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on 11 August 2003
You can't really do an excellent job documenting the life of Elizabeth I without mentioning, in some detail, Mary of Scotland. The same goes for the reverse. This biography covers both queens lives in a thorough fashion...although Elizabeth does seem to rate 'more words' than her cousin. In no way, though, is Mary a minor character in this good work. I have read independant bios of each queen (Alison Fraser's stupendous work "Mary, Queen of Scots" and, my personal favorite for Elizabeth, Anne Somerset's "Elizabeth I"), and this wonderful book incorporates two amazing women into one volume. For any student of Great Britain history, or just someone with a fascination for the monarchy of England and Scotland, this book belongs on your shelf. You will not be disappointed.
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on 9 December 2010
Sometimes I find it difficult to get through a historical non-fiction book, as I find some a bit too academic, not focussing on the things that I'm actually interested in!

However I thoroughly enjoyed this book as it runs at a nice pace but is still in-depth - the author has clearly done her research and she makes references to various texts and letters. I like the fact that the book focusses on the relationship between the two queens but doesn't fail to provide you with a context for their actions - she gives you plenty of information about their individual backgrounds, their relationships with those around them and the political landscapes in England and Scotland at the time. So Dunn has all bases covered!

I would thoroughly reccommend this book, it is an enjoyable read with lots of detail but isn't too taxing - you can come home after a tiring day and work and still very happily dive into this, which is just what I wanted!
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on 13 May 2006
This book may look the size of a doorstep, but don't let that put you off. Every single page is worth reading!

I was very familiar with the life of Elizabeth, but I didn't know that much about Mary Queen Of Scots and what her thoughts and desires were and how she viewed Elizabeth. This book provided so much information and ideas on the relationship between the two queens, and ups and downs and betrayals and changes of direction and the reasons for everything including events that may have shaped their views and actions in adulthood. It's just an amazing book that any reader with a love of Tudor period history and in particular Elizabeth and Mary's history, will love.

By the end of the book you really feel that you have got closer to knowing both women and will have many opinions about them that change as you read further. In all honesty the book is so well written, with a feeling of going backwards and forwards between Elizabeth and Mary at each stage of history, that it feels like you're reading a thriller instead of history.

There are some great colour pictures of paintings of both queens, some I haven't seen elsewhere, which all adds to the book.

This is a highly enjoyable and informative read.
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on 24 May 2005
This is a book that's well worth reading if you're interested in either queen, or if you only vaguely remember the whole saga from your history lessons. Dunn analyses the political causes of the rivalry, as do most historians, but more than that, she shows how it was really rooted in the fundamental differences between personality and upbringing. She constantly reminds the reader of just how different the lives of these two queens were: Elizabeth's early childhood were full of uncertainty and danger, her identity always uncertain, her very life under threat, whereas Mary grew up in luxury and comfort. Dunn also points out that both queens underwent a test of their queenship, very much the same: the accusation of plotting to destroy a spouse so they could wed someone else, and the way they handled this test decided how history would view them.
Readable, intriguing, and informative.
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on 2 November 2005
Having been told that the new production of Schiller's play Mary Stuart (which by the way is brilliant) used this book as essential reading I was keen to see for myself. Opening the pages was like being suddenly present in my favourite period of history. 'Elizabeth & Mary' is wonderfully well researched yet reads like the most gripping psychological drama where large human and political destinies are at stake. By focusing so closely on the two queens and using their own words as much as possible, Dunn brings them magnificently to life. I could sympathise with them both, super-powerful women but trapped by their roles and the expectations and schemes of the men around them. Tragically in the end they threaten each other. I found it so gripping I could not bear to stop reading and when I'd finished I felt bereaved. This is history at its relevant best.
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on 12 May 2005
I loved this book, Jane Dunn writes with an insight into Elizabeths and Marys psyches that is mesmerising. I couldnt put it down and was gutted when i finally finished it, at a loss of what to read next. The facts are written so neatly that the reader doesnt become exhausted by dates and names, the book is fluent and easy to read and understand. The intimacy the audience feels toward the books subjects is one of Dunn's greatest successes, it's particularly interesting to read of the feelings of Elizabeth, and Mary's second husband Lord Darnley. My only criticism being that now i have to find a book i like just as much to follow it up.
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on 22 June 2015
Warning: this review contains spoilers.

Who would have thought that there was anything more to say about Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots? Many biographies, plays, films and TV dramas have been produced about their lives. And yet, Jane Dunn manages to produce a fresh look at these two iconic queens and, in doing so, has written a very readable book.

Dunn concentrates on original source material, on letters and documents, so that both queens emerge as three dimensional human beings. She places the two women in the context of their times, looking at their upbringings and backgrounds as an aid to the formulation of their adult characters.

Dunn analyses Elizabeth and Mary's actions from a 16th century viewpoint which gives the present day reader a better understanding of why each of them took the decisions they did.

She looks at the concept of monarchy and the different ways in which the two queens embodied the role. Lack of previous successful examples in England meant that Elizabeth had to create a template for the role of a female regnant monarch. Mary's short time as Queen of France had given her a more inflated view of her role as a monarch and she was less keen to take advice.

Their lives are a classic compare and contrast paradigm. Elizabeth was cool and pragmatic; Mary rash and adventurous. Mary allows her heart to rule her head; Elizabeth sacrifices her feelings for the good of her country to whom she feels she is wedded.

I would urge you, even If you think you know all there is to know about the two queens, to seek this book out.
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on 8 August 2012
I really enjoyed this book. As a reader who has read many books about both Queen's, i think the this book got the real measure of these two historical legends. I have read reviews that feel the book has a bias slant towards Elizabeth, but i don't see that at all. It showed the 2 women as being 2 fascinating people; complete with there charms, vulnerabilities, achievements; and much more.
I finished the book feeling that i had got to know these 2 women personally; and feel i have a new perspective despite reading about these Queen's for the last 20 years. This was achieved with the scholarly skill of the author who has drawn upon reports from the time, and letters from both Queen's. Where a report could have carried a particular bias, this was pointed out to keep a balanced viewpoint.

Biased? Not at all. Look at how the boom weighs up the legacies of both Queen's. In historical terms where there any real winners and losers in their tales? The book also shows a deep empathy for the floored behavioural patterns of both Queen's.

If you have a fascination with either Queen; or indeed the Tudor's, this book is a 'must'!
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on 30 August 2013
Although this was not the easiest book to get into, persistence was well rewarded. the initial difficulties were some of the vocabulary - including words that are not in any dicttioonary I have access to - plus, more generally the complexity of the relationships. I had to keep looking back to the introduction. After those first few pages however, the story was well told, fascinating and a real page turner - even though the outcome is well documented. It wasn't the facts but the way they wwere told. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone - but especially to peopple like me who were turned off history at school by teachers whoseemed to think that the only point of the subject was to pass an exam.
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on 9 February 2009
One of the best books I have ever read. I have always been interested in this period of history and felt that this book and the way Dunn writes helps to bring history alive. Once I started reading I could not stop. The book was full of interseting facts and I was really impressed.
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