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Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  9,222 Ratings  ·  214 Reviews
The political and religious conflicts between Queen Elizabeth I and the doomed Mary, Queen of Scots, have for centuries captured our imagination and inspired memorable dramas played out on stage, screen, and in opera. But few books have brought to life more vividly than Jane Dunn’s Elizabeth and Mary the exquisite texture of two women’s rivalry, spurred on by the ambit ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published January 25th 2005 by Vintage (first published 2003)
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Sep 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Michaela Wood
May 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 23, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  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
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
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
Rebecca Hill
Jul 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-home-library
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
Nov 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
May 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Roman Clodia
I enjoyed reading this book but am uneasy about it being pitched as historical biography since so much of it is conjecture on the side of Dunn. The very qualities that make it so readable are also the qualities that make it vulnerable as 'history': the idea of getting inside the heads of these characters and understanding their thoughts, feeling and emotions is, for me, absolutely fine in a novel but dubious in something purporting to be factual when there is no, or very little, evidence. While ...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
Melissa Dennis
Apr 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book the first time through. However, now having read it for a second time, not so much. Ms. Dunn spends a lot of time bad mouthing Henry VIII and telling us what a tyrant he was. But for the most part, his actions didn't raise too many comments in his day and age. And I don't think that she ever considered the source material. Chapuys (where most scholars get a lot of their information) had a reason to hate Henry. His treatment of Kathryn of Aragon during "The King's Great Matter ...more
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 13, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Kimberly Ann
Jan 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a well written (sometimes boring) inclusive book about Elizabeth I and the rivalry for the English Crown against her delusional, conniving, presumptuous, arrogant, murderous, and slutty cousin Mary of Scots. There are many references & notes referring back to historical documents, which makes this piece on non-fiction more authentic.

Mary got was coming to her...Elizabeth did her best to keep Mary alive, but Mary just wouldn't give up on trying to have Elizabeth murdered!
Dec 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Diana Lynn
Nov 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Fascinating bio of these two queens.
Apr 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-it, nf
Dunn is not as exciting as Weir, but it's an interesting perspective.
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
I will be on the lookout for more books by Jane Dunn. This history was very interesting and I enjoyed her take on the relationship between the two queens. I read a lot in this genre and it can get dry but this was not at all.
Aug 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
There's not much I can saw about why this book is good because it is good all over. The scholarship is excellent, the writing is very well done and, of course, the subject is undeniably fascinating.

As I read, I couldn't help but think that maybe Elizabeth and Mary were the 16th century Sense and Sensibility. Elizabeth was always thinking ahead about what she needed to do to prove that as a woman she could rule as well as a man, about what would put her in a bad light, about how much she needed t
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
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
I took me several months to finish this book because it is so boring. I kept putting it down, coming back weeks later, then rereading entire sections because I couldn't remember where I left off. I am actually interested in the subject matter, so... I will try again perhaps with a different author another time.
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
Nov 23, 2015 rated it did not like it
Jsem v hodnocení trochu krutá, přestože knížka se čte celkem dobře. Jenže když ji člověk zavře, zjistí, že vlastně nezískal žádnou novou informaci. Autorka není historik a je to vidět. Zcela opomíjí politický vývoj a jeho dopady, neumí zasadit změny v chování královen do širšího kontextu, který často vycházel právě ze změn v zahraničí. Hodně cituje prameny, což se mi líbilo, ale zase - neumí to, co tam čte, správně vyložit. Bezvýhradně věří úplně všemu, proto tolik dá na to, co si panovnice píší ...more
Greg Deane
Sep 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots are two of the most fascinating characters in history. Both ruled as Queen Regnants in their own right, in an age in which men were seen as the more powerful sex, and women were seen as week. What is also interesting is that they ruled over neighbouring Kingdoms- Mary was Queen of Scotland, Elizabeth Queen of England. They never met, and yet their lives were interwoven with each other, ones actions affected the other, and they were constantly compared, both d ...more
Sarah -
Dec 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
More here at my blog --->

Well, well, well, yet another book slanted completely toward Elizabeth. I had such high hopes for this one, but was sorely disappointed. And not just because of the dichotomy of how the author chose to (mis)represent her subjects.

First, I must be clear that Mary is certainly a flawed heroine. She made one poor decision after another upon returning to Scotland and pursuing the Darnley match. But she can hardly be faulted for the
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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
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“The horror of her incarceration in the Tower was a defining event Elizabeth could never forget. It made a passionate heart more circumspect, a complex nature more contradictory and a fine intelligence sharp as a blade.” 0 likes
“Sadly, Mary, from this point on, was not only bound to fail to impress anyone as to her ability as a monarch, she failed so spectacularly that she only reinforced every sixteenth-century stereotype of women as weak-willed, intellectually challenged and emotionally corrupt. Even in the confused aftermath of Darnley’s death she seemed to be increasingly in Bothwell’s thrall. He was a strong man with a sense of mission when she was feeling at her most bereft and in need of guidance,” 0 likes
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