Elizabeth and Mary:
Cousins, Rivals, Queens


featured in Macworld, one of the 5
best history sites on the web

Bookstore | Exhibits | HistoryWiz | Primary Source Archives | Search

Elizabeth and Mary : Cousins, Rivals, Queens by David Starkey

buy

This is the hardcover edition.

Other editions:
-audio cd (abridged)
-audio cassette (abridged)
-audio download

 

Book Description

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.

About the Author

Jane Dunn is the author of a biography of Mary Shelley, a study of the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, and most recently of a groundbreaking life of Antonia White. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and lives in Bath, England.

Inside Cover

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 - ttold in a masterful double biography.

1st Chapter
Editorial Reviews

World History Books

World History

From Publishers Weekly
This is not so much a dual biography of Elizabeth Tudor and Mary Stuart as a cross-section of the royal cousins' lives as they intersect in fact and in theme. As a successful, ultimately beloved monarch, Elizabeth has been granted the upper hand by history, but here the mirror images of the two queens' experiences suggests how differently their stories could have ended. The opposing trajectories of their lives - Elizabeth rising from a politically and personally precarious childhood to become a powerful ruler and Mary descending from undisputed Scottish heir to prisoner and self-styled martyr for Catholicism - elucidate the problems of early modern queenship more fully than a single biography would. Opening accounts of Elizabeth's coronation and Mary's wedding serve as an emblematic introduction to their experiences of education, religion, family, marriage and leadership. Unfortunately, these accounts are clearly cut from chapter four, where their loss creates a jarring leap. The dual narrative also leads British biographer Dunn (Moon in Eclipse: A Life of Mary Shelley) to overdo her interpretation and to repeat incidents and reintroduce characters, seemingly not trusting her readers to keep them straight. However, she does Mary a service by digging more deeply into her childhood and evaluating her more rigorously than many authors have. Her emphasis on Elizabeth's insecurities heightens the comparison between the two queens and renders the decision to execute Mary the turning point in Elizabeth's reign. While this may slightly exaggerate the centrality of the rivalry to Elizabeth's thinking, it nicely captures the intertwined lives of these two women. 24 pages of color illus., not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From
Booklist
The long-running rivalry between Elizabeth I of England and her cousin Mary Queen of Scots contains the stuff of high drama. Elizabeth, a staunch, iron-willed ruler, turned England into a mighty power; while Mary, beautiful and passionate, was victimized by malignant forces she could not control and died a martyr to her Catholic faith. Dunn is a biographer who wholeheartedly buys into this attractive picture. In her parallel biographies, she portrays both queens as strong women who strive to make their way in a dangerous world dominated by males. Her description of the political and cultural milieus of Britain is striking and credible. This is not the sunny, shining Britain of Shakespeare; rather, it is an age of plots, counterplots, and paranoia. Dunn's admiration for Elizabeth seems well deserved. Unfortunately, she gives Mary far too much credit, perhaps because it serves dramatic purposes. Mary was an incredibly incompetent, destructive monarch, and she was equally inept as a conspirator. This is not a work of high scholarship, but it certainly works as a good story, and Dunn's vision of a "dangerous age" is compelling. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


Amazon.com
Jane Dunn's Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens offers a blend of history and biography that traces the "dynamic interaction" between two of the most powerful women in Western history. Dunn remains ever aware of the uniqueness of her two central figures: both women ruled as divinely ordained monarchs in a male dominated power structure; and both women were from the same family (Elizabeth I was the granddaughter of Henry VII, and Mary Queen of Scots the great-granddaughter of King Henry).

By focusing not on pure biography but instead on relationships, Dunn is able to narrow her book (still mammoth in scope) to the most salient and interesting events in the two queens' lives. The book begins in 1558, the year in which Mary first wed and Elizabeth assumed the throne of England. Almost immediately the cousins were embroiled in a conflict that would endure for the remainder of Mary's life. A restless, sexually-active Catholic, and leader of the Scottish people in alliance with France, Mary was ever a conduit for rumors of rebellion. The "Virgin Queen" Elizabeth used Mary as a dark reflection to underline her own celibate constancy as a ruler of law and order.

The pair never met face to face, but as Dunn reveals, their lives were closely intertwined. After holding Mary in Fotheringhay prison for nearly two decades, Elizabeth ordered her cousin executed in 1587. Mary had chosen martyrdom in favor of a confession to complicity in the Babington assassination plot. In court, she declared: "I would never make Shipwreck of my Soul by conspiring the Destruction of my dearest Sister." Though the ostensible victor, Elizabeth (who had struggled to find a way to release her cousin while still upholding her own power as queen) confessed, "I am not free, but a captive." In Elizabeth and Mary , Dunn has built a rich world that underlines the tragic struggle between private emotions and the public faces history puts on them. --Patrick O'Kelley

 

Contact Us