Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens Book Review

Book: Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens
Author: Jane Dunn
Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars

So, I actually read this book a while back and I am just getting around to writing the review. I really cannot remember the last time I wrote a review for a five star book. It’s been awhile, it feels like.

Elizabeth and Mary’s rival is one of the most interesting events in history for me. I really didn’t get into Mary, Queen of Scots until Reign...Yeah, I know that probably wasn’t the best way to become really interested in her life. I just love the dynamic nature of this historical event and I am always looking for books on these two. Now, I was a bit disappointed that this book did seem to focus more on Elizabeth than Mary, but I am willing to overlook that, because I do think that this is a well written book. I know a lot of people will say otherwise, but I most certainly do think that this is one of the better written history books out there.

What I liked was Jane really didn’t romanticize Mary, which a lot of people do seem to do.  Jane presents Mary in a very realistic picture. She was a product of the French court and used to having everything handed to her. (Is that the right way to put it?) She was taught, by the French, that it was her right to rule and that was how things were going to work. Between this and her depression, we see how Mary is set up to make some poor decisions, which seal her fate.  She lives a life of self-indulgence, which also leads to her downfall. Now, I do actually feel bad for Mary. Sure, she made a lot of poor decisions, but how can you not really feel bad for her?


Elizabeth...Oh, Elizabeth was clearly not Mary. Anyone who knows about Elizabeth knows that she was not at all like her cousin. She was careful and really thought about her actions. She gave up a lot for England, even love. She, I think, really did care for Mary, who was said to haunt her for the rest of her days. She had to rule in a man’s world, in a position that very few women held. I think that this was really what drew her to Mary. After all, they were both queens in their own right.

I could go on and on about these two, but I think most of us already know the story. I will say that if Elizabeth had agreed to meet Mary, history may have been very different.  So what stopped her from getting close to Mary? Elizabeth would not meet Mary, wanted to have a say in who Mary married, and would not give her asylum in England. What ended Mary’s reign in Scotland? She did not have the support of the nobles, she was Catholic, and made unpopular choices in her husbands. I know there is more to than that, but I really do think that this is what sealed her fate.

However, Mary’s son, James, did end up as King of England and Scotland. So, you tell me, who got the last laugh?

Overall, a well written and well put together book. It was easy to read and well researched. There really isn’t anything new in this book, but I think most people will find it to be a rather enjoyable read.