Life of Mary, Queen of Scots – published 1818

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Over the years, I have collected a library of about 500 books – maybe more.  There are some very interesting volumes amongst them including one printed 202 years ago about the life and death of Mary, Queen of Scots.

It is a wonderful book; the covers are worn and the pages stiff and crinkly with time, but for all that, physically the two volumes are in excellent condition.  Opening the book, you come to a drawing of the tragic queen and next to the frontspiece is a statement:


it started me thinking.  Is this true?  Certainly, over time, facts and revelations come to light that are often not available contemporaneously.  But, equally, they can be – and we know that they are – suppressed to protect those in power.

I wonder what historians a hundred years from now will disclose about the presidency of Donald Trump (even ten years from now, with books already coming out laying bare the utter dysfunction in the man and the White House)? What about Prince Andrew and his tarnished friends?

History shows us, if nothing else, that ‘truth’ is a scarce commodity in contemporaneous reporting.  In Mary, Queen of Scots’ case, she was put to death because of forged papers and a political imperative to remove a catholic threat to a protestant establishment.  None of this was apparent to the general populace of the time.  Likewise, I am sure history will savagely condemn what is happening in Hong Kong while the state-controlled media seeks to paint legitimate protest as terrorism to its citizens. 

It all comes down to defining the word, ‘time”.  If we are talking about hundreds of years I would be inclined to agree with the sentiment but the shorter the period, the more likely truth will not out.  In days past, when most reputable journalists lived by a code of impartiality and adherence to a code of truth-telling, news items were usually that – news, not propaganda. These days, in this age of internet-fuelled news and outright distortion by certain TV channels whether by commission or omission, where the veracity of the item cannot be validated in real time, my instinct is to distrust anything I read or see at first glance without testing its provenance.

But if ‘Time’ is the mother of Truth, ‘Discovery’ must be the father.  If truth will out, someone must discover that truth.  And this is why it’s imperative that history books are written and re-written.  History may appear Red and Green in one age but become Blue and Yellow in another as truth is discovered and attitudes and morals evolve.

I’ll keep on digging through historical facts and use them to paint a backdrop in my books.  Hopefully, even though my brushstrokes will make very little difference I’m sure, each book can help build a picture that, in time, will support Time’s virtuous daughter.

The post Truth & Time first appeared on David Cairns of Finavon.

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