just go check it out for yourself- it’s an exhaustive and wonderful collection.

YouTube has several audio bits of Dorothy (or others including Tallulah Bankhead and Anne Hathaway) reading her poetry, sorry–verses– including this one of Resume. (And you might like the hour long, Ten Year Lunch documentary about the Algonquin Round Table.)

What?! You haven’t been to the New York Public Library’s What’s on the Menu? Go. We’ll make  it easy. BIG OL’ RABBIT HOLE OF MENUS

While you are clicking around online, if you are wanting to be crushed (or delighted) by verification of quotes credited to people who may not have said them, fall into the rabbit hole that is The Quote Investigator.

Obviously you are going to want to start reading some of the works of Dorothy Parker. Because we KNOW you like audio content, Libivox has two verse and one short story collection to get you started. Amazon has a collection of her works HERE but we recommend that you start with The Portable Dorothy Parker. Classic.51QrL0O4M1L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_


Dorothy Parker never wrote her autobiography but we liked these biographies:

You Might as Well Live by John Keats

You Might as Well Live by John Keats

What Fresh Hell is This, and Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin both by Marion Meade (The latter a look at several Jazz Age writers written very much like a novel intermingling their stories.)

What Fresh Hell is This, and Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin both by Marion Meade (The latter a look at several Jazz Age writers written very much like a novel intermingling their stories.)

And the two fiction books Susan recommended (the second of which she has since read and enjoyed as well as the first):

Farewell, Dorothy Parker and Dorothy Parker Drank Here by Ellen Meister

Farewell, Dorothy Parker and Dorothy Parker Drank Here by Ellen Meister

You’ll need this when you throw your own Algonquin Round Table party.

Under the Table by Kevin Fitzpatrick

Under the Table by Kevin Fitzpatrick

Movies…ah, well…not a whole lot to talk about here other than the 1994 Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle with Jennifer Jason Leigh as Dorothy. We gave this one mixed reviews and neither thought it was outstanding, but if you can find the damn thing, you might give it a whirl. It does have a good cast.MPATVCIf you would like to know more about the Sacco and Vanzetti case, here is a quite thorough yet readable coverage of it all. The Atlantic

Episode 55: Dorothy Parker, Part One

Posted 8 August 2015 by
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She gave us fabulous quotes like, “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses” and “Brevity is the soul of lingerie,” but Dorothy Parker’s life wasn’t all wit and snark. Behind those flip one liners there was a very complex woman who lead a full life far beyond the banter of the Algonquin Round Table.

Dorothy ParkerHow complex was she and how full was her life? It’s going to take two episodes, that’s how much. (It’s okay, we were a little surprised, too.)

It was a dark and stormy night (what? It was!) when Dorothy Rothschild was born in West End, New Jersey at her family’s summer house on August 22, 1893. Her father Henry had fallen in love and married the girl next door, Eliza, and the pair had three children before Dorothy came along. They lived fairly affluently in New York; life as a Rothschild (not those Rothschilds) was very comfortable. (more…)

Episode 54: Marie Antoinette Reboot, Part Two

Posted 8 July 2015 by
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In Part One we talked about Marie Antoinette’s childhood, the speedy preparations for marriage and her early years in France. In this episode, the conclusion of our revisit, we get to the rest of her story as she travels from well-liked to queen to the (dramatic pause) guillotine.

Near the end circa 1791Alexander_Kucharski,_La_Reine_Marie-Antoinette_(années_1790)


Husband, Louis XVI, while fumbly in the Create an Heir department and lacking a lot of things in common with her, was kind to Marie. During her, let’s call them “party years” he indulged her and gave her a little playhouse all her own so that she could escape the demands, traditions and all the backstabby, gossipy people of Versailles: Le Petite Trianon. It was a place Marie could let her hair down, grant admission to only those who she invited and frolic and dress like a fair country maiden (Disney World style– no need to actually take care of the animals, that’s what the servants are for).

Louis XVI. He gave her this...

Louis XVI. He gave her this…

Le Petite Trianon...Marie's playhouse

Le Petite Trianon, Marie’s playhouse…


…where she hung out with her friends including him. Axel Von Fersen (Dreamy, right?)


Episode 53: Marie Antoinette Reboot, Part One

Posted 11 June 2015 by
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**Giveaway details at bottom of post!**

Once upon a time there were two podcasters who began their women’s history show with an episode about Marie Antoinette. Four and a half years later they revisited her life simply because they felt there was more to say about this woman who has been long misquoted and misunderstood. They were able to add a great deal of content and context and have a much longer conversation -two parts!- about the life of the last Queen of France.

(The first episode was never heard again and we all lived happily ever after.)

Marie in her softened years, by Louise Elizabeth Vigee Le Brun

Marie in her softened years, by Louise Elizabeth Vigee Le Brun


Episode 52: Lydia Pinkham

Posted 10 April 2015 by
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Women who need to be remembered often have Lemon to Lemonade lives and Lydia Pinkham is no exception. The going got tough and she turned some herbs (and a wee bit of alcohol)  into not only an empire but a leaping advance in women’s health and education.

Lydia Pinkham NWHM


Lydia Estes was born in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1819 into a family led by gentleman farmer, William, his wife, Rebecca and many brothers and sisters. Papa was a wise real estate speculator and they were fairly well-off. But this wasn’t some quiet, subdued Quaker family, oh no! They split with the local Quaker Meeting over the subject of slavery, the Estes family siding with good friend, former slave and abolitionist Fredrick Douglass. They opened their home for many abolitionist gatherings where the children and women were not only seen but heard.

Lydia grew to be a politically active and educated teacher who attracted the eye of widow Isaac Pinkham. On paper Isaac looked an awful lot like her father as far as business sense goes, but it was all paper. 30 years, four children, several upward then downward home moves when the Panic of 1873 hit family finances hard.  Isaac was emotionally down for the count and the family was fiscally ruined. (more…)

A quick status update!

Posted 20 February 2015 by
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Hello everyone!
I’m sure you’ve been wondering where we’ve been…
The library, yes, and assorted bookstores, but not, unfortunately, at the big table that seats 14 at The House of Wood, recording anything.

For you see, Susan has lost her voice. She has a paralyzed vocal cord, in fact, so she DOES have a voice, but the nature of it would scare small children. (Sorry, Susan, you know it’s true. )

This hasn’t been a short term thing, she’s been suffering from this since before Christmas, and it looks to be late March before we can hope to hear the dulcet tones of her voice again.

She has become adept at both sign language and interpretive dance, neither of which translate well to an audio podcast!

SO we have a couple of friends who have volunteered to step in, and there might be a month or so of format changes, since I can hardly expect my new crew to nerd out as hard as Susan and I do, so watch this space, and I’ll have some moviecasts to you soon.

Thanks for the outpouring of support on the Facebook page, and on Twitter – for those of you who don’t know, Susan is the voice of our Twitter feed, so if you’d like to pass on some Get Wells, head over to At the historychix, with an x, and begin the banter. Her typing fingers are as fast as ever.

Thanks for your patience, and all of the messages that have headed our way, and we’ll be back with you, just as soon as we can.

Minicast: Mrs. Claus

Posted 23 December 2014 by
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Once upon a time there was a busy, yet highly compassionate and generous bachelor. He became known the world over, but lacked something in his life: a wife. Mrs. Claus often takes a back seat to her more famous husband, Santa, but it’s time her history was told.

Mrs Claus- subject of literature, film and art...but who was she? (Photo Courtesy Enesco)

Mrs Claus: subject of literature, film and art…but who was she? (Figurine Photo Courtesy Enesco)


Episode 51: Joan of Arc

Posted 20 November 2014 by
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Joan of Arc,  Jeannette,  Jean, The Maid,  La Pucelle, Hero,  Heretic, Visionary,  Lunatic…that’s a lot of names and titles for a teenage girl who is remembered for events from only a short period of her  life. For most of it she was an ordinary girl in an ordinary small town, until she allowed extraordinary visions and voices to lead her into history.

Joan of Arc, Sir John Everett Millais

Joan of Arc, Sir John Everett Millais

During the podcast we needed to place Joan into history in a bit more detail than normal. That means a little primer on the Hundred Years’ War- a series of battles and skirmishes between England and France over land for about 116 years.  Are there podcasts that spend a great deal of time on this important game of Mine! No, Mine!- yes. Is this one of them? No, we just called a war a “game” for goodness sakes, but you will get a very succinct overview that will explain where and why Joan of Arc’s life played out like it did.

Henry V...well, Tom  Hiddleston as Henry V- close enough to the real thing, right?

Henry V…well, Tom Hiddleston as Henry V- close enough to the real thing, right?