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The Saltire Society History Book of the Year Award

09/17/2001 10:48:21

Marcus Merriman's book The Rough Wooings Mary Queen of Scots 1542-1551 has been awarded The Saltire Society History Book of the Year Award for the year 2000. Scotland's premier such honour. The Saltire Society was founded in 1936 to preserve, enhance and disseminate all that was best in Scottish society and culture. It is the country's principal cultural organisation. It gives awards over a wide range of activities from poetry to first novels to good housing and civic engineering design.

The history book award was founded in 1965 in the memory of Agnes Muir Mackenzie, CBE, who died in 1955 but not before a prodigious publishing career was accomplished with thirty-nine volumes starting in 1913. She began with Shakespearean and English renaissance Drama studies but then moved much more firmly into Scottish history (Robert the Bruce and Queen Mary). The award in her name is highly prestigious, the selection panel being composed solely of full professors of Scottish history. Previous winners include Jenny Wormald and Geoffrey Barrow.

Marcus' book, over 300 pages long and lavishly illustrated, studies the various attempts in the 1540s by England and then France to capture the hand Mary Queen of Scots in marriage. English efforts (1544-46, 1547-1550) forced the Scots to turn to Henry II of France who (1548-1550) successfully expelled the entrenched English armies in the country. By 1551 Scotland also came to peace with the emperor Charles V and a major border boundary line was agreed.

The topic has been with Marcus for many a year, his first ward being a Royal Historical Society Gold Medal in 1965. He did not even know that it had been nominated so the news came a most pleasant bolt from the blue. Asked how was the book different for having taken so long, he ruminated that the extra years gave him not so much more maturity, but a certain courage. "Fifteen years ago, I never would have had the audacity to upturn received opinions on say the earl of Arran, or to change the title from Wooing to Wooings. And I certainly would never have had ended the book with a line praising Mary Queen of Scots accomplishments on being born by, 'Not bad for a babe'."