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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
on 16 December 2015
Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots are two of the most fascinating characters in history. Both ruled as Queen Regnants in their own right, in an age in which men were seen as the more powerful sex, and women were seen as week. What is also interesting is that they ruled over neighbouring Kingdoms- Mary was Queen of Scotland, Elizabeth Queen of England. They never met, and yet their lives were interwoven with each other, ones actions affected the other, and they were constantly compared, both during their lifetime and the centuries that followed. Both have had countless books both fiction and non-fiction written about them, painting one in a more favourable light usually, yet this book by Jane Dunn, looks at both Queens, their lives, their actions, and their eventual fates.
The book is packed with detail, sources, notes, and covers the lives in such rich detail. From their births in which their sex was a disappointment to their fathers. Mary was sent away from Scotland by her mother to escape the 'rough wooing' of Elizabeth's father Henry VIII, and brought up in France, where she made her first marriage to the Dauphin Francis. Mary's childhood was largely pampered and secure, brought up in the bubble of the French Monarchy, whilst Elizabeth's childhood and path to the throne was fraught with danger and insecurity, her own mother was executed, a succession of stepmothers followed, imprissioned during the reign of her half-sister Mary I, it is these experiences which Dunn goes to great lengths to empathise how it would later show during their reigns, Mary being the more romantic, whilst Elizabeth was shrewd and alert.
Dunn also explains how the actions of one would affect the other, for examples Mary having married and having a child was widely praised, whilst Elizabeth refusing to marry, was widely scorned at the time. Both wanted to get one up on the other, in a constant game of rivalry as to who was the more desirable. Yet when Mary initially lost her throne it was Elizabeth who stood alone- among her fellow European Monarchs and her own councillors- in offering support for Mary.
Dunn does romanticise either Queen, instead showing that neither was perfect. As she points out, both won and lost at the same time. Mary's son succeeded Elizabeth to the throne of England, yet he ruled over a Protestant country which remains to this day.
In many ways, Mary and Elizabeth were locked in a life-long battle of the Game of Thrones, which only one could emerge victorious.
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.
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.
on 12 March 2004
The book was well written, with an straight forward, and understandable use of lexis and historical story telling. suitable for a wide range of audience. It was beautifully written.
Whilst it was non fiction, it had an entertaining way of looking at the lives of two remarkable women in history. it was most certainly a fresh way of looking at a history book, without a moment of 'stuffyness' or'boring uninteresting facts'.
The images in the book, were helpful to add actual imagery to the story that unfolds, although dunns own way of explaining the story was more than adequate.
The only problem I had was that I felt dunn has portrayed mary to be a little more intelligent than she actually was. Overall it is most certainly an excellent book, with a fascinating insight into this section of history, let alone this powerful and dramatic story. Jane dunn looks at the lives of elizabeth and mary in a very refreshing and well structured manner, which made the book however long, a pleasure to read.
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.