Christie's Reviews > Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens

Elizabeth and Mary by Jane Dunn
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's review
Nov 24, 12

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bookshelves: 16th-century, audiobooks, england, history, kick-ass-heroines, royalty, scotland
Read from October 07 to November 08, 2012

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 kingdom. These two queens never met but their stories are inextricably conjoined. In this book, Jane Dunn combines the stories of the two queens and shows how they affected each others' lives and reigns.

I have read a lot about Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots so much of the information presented in this books was not news to me. This is however the first book I have read that presents the lives of both queens concurrently, showing what they were both doing during the different years of their reigns. I found it interesting though Elizabeth is remembered as a great leader and Mary as a cautionary tale it did not start out that way. In the beginning, Mary was regarded as a model queen. She did her duty by marrying and giving birth to a son to carry on her legacy (the son destined to unite both kingdoms after the deaths of Mary and Elizabeth). Elizabeth was an unnatural ruler by not marrying and producing heirs, she was also held to be a Protestant bastard usurper of the English throne from the rightful heir, Mary. The juxtaposition of the two queens in this book really shows not only their lives but the religious and political upheavals of the time in a new light. This book would be a great introduction to the two queens.

The only thing I did not like about this book is that it was very repetitive at times, especially near the end but I have found this to be true of any biography of Mary, Queen of Scots. I guess there is just not much new information to be given about a woman who spent 20-odd years in captivity. Like I said before though this is a great introduction to the two queens and the time period. I would recommend it for someone who doesn't know much about them.

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