Synopses & Reviews
The first dual biography of two of the worlds most remarkable women—Elizabeth I of England and Mary Queen of Scots—by one of Britains “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 Elizabeths murder. Elizabeth, however, is driven to anguish at finally having to sanction Marys 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.
"A splendid piece of popular history written with the ready-pen of a highly skilled writer, endowed with a remarkable insight into the complex motives which drove these two powerful women." London Daily Mail
"Perceptive and wonderfully readable. Dunn's well-established gifts as a biographer are used here with remarkable sensitivity as she examines the upbringing of her twin subjects and shows how they were influenced by strikingly different experiences and mentors." Sunday Times of London
"Artfully structured...deeply satisfying. Jane Dunn writes with poise and assurance and handles her subject with tremendous flair." Literary Review
Includes bibliographical references (p. -442) and index.
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.