Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens

Abridged / Go to Unabridged Audiobook

Written By: Jane Dunn

Narrated By: Isla Blair

Publisher: Random House (Audio)

Date: January 2004

Duration: 6 hours 32 minutes


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.


  • Coco

    I am fascinated w/ Elizabeth, but didn't know as much about Mary. This book really illustrated the situation of both women in such an interesting way. They were under a lot of pressure!

  • Anonymous

    Well written, fast paced and interesting. The author bring both the characters and their times " alive".

  • Anonymous

    good but confusing. i never realized that there were that many Marys and Elizabeths that were that closely related. maybe there is an easier way to narrate with all those close relations. but interesting, and the narrator was interesting.

  • Sharon Allen

    This is a very well-written and well-researched history chronicling the lives of these two cousin queens and the turmoils they endured partly because of each other's existence and partly because of the era in which they lived. The book and narration make the women come to life.

  • Jessica Howe

    I really liked it. It was really hard to keep track of all the people. But it was well written and the narrator was wonderful.

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by Jane Dunn

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Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens, Jane Dunn