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Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens
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Group Reads > April 2018 - Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins Rivals Queens, by Jane Dunn

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Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 1911 comments Jane Dunn's Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens is our Group Read for April 2018.

This dual biography of Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, was first published in 2003, and should be available in libraries and bookstores, and in most formats. (And it's apparently also been translated into Portuguese and Czech.)


Alyson Stone (alysonserenastone) | 36 comments Here's my review.

Book: Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens
Author: Jane Dunn
Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars

So, I actually read this book a while back and I am just getting around to writing the review. I really cannot remember the last time I wrote a review for a five star book. It’s been awhile, it feels like.

Elizabeth and Mary’s rival is one of the most interesting events in history for me. I really didn’t get into Mary, Queen of Scots until Reign...Yeah, I know that probably wasn’t the best way to become really interested in her life. I just love the dynamic nature of this historical event and I am always looking for books on these two. Now, I was a bit disappointed that this book did seem to focus more on Elizabeth than Mary, but I am willing to overlook that, because I do think that this is a well written book. I know a lot of people will say otherwise, but I most certainly do think that this is one of the better written history books out there.

What I liked was Jane really didn’t romanticize Mary, which a lot of people do seem to do. Jane presents Mary in a very realistic picture. She was a product of the French court and used to having everything handed to her. (Is that the right way to put it?) She was taught, by the French, that it was her right to rule and that was how things were going to work. Between this and her depression, we see how Mary is set up to make some poor decisions, which seal her fate. She lives a life of self-indulgence, which also leads to her downfall. Now, I do actually feel bad for Mary. Sure, she made a lot of poor decisions, but how can you not really feel bad for her?

Elizabeth...Oh, Elizabeth was clearly not Mary. Anyone who knows about Elizabeth knows that she was not at all like her cousin. She was careful and really thought about her actions. She gave up a lot for England, even love. She, I think, really did care for Mary, who was said to haunt her for the rest of her days. She had to rule in a man’s world, in a position that very few women held. I think that this was really what drew her to Mary. After all, they were both queens in their own right.

I could go on and on about these two, but I think most of us already know the story. I will say that if Elizabeth had agreed to meet Mary, history may have been very different. So what stopped her from getting close to Mary? Elizabeth would not meet Mary, wanted to have a say in who Mary married, and would not give her asylum in England. What ended Mary’s reign in Scotland? She did not have the support of the nobles, she was Catholic, and made unpopular choices in her husbands. I know there is more to than that, but I really do think that this is what sealed her fate.

However, Mary’s son, James, did end up as King of England and Scotland. So, you tell me, who got the last laugh?

Overall, a well written and well put together book. It was easy to read and well researched. There really isn’t anything new in this book, but I think most people will find it to be a rather enjoyable read.


Michell Karnes (royalreader) | 229 comments I think the psyche of these two women is a fascinating discussion. First these two women had very different upbringings. While Mary was far from her mother, she had security of family and position. Elizabeth did not have the same sense of security either with family or position. Given that insecurity Elizabeth was much more calculated in her decisions. That same insecurity fed her apprehension in meeting Mary, I believe. Mary was considered beautiful, she had been married, she was the mother of her heir and of course many felt her to be the true Queen of England.
Mary I think in other ways was calculated in her belief and desire to be Elizabeth's heir. Mary's ill fated choices in her last two husbands were part of her downfall. Elizabeth on the other hand clearly did not want to share her throne with a man or cause dissention endangering England's welfare. Elizabeth's wait for the throne was not without its stress therefore she was not willing to risk losing her complete authority. Mary unlike Elizabeth did not have the same support of her nobles as Elizabeth as you said and that is a good question to ask why was that?

And yes James may have really had the last laugh. To be the successor to the throne of England as his mother always wanted and yet he was not upset to see Elizabeth execute his mother. To be the successor to the throne of the woman who fought against those who felt Mary was the rightful Queen of England. Quite a twist of fate.


Alyson Stone (alysonserenastone) | 36 comments These two queens really are interesting. Both of them ruled in their own right and name in a time when women did not really rule.


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