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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 Elizabeth's murder. Elizabeth, however, is driven to anguish at finally having to sanction Mary's 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.
"It nicely captures the intertwined lives of these two women." (Publishers Weekly)
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Cassi on 02-04-05
Almost put my head on the block!
Well researched and well read, but SO drawn-out by a lot of repeated analogies and trivial detail. I was ready to put my head on the block after the first 10 hrs. Face it - Mary was doomed from the start; a pampered French catholic who was raised in a state of ignorance for most of her life meets a country full of rogue protestant Scots and a cunning, experienced, self-directed English queen, who is no less the daughter of one of the most infamous schemers in the English monarchy (A. Boleyn). Although I found some of the detail fascinating, how many times did the author have to repeat the mantra: Mary was impulsive and reckless and Elizabeth was the crafty one? In my opinion, an overly detailed account of the two queens that will appeal more to an Elizabeth/Tudor history buff than the average reader who wants to know more about Elizabeth and Mary.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful