Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Review of *Elizabeth and Mary* by Jane Dunn

Elizabeth and Mary is one of the best books I've read about either Elizabeth I or Mary Queen of Scots.

Not just a dual biography, Jane Dunn focuses on the relationship and long history between these ladies in order to explain their complex rivalry. sums up the dramatic ending of their relationship by saying that only one of these powerful women could rule; there wasn't room for two women with such strong wills.


Dunn shows some of her strongest insight in these final chapters. She depicts Elizabeth as tortured by the prospect of committing regicide against a fellow female monarch, but recognizing the need to eliminate Mary as the embodiment of foreign Catholic threats. Mary is compassionately presented as a fallen woman, who in her desperation to cling to her destiny as uniter of Scotland and England resorted to wild intrigues when she could not obtain her desired audience with Elizabeth. Dunn prevents the tale from descending into maudlin stereotypes, showing with deft precision the unbearable situation in which these two queens found themselves - rivals even as they stood together as female monarchs, cousins who sought solidarity when the truth was that only one could survive.

It really is a great read, and accessible for those unfamiliar with Tudor history.

Jane Dunn has also written a biography of Mary Shelley and a joint history of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell.

Already Read It?

You will also like The Children of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir. Or actually ANYTHING by Alison Weir!


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