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Publisher's Summary

This is the first dual biography of two of the world's most remarkable women, Elizabeth I of England and Mary Queen of Scots, by one of Britain's "best biographers" ( The Sunday Times).

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.

Critic Reviews

"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 members say

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  • Overall

Fantastic book

A book comparing Elizabeth&Mary instead of only one queen in the spotlight! Amazing history, WELL written and perfectly read! Two thumbs up!

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Cassi
  • Cleveland, TN, USA
  • 02-04-05

Almost put my head on the block!

Well researched and well read, but SO drawn-out by a lot of repeated analogies and trivial detail. I was ready to put my head on the block after the first 10 hrs. Face it - Mary was doomed from the start; a pampered French catholic who was raised in a state of ignorance for most of her life meets a country full of rogue protestant Scots and a cunning, experienced, self-directed English queen, who is no less the daughter of one of the most infamous schemers in the English monarchy (A. Boleyn). Although I found some of the detail fascinating, how many times did the author have to repeat the mantra: Mary was impulsive and reckless and Elizabeth was the crafty one? In my opinion, an overly detailed account of the two queens that will appeal more to an Elizabeth/Tudor history buff than the average reader who wants to know more about Elizabeth and Mary.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • MP
  • 03-19-04

Fun to listen to

The best thing about this book is the intense level of detail -- read, gossip -- that the author imparts about an unbelievably fascinating time with people whose every decision could have life or death consequences. It's a good book, not great, but very very enjoyable -- proving once again what a great story this is! She has a novel(?) and interesting theory that Mary was manic depressive, and an interesting but not necessarily novel theory that Elizabeth was shy of marriage because she had no models of a good marriage in her childhood or adolescence (what an understatement!).

Definitely a good listen.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Susan
  • Poulsbo, wa
  • 09-30-06

Echoes in modern times

I would never sit down to read a book like this one, but as an audible production it became acccessible to me. I found it fascinating, with plenty of insight into the personalities of political beings, and the life politics may force one to lead. I found myself constantly comparing this portrayal of historical figures with what I know from the press of modern political figures. The similarities of situations and probable underlying motives of the actors was fascinating to me.
Not being a history scholar, I do not know how good the research is, but I believe it to have been pretty solid. The speculation is focused on the motives and personalities of the leads rather than on the events. The reader needs to accept a certain amount of psychoanalysis, but I thought the author stayed within the limits of her expertise (i.e. not much) and did not get carried away with it. Yes, certain passages of the text are repeated more than once (shame on the editor), so that I think the book could have been 1/3 shorter and still convey the same depth of insight and quantity of fact. Never-the-less, I highly recommend it for the facts and insights.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

elizabeth and mary

The two tales are brilliantly interwoven for a comprehensive view of the two womens lives, countrys, and reigns.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Anne
  • Montgomery Village, MD, United States
  • 04-30-11


Well written, insightful analysis of two of history's key figures. Well worth your time if you have any interest in the history of Great Britain.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Good general intro

It's an interesting premise, comparing the two queens, and it is both useful and thought-provoking. There was a fair amount of repetition of ideas, though, of the kind of summary one expects from the introduction or the ending of a work, not continually reiterated within it. The reader's voice is fine, not annoying at all.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

great book

I loved this book it showed the very human sides of these two icons. My only criticism would be that it ended at the death of Mary . I wanted to hear the details of Elizabeth's later years. All in all though its very much worth a listen.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

overall good, but a little repetitive

I would recommend this book as a good starting point to learn about these two women; it was well-researched. At least, I'm assuming the author was historically accurate although she differed from others I've read recently in a few minor points (timing, more than anything). I enjoyed her spin on Mary's upbringing and attitude playing so directly into her downfall.

The narrator is very good; in fact, her expertise is what got me over the humps. Those humps were the repetitiveness of the author. Okay, so Mary was tall, gorgeous and capitivating to the opposite sex - I got it the first 10 times; I didn't need to hear it another 10.

Overlooking that one flaw, again, I would recommend this book.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Interesting material, repetitive presentation

The story of Elizabeth and Mary is an intriguing tangle, and I had high hopes for this book. Unfortunately, it didn't do it for me. There's only so many times a reader can stomach hearing about Mary's prowess on horseback, or her near fatal-attraction charms on men. The author repeatedly reminds readers of facts to the point where the overall book is somewhat boring and a little insulting.

I really enjoy histories of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and I hope audible finds more excellent books in this category. Unfortunately, Elizabeth and Mary isn't one of them.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful