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Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens (2003)

by Jane Dunn

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,2052116,646 (3.79)30
The first dual biography of two of the world's most remarkable women--Elizabeth I of England and Mary Queen of Scots--by one of Britain's "best biographers" (The Sunday times). In a rich and riveting narrative, Jane Dunn reveals the extraordinary rivalry between the regal cousins. It is the story of two queens ruling on one island, each with a claim to the throne of England, each embodying dramatically opposing qualities of character, ideals of womanliness (and views of sexuality) and divinely ordained kingship. As regnant queens in an overwhelmingly masculine world, they were deplored for their femaleness, compared unfavorably with each other and courted by the same men. By placing their dynamic and ever-changing relationship at the center of the book, Dunn illuminates their differences. Elizabeth, inheriting a weak, divided country coveted by all the Catholic monarchs of Europe, is revolutionary in her insistence on ruling alone and inspired in her use of celibacy as a political tool--yet also possessed of a deeply feeling nature. Mary is not the romantic victim of history but a courageous adventurer with a reckless heart and a magnetic influence over men and women alike. Vengeful against her enemies and the more ruthless of the two queens, she is untroubled by plotting Elizabeth's murder. Elizabeth, however, is driven to anguish at finally having to sanction Mary's death for treason.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
As a long-time fan of Elizabeth I, I read this book with great interest. It tackles the character of Elizabeth and Mary in the context of their relationship which was physically remote - contrary to Hollywood and TV, they never actually met. The author explains that this led to them magnifying the threat posed by the other on the basis of the reports of third parties, who often had axes to grind.

The book gave further insight into Elizabeth's tricky, vacillating character, the reasons behind it and the radical nature of her decision not to marry at a time when a queen was seen as having the perceived weaknesses of women in general and needing the steadying presence of a husband to whom her council would then defer. Also it showed how Mary's fatal flaws were partly down to her upbringing in a pampered luxurious French court where she was kept away from any responsibility and never developed feelings of loyalty for her remote Scottish kingdom. She totally lacked the serious commitment which Elizabeth had to her role as ruler and her responsibility to her people. She also seems to have had possible medical problems, which might have included bipolar disorder: whatever the explanation, she was prone to emotional collapses but also to a kind of adrenalin junkie high when danger and excitement offered itself. This fatally led her into plotting against Elizabeth's life when she was deprived of more physical types of risk taking.

The only reason I am withholding the full 5 star rating for this book is that in places there were irritating typing mistakes, and also the author had a tendency to restate the same facts and sometimes to dart around in the timeline - I was then brought out of the narrative with an "Oh, this is before the events I just read about" reaction, having to then mentally shuffle the events into order. But otherwise an enjoyable and informative 4 star read. ( )
  kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
An great parallel biography of Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots about their relationship and the background of their deeds. Enjoyable read even though the writer looks a bit biased towards Elizabeth. ( )
  TheCrow2 | Jan 7, 2023 |
Thorough, clear and readable. ( )
  kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
Not nearly finished but, man, what a great book, and the narrator is awesome. Read with enough pause between sentences that you can really take in and think about what was just said... excellent!!! Highly recommend, incredibly interesting story.

Now that I've finished... just confirming that this is an excellent book (audiobook). Easy to fully get into the storylines but, I will admit, the storylines get awfully convoluted, especially when a couple of women are named "Mary" and, well, forget the men, every other man is Henry or Richard etc. etc... There are some exceptions which help clarify to which story the author is referring but towards the middle and end it is sometimes confusing to determine whch person is in the story being currently told ( )
  marshapetry | Oct 9, 2016 |
From the book's Preface: "Of all the monarchs of these islands, it is Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scotts who most stir the imagination." While I might argue there are others who've stirred just as much imagination, there is no denying the impact of these two women on each other's lives. This book compares the lives of both, detailing the impact of their formative years on their later lives. Mary, a pampered Queen from childhood who was given to expect everything her way and later, something of a femme fatale versus Elizabeth, once a Princess, declared illegitimate, and locked in the Tower in fear of her life under threat of her sister, Mary I. It was a fascinating account, in my opinion, and I especially enjoyed the way Dunn compared each phase of their lives, using the many letters that remain to this day as her sources. ( )
  Oodles | Feb 16, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jane Dunnprimary authorall editionscalculated
Blair, IslaReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peters, DonadaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rowland, RuthCover Letteringsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilson, MeganCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In memory of a much loved father DAVID ROLF THESEN 1923-2002 "out of the strong came forth sweetness"
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These were dangerous times.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The first dual biography of two of the world's most remarkable women--Elizabeth I of England and Mary Queen of Scots--by one of Britain's "best biographers" (The Sunday times). In a rich and riveting narrative, Jane Dunn reveals the extraordinary rivalry between the regal cousins. It is the story of two queens ruling on one island, each with a claim to the throne of England, each embodying dramatically opposing qualities of character, ideals of womanliness (and views of sexuality) and divinely ordained kingship. As regnant queens in an overwhelmingly masculine world, they were deplored for their femaleness, compared unfavorably with each other and courted by the same men. By placing their dynamic and ever-changing relationship at the center of the book, Dunn illuminates their differences. Elizabeth, inheriting a weak, divided country coveted by all the Catholic monarchs of Europe, is revolutionary in her insistence on ruling alone and inspired in her use of celibacy as a political tool--yet also possessed of a deeply feeling nature. Mary is not the romantic victim of history but a courageous adventurer with a reckless heart and a magnetic influence over men and women alike. Vengeful against her enemies and the more ruthless of the two queens, she is untroubled by plotting Elizabeth's murder. Elizabeth, however, is driven to anguish at finally having to sanction Mary's death for treason.

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