Elizabeth and Mary

  • by Jane Dunn
  • Narrated by Isla Blair
  • 6 hrs and 35 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

This is the first dual biography of two of the world's most remarkable women, Elizabeth I of England and Mary Queen of Scots, by one of Britain's "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 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.


What the Critics Say

"Her description of the political and cultural milieus of Britain is striking and credible....Dunn's vision of a 'dangerous age' is compelling." (Booklist)
"It nicely captures the intertwined lives of these two women." (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Repetitive and boring

What a pity that publishing houses have abolished editors, those anonymous people with a red pen who interceded on behalf of the reader's. If an editor had read this book, one third of it should have been deleted. Every second chapter focused on why Elizabeth didn't want to marry.
It almost became hilarious when the narrator switches between three "voices." A fairly decent Queens English, a Scotish brogue and "Yesterday I arrived here from Bulgaria." This third "continental" dialect is then used for ambassadors and suitors from Spain, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden and the Vatican. Even the desperate "Mary" suddenly alternates between Scotish and Bulgarian. Money and time wasted.
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- Charles


If you could sum up Elizabeth and Mary in three words, what would they be?

Rivalry writing history.

What did you like best about this story?

I so enjoyed this fascinating psychological study of two unforgettable queens, each trying to maneuver the brutal politic landscapes of the day with distinctly unique styles.

What does Isla Blair bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I love Ms. Blair's voice, so richly befitting the story line.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?


Any additional comments?

It helps to have some basic knowledge of the historical facts of the era, as the main focus of the book is the powerful personalities and eerily intertwined destinies of these royal cousins.

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- Asenath M. Kepler

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-14-2004
  • Publisher: Random House Audio