Elizabeth and Mary

Jane Dunn

Distinguished biographer Jane Dunn reveals an extraordinary story of two queens ruling in one isle, both embodying opposing qualities of character, ideals of womanliness and of divinely ordained kingship. Theirs is a drama of sex and power, recklessness, ambition and political intrigue, with a rivalry that could only be resolved by death. As regent queens in an overwhelmingly masculine world, they were deplored for their femininity, compared unfavourably with each other, and courted by the same men. By placing this dynamic and ever-changing relationship at the centre of the book, Dunn throws new light and meaning on the complexity of their natures. She reveals an Elizabeth revolutionary in her insistence on ruling alone, while Mary is not the romantic victim of history, but a courageous adventurer with a reckless heart. Vengeful against her enemies and the more ruthless of the two, she was untroubled by plotting Elizabeth’s murder. Elizabeth, however, was in anguish at having to sanction Mary’s death warrant for treason. Working almost exclusively from contemporary letters and writings, she lets them speak to us across more than four hundred years, their voices and responses surprisingly familiar to our own, their characters vivid, by turns touching and terrible.

Reviews of Elizabeth and Mary

  • ‘Outstanding, perceptive and delightfully readable.’ Sunday Times Books of the Year

    ‘A deeply satisfying study of royal rivalry which ended in tragedy…Jane Dunn handles her subject with tremendous flair. Supremely accomplished.’ Anne Somerset, Literary Review

    ‘She writes with vigour and grace. This is an engaging and thoughtful new rendering of a story worth retelling.’ Spectator

    ‘Jane Dunn has written a splendid piece of popular history with the ready-pen of a highly skilled writer, endowed with remarkable insight.’ Roy Strong, Daily Mail

    ‘Dunn writes with captivating elegance and piercing intelligence, is tender, scrupulous, ironic and worldly.’ Richard Davenport-Hines, Independent

    ‘Jane Dunn is one of our best biographers.’ Miranda Seymour, Sunday Times

    ‘Jane Dunn has that sine qua non of the true biographer, an eye for significant detail and the power to fit it into a larger pattern.’ Richard Holmes, The Times