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Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  10,778 ratings  ·  256 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 the exquisite texture of two women's rivalry, spurred on by the ambitions and machinations of the forceful ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published December 1st 2004 by Vintage (first published 2003)
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Average rating 4.05  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,778 ratings  ·  256 reviews

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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
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
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
i tried so hard to like this book but i just could not get into the book . i did not like the writing style of this writer . she was all over the place with the storyline about the 2 queens in the book . i have not read any other of the books she has written . and i didnt think that i will that is why i give this book 2 stars . i hated giving this book 2 stars but i had no choice in the matter . so i will be reading decked by carol higgins clark . ` ...more
Robin Tobin (On the back porch reading)
Amazing, well presented biographies. I applaud the massive research this author pulled from... What an undertaking.
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
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
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
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.
Sonia Gomes
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Both queens were descendants of Henry VII and as such rivals for the English throne. They were kinswomen, but could not have been more different.
Mary the Queen of Scots, queen at birth, the much protected daughter of Mary de Guise, the pawn of her Guise uncles, the pampered and cosseted future Dauphine of Henry II, and playmate to the Dauphin.
Elizabeth should have been the direct heir of Henry VIII, but she never knew if she was the heir or bastard, it all depended on whether her father Henry
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
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 ...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 ...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
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.
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely amazing book! As a history buff, I thoroughly enjoyed pretty much everything about this detailed and analytical account of the dramatic relationship between these two queens. So much thought and research went into this and it truly shows.
May 13, 2018 rated it liked it
A little slow with ALOT of repetition. The fact that Elizabeth would not marry was talked about 100 times, I get it!
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Where do I start with this book? Even though when I first bought this book, the size of the book first made me uneasy thinking that it was going to be a long book and I'd probably give up within the first few pages........How wrong was I?

This book is about the infamous relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. I have read books about both of these glorious queens, but this is the best book I have read in ages! Honestly, once I started reading this book, I couldn't put it
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 ...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 ...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 ...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
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!
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a very readable historical account of these two queens. As a fan of Tudor history, I thought I already knew a lot about them -- but Jane Dunn dug deeply into their relationships to each other, and those who surrounded them throughout their lives. It was really a great piece of non-fiction.
Diana Lynn
Nov 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Fascinating bio of these two queens.
Jan 10, 2009 rated it liked it
This is a good sober and solid rendition of two parallel lives.
C.K. Tomczyk
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Really interesting compare and contrast book.
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.
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.
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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 ...more
“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
“There is a strong idea in the world that a woman cannot live unless she is married, or at all events that if she refrains from marriage she does so for some bad reason.” 0 likes
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