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, each embodying dramatically opposing qualities of character, ideals of womanliness (and views of sexuality), and divinely ordained kingship.
As regnant queens in an overwhelmingly masculine world, they were deplored for their femaleness, compared unfavorably with each other, and courted by the same men. By placing their dynamic and ever-changing relationship at the center of the book, Dunn illuminates their differences. Elizabeth, inheriting a weak, divided country coveted by all the Catholic monarchs of Europe, is revolutionary in her insistence on ruling alone and inspired in her use of celibacy as a political tool, yet also possessed of a deeply feeling nature. Mary is not the romantic victim of history but a courageous adventurer with a reckless heart and a magnetic influence over men and women alike. Vengeful against her enemies and the more ruthless of the two queens, she is untroubled by plotting Elizabeth's murder. Elizabeth, however, is driven to anguish at finally having to sanction Mary's death for treason. Working almost exclusively from contemporary letters and writings, Dunn explores their symbiotic, though never face-to-face, relationship and the power struggle that raged between them.
A story of sex, power, and politics, of a rivalry unparalleled in the pages of English history, of two charismatic women, told in a masterful double biography.
©2004 Jane Dunn; (P)2004 Random House, Inc., Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.
"Her description of the political and cultural milieus of Britain is striking and credible....Dunn's vision of a 'dangerous age' is compelling." (Booklist)
"It nicely captures the intertwined lives of these two women." (Publishers Weekly)
What a pity that publishing houses have abolished editors, those anonymous people with a red pen who interceded on behalf of the reader's. If an editor had read this book, one third of it should have been deleted. Every second chapter focused on why Elizabeth didn't want to marry.
It almost became hilarious when the narrator switches between three "voices." A fairly decent Queens English, a Scotish brogue and "Yesterday I arrived here from Bulgaria." This third "continental" dialect is then used for ambassadors and suitors from Spain, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden and the Vatican. Even the desperate "Mary" suddenly alternates between Scotish and Bulgarian. Money and time wasted.
I opted for the abridged version of this book because several reviewers said the unabridged version was too long and repetitive. I found the abridged version just right. Even though I've read several books on Tudor history, this book revealed some new insights about the two queens.
But... a book like this is probably better in printed form. Since the writer is comparing and contrasting their relationship, she often jumps quickly from one queen to another. I found that if I wasn't totally alert, I'd miss the switch and have to rewind. So I don't recommend listening to this while driving or distracted.
Still, it's a fascinating book that I can highly recommend if you are interested in Elizabethan or Tudor Era history.
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