Friday, September 17, 2021
With the help of a lady at court and the connivance of a midwife, Mary feigns illness, smuggles a note to supporters beyond the Holyrood grounds (“Bring an army”) and escapes on horseback, head high, spirit soaring. History-readers will know she cannot escape a future of exile, imprisonment and beheading. The closest thing “Rizzio” offers by way of revenge for its regal heroine, and for her Italian secretary, is the hanging of Yair, a gruesome event described in the same cinema-verité style as the rest of the story’s violence. The scene is more likely to induce PTSD than closure.
Ms. Mina, in her most recent books, has stretched her talent and pushed the genre envelope in stimulating ways. In “Rizzio” she has created a plus-sized novella with the passion of an opera, a tour de force of imaginative reconstruction. All that’s missing is a tagline from Scottish poet Robert Burns, writing some 200 years after the events at Holyrood Palace:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Alright, I'm sold. Oft I've wondered what Mary Queen O' Scotts story was.