‘Muhlstein is an excellent writer: the book is effectively structured and easy to read, it’s characters vividly portrayed.’
In this major new double biography, Anka Muhlstein examines the turbulent relationship between Elizabeth I of England and Mary, Queen of Scots.
At this time, quite uniquely, both the thrones of the British Isles were occupied by women, which for the first time brought the issue of royal consorts to the fore.
In the 16th century, marriage was a necessity for any monarch. No marriage, no dynasty. But Elizabeth was one of few queens regnant who made the conscious choice never to marry, and therefore never subordinated herself and her power to a male consort, whilst at the same time using the possibility of marriage as a tool to manipulate the balance of power in Europe. In contrast, her cousin Mary is seen as a slave to passion, whose marriages cost her her throne, and ultimately her life.
The story of these two queens is one of the most fascinating in British history. Both of them clever and courageous, they fought foreign wars, faced domestic plots, assassination and espionage, all at a time when women were denied a role in public life. In the end it was the manner with which they deal with the vital dynastic question of marriage that ultimately served to shape their destinies and historical reputations. This study of their approach to marriage, as well as their personal and political relationships with suitors and courtiers, casts a new light on the history of the Elizabethan Age.
ANKA MUHLSTEIN has won two prizes from the Académie Francaise and the Goncourt Prize for her acclaimed biography of Custine. She has lived in New York since 1974. She is the author of Balzac’s Omelette and the co-author of Venice for Lovers.