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Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens
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Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  6,498 ratings  ·  168 reviews
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,
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published January 6th 2004 by Knopf (first published 2003)
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Powerful and ambitious cousin queens at a time when kings ruled Europe, I found this dual biography of Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots deeply and doubly interesting. By depicting both personal histories the context of each queen’s life is contrasted and enriched, and Jane Dunn’s thoughtful, vivid writing captures the ethos of their world, the distinctness of their temperaments, personalities and skills, and the subtleties in their conflicted relationship.

Charming, headstrong, and persuasiv
This book was excellent. I read one review where a reader complained that Dunn repeats herself too often, reiterating points as if you aren't going retain them otherwise. That's one reason I loved this book! The reinforcement kept the important stuff fresh in my memory and left me feeling, by the end, I could probably given an impromptu lecture on characters of Mary and Elizabeth.

As for the impressions I personally came away with: Mary was an unfortunate product of the French court that taught
Michaela Wood
May 17, 2008 Michaela Wood rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs
I read a historicial fiction on this relationship after reading this work (I will not mention the fiction) and I have to say, people tend to romanticize Mary (she is highly "romanticiz-able"). I find this book gives detailed, scholarly information about the probability of why each woman made the decisions she did, while always including alternative theory, including the basis for it's rejection. I've read a few of these books, and I can say this one is the best. Lot's of valuable information and ...more
Dec 23, 2007 Katy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: tudor-philes
Shelves: history
While the subject matter is not new or groundbreaking (the amount of well-written, important biographies on both monarchs could fill a bookshelf) it is the format of Dunn's book which sets it apart and makes it an excellent addition to any Tudor library. Dunn weaves the stories of both queens, who never met face to face. The result is a fascinating portrait of two very different women who held so much power in their lily-white hands.

"In my end is my beginning." Mary, Queen of Scots
Rebecca Hill
I read this book in three days! It was hard to put down once I got started and became hooked. Jane Dunn goes beneath the initial layers of these women to reveal just what made these girls tick, what they were really made of and what kept them going. Both were deeply religious, and one grew up with every benefit befitting her station, while Elizabeth was the underdog at first. Mary was used to using her charm to get what she wanted and when her short reign as Queen of France was over, she was rea ...more
BJ Rose
I thoroughly enjoyed this well-researched study of two queens of the same generation, ruling in neighboring monarchies on the same island - a rare occurrence in the world of the 16th century that held that the natural order of things required a male ruler. But instead of making them kindred spirits and supportive of each other, this rarity instead made them life-long rivals, and eventually led to the imprisonment and execution of one of them.

Mary Stuart was queen from birth, and thus was surroun
This biography / history was perhaps a little dry, but if you're interested in this era of British history, you'll find it fascinating. Elizabeth I of England and Mary Queen of Scots were cousins and contemporaries, and as female rulers in the 16th century, historical anomalies. The book is not intended to be a dual biography, but rather a comparative analysis of the reign of the two queens and the times they lived in. But we learn much about both women. Elizabeth is portrayed as an intellectual ...more
Fascinating biography on the parallel lives of two queens whose lives were intricately intertwined yet they never once met face to face. Fascinating point of view in terms of two powerful women who were opposites in many ways yet both very strong in their own right. Definitely recommend for Tudor history buffs.
Kristel Boe
Wow. I wish this book was 400 pages longer, I didn't want to stop reading! All of the reality show dramas of present day have NOTHING on the sensational lives of both Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary. A fascinating topic, well written by Jane Dunn.
A wonderful dual biography of two intriguing women and monarchs. I have always been fascinated by both these charismatic and very different figures in history, their lives intertwined by their adjoining kingdoms, blood (they were cousins), and their common role as female monarchs. I have never thought much of Mary of Scots who seemed to let events, people, and her emotions run her but through this biography I can sympathise. She was raised to be a reigning Queen but a Queen who would be secondar ...more
Fascinating book. Much information on the two queens. I knew a lot about Elizabeth so a lot was familiar, but I knew a lot less about Mary. It was very interesting to see how Elizabeth tries so hard to do good for Mary With little reward. Mary gives her such a hard time and then the others would have been happy for Mary to die later give Elizabeth such trouble when she is pushed beyond reason with Mary. I thought the amount of documenting of that time period to be amazing and interesting how muc ...more
There has been plenty (perhaps too much? Nah.) written on both Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots. Thankfully, Dunn's book stands out. In fact, it should make the short list for the fact that she presents the Queens side by side, allowing to see what Mary is doing while Elizabeth is doing this. Such a portrayal highlights but also gives the reasons for the differences in the two Queens. In some ways, why the book is more Elizabeth friendly, Dunn does present Mary somewhat sympathetically. Dunn ...more
This is a great biography of two great women of British history, but it is not a truly fair biography. It has an Elizabethan slant. The author clearly leans in the favour of Elizabeth in her telling of the story. She can be rather derogatory of Mary sometimes and while she does present the facts, she mostly puts a negative spin on the things that Mary does that Elizabeth and England did not agree with. This again is a nice biography that compares the two queens side by side, but it does clearly ...more
Jeni Enjaian
I do not understand how this book has such a high rating. It simply is not that good. In fact, one of the few positive things I have to say about it is that the narrator was fantastic, my favorite female narrator, Donada Peters.
The other (slightly) positive thing I have to say about the book is that Ms. Dunn's premise set out in the introduction is admirable. She claims that this will be a dual biography focused on the events that shaped each woman's characters and "interactions" in a roughly c
Brittany Nelson
I originally picked up this book because I found the Elizabeth and Mary relationship interesting. I thought it would be interesting to compare their reigns in a fair way and play on the sisterhood of women in power. However, this book is Elizabeth hero worship at it's worst. Mary, Queen of Scots is vilified for her supposed behavior. Her political skill is totally disregarded and she is only seen as impulsive, flight, and passionate. While I am a Maryian and have no real interest in Elizabeth, I ...more
I've read one other book about Mary and that was more focused on the time period after her return to Scotland. I didn't have a very favorable impression of Mary after reading that book, but this book has changed my impression of the martyr Queen. My opinions of her as a Queen have not changed; she was a poor leader, having none of Elizabeth's capacity for statecraft. Mary was a product of her upbringing; never expected to reign as a regnant Queen, she was married off, her husband expected to rul ...more
I thought Dunn presented excellent character sketches of these two queens -- Elizabeth I of England and Mary, Queen of Scots. She persuasively and very effectively showed the virtues and vices of each woman, Elizabeth's imperious indecisiveness along with her incredible ability to connect emotionally and intimately with her people, Mary's legendary charm, courage, and physical capacities along with her impulsive passion and manic moodswings that led to disasterous decision-making. Dunn casts Eli ...more
I hate to admit, but I'll never get tired of reading about Elizabeth or Mary. I've read multiple authors and every time the story is fresh and compelling.
Dunn is not as exciting as Weir, but it's an interesting perspective.
Diana Lynn
Fascinating bio of these two queens.
Apr 28, 2010 Heather rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anlophiles, Tudor history lovers, history buffs
Shelves: history, non-fiction
A very interesting double biography that describes Queen Elizabeth I of England and Mary Queen of Scots in the context of their decades-long rivalry with each other. It was very informative, and I enjoyed it, though I might have given it more stars if it weren't for a few persistent annoyances:

The organization of the book is unbalanced. The beginning of the book goes on and on for pages at a time about Elizabeth, then, almost as an aside, will throw in a couple of paragraphs about Mary. Later in
Thorough, carefully parsed look at the relationship between these two queens. Ms. Dunn is very good at the comparative analysis. She makes both queens more vibrant and real by pointing out their differences in relief to each other.

Elizabeth & Mary's lives were inseparably intertwined from birth despite the fact that they never actually met face to face. Until reading this book, I had no idea how strong Mary’s claim to the English throne really was – it all hung on the legitimacy (or lack the
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Nov 28, 2012 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Ultimate Reading List - Biography
The title refers to two 16th century monarchs, cousins and contemporaries whose lives would profoundly affect each other. Elizabeth I, Queen of England, and Mary, Queen of Scots. Both provoked passionate partisans from their own day to ours; Elizabeth usually named as among the greatest monarchs ever to rule over Great Britain (including by Dunn), and Mary as a romantic figure and purported martyr to her Catholic faith. From what I read of the book, I’d say Dunn is definitely on Elizabeth’s side ...more
One might think after 19hr and 34 min of listening to all 16 CDs one would find out some new facts on the two cousins who never actually met, but alas I did not. Seriously one could learn everything in this book in a much more entertaining fashion by listening to Philippa Gregory's various Tudor series of books. Dunn's book is chock full of facts but boring if you already know it. Reads more like a comparative history book and lacks the drama and intrigue inheritenly built-in to this story.
First sentence: "These were dangerous times."

Elizabeth I of England and Mary, Queen of Scots were two very different historical figures who found themselves in very similar positions in the latter half of the 16th century, that of regnant queens. History remembers Elizabeth as Gloriana, the virgin queen who led her country through the Golden Age for over 40 years. Mary is remembered as a queen ruled by passions run out of her own country and dying a brutal death as an exile in her cousin's king
Nancy O'Toole
Throughout their lifetimes, Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I never met. Still, each Queen had a large impact on the other. Elizabeth, daughter of the executed Anne Boeyln, was always rumored not to be Henry VIII's true daughter, but a bastard. Her cousin Mary offered a more legitimate choice for Queen, making her a constant threat. Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens examines in detail the relationship between these two women, and the ways in which their lives connected and dive ...more
Greg Deane
Ford Madox Ford’s trilogy about the doomed Katharine Howard, fifth queen of Henry VIII, is a fine novel deserving of more attention. Kat Howard comes into the novel much like Mary comes to Bethlehem, on a donkey, humbly dressed, guided by the temperamental Thomas Culpepper. As Joseph played second fiddle to God, Culpepper will have to play second fiddle to King Henry. A timely replacement for the politically desirable but physically repellent Anne of Cleves, Katherine is intelligent, beautiful, ...more
I really enjoyed this book. While not a definitive history on either woman it gave a great overview of both of their lives as well as the interesting relationship between the two. More than that though, I think where it really suceeded was in strongly drawing a portrait of both of their personalities and the strength of their character. I enjoyed the information on Mary especially, as I feel she's often over-romanticized in fiction and film to the point where she has no personality whatsoever in ...more
Feb 24, 2013 Courtney rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Popular History, Elizabeth I, Tudors, Mary Queen of Scots
Shelves: history
Let me preface this by saying I've done some research into the life and reign of Elizabeth I, but had very little knowledge of Mary, Queen of Scots and even less of the relationship between the two women.

That said, from this book I got all the information I could want and more about Elizabeth, Mary, and their unique bond. Like Mary herself, the book was interesting but had some fatal flaws. Probably the biggest problem is the author's habit of jumping back and forth in time, making the narrative
Amanda Fucello
I usually want to read historical fiction of this period and I burn out quickly at biographies and letters etc of the Tudors, as I have read so many novels of this period I know many of the milestones of each figures lives already, so when I'm not wrapped up in a narrative, I'm just waiting to finish a book...which causes me to put it down and not return to it.

This one however, I have only started a few days ago, and I am definitely not getting that feeling; the way that Jane Dunn is relating th
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Jane Dunn is a leading biographer, the author of Moon in Eclipse: A Life of Mary Shelley, A Very Close Conspiracy: Vanessa Bell and Virginia Wolf, and Antonia White: A Life. Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens was published in the spring of 2003 and spent seven weeks in the top ten of the Sunday Times bestseller list. A fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Dunn lives near Bath with h ...more
More about Jane Dunn...
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