Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens

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9780007162659: Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens

This, the first dual biography of Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots from one of our most prized biographers, provides intense political, sexual and psychologogical drama on the Tudor stage.

Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots are the two queens in British history that continue to stir the imagination.

In this magnificent dual biography, Jane Dunn explores their intertwined lives – although the cousins never met – and reveals an extraordinary story of sex and power, of darkly complex, dangerous and dazzling times.

Elizabeth was the courageous virgin queen, inspired by the decision to rule alone, using her celibacy as a weapon. She inherited a weak and divided country coveted by great powers, and turned it into a major power, presiding over an era of peace and a golden age of English culture.

Mary, her cousin, was beautiful and cultured: a captivating but ultimately tragic figure, swayed by her passion, reckless in her sexual liaisons and vulnerable to the conspiracies of the powerful factions that surrounded her. Through their rivalry and the political and sexual intrigues it involved (including the role played by the charming Robert Dudley, Earl of Leceister), Dunn corrects many misconceptions about the two, painting Mary as a much more serious contender for power than is otherwise imagined, and Elizabeth as far more vulnerable than her formidable reputation.

Intelligent, engaging and accessible, audiobook masterfully juxtaposes the histories of these two remarkable women and the power struggle that continued between them until Elizabeth asserted her authority and, hesitantly, signed Mary’s death warrant.

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Review:

Jane Dunn's double biography Elizabeth and Mary takes as its rich and explosive subject matter the ultimately fatal relationship between Queen Elizabeth I of England and her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. Throughout much of the second half of the 16th century, these two women found themselves queens of their kingdoms and locked in a battle for possession of the British Isles, which only ended with Mary's eventual downfall and execution at Elizabeth's hands in 1586.

As Dunn points out in her meticulous and compelling recreation of the complex relationship between the two women, "from that one act of regicide, a queen killing a fellow queen, has spun a mythology of justification, romance, accusation, and blame that retains its force right to the present day." Her approach attempts to avoid myth and romance and understand the complex bond that existed between the two women. Elizabeth, the apparent victor, "was haunted by a deep-rooted insecurity as to her own legitimacy", while Mary was pursued by claims of sexual excess and immersion in murderous plots against husbands and enemies, variously seen as "a wronged Madonna or a murderous jezebel."

Dunn elegantly follows the ups and downs of both monarchs as they strive for political power. Mary's tumultuous reign as Queen of Scotland is particularly well handled, as is Elizabeth's agonised vacillation over her decision to execute Mary. In the end, death triumphed over both, and ensured that each was "elevated to an idealised majesty" for very different reasons. Dunn has marshalled an impressive body of evidence that never overwhelms this psychologically nuanced account of these two remarkable women. --Jerry Brotton

Review:

‘Dunn writes with captivating elegance and piercing intelligence, is tender, scrupulous, ironic and worldly.’ Richard Davenport-Hines, Independent

‘Jane Dunn is one of our best biographers.’ Miranda Seymour, Sunday Times

‘Jane Dunn has that sine qua non of the true biographer, an eye for significant detail and the power to fit it into a larger pattern.’ Richard Holmes, The Times

‘Jane Dunn is a gifted biographer, teasing out subtle meanings and connections that add up to a rich depth of portraiture.’ Michelle Roberts, Independent on Sunday

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Dunn, Jane
ISBN 10: 0007162650 ISBN 13: 9780007162659
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Dunn, Jane
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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2003. Audio Book(CD). Book Condition: Good. Good condition, some are ex-library and can have markings. Bookseller Inventory # GD-000-05-0994000

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