The latest book reviews in one place

Rival Queens Reviews

Rival Queens by Kate Williams

Rival Queens

The Betrayal of Mary, Queen of Scots

Kate Williams

4.00 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: Hutchinson
Publisher: Cornerstone
Publication date: 15 Sep 2018
ISBN: 9780091936709

Mary and Elizabeth: cousins, rivals, queens. For Mary, Elizabeth was a fellow queen with whom she dreamed of a lasting friendship. They allied and fought and plotted - but could never escape their bond... A story which inspired the forthcoming film: MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS. The thrilling new history from bestselling historian and broadcaster, Kate Williams.

  • The TimesBook of the Year
4 stars out of 5
Gerard DeGroot
6 Oct 2018

"it has something that sets it apart — an acute reminder that, underneath all that finery, Mary was just a woman."

I used to think that John Guy’s biography of Mary, My Heart Is My Own (2004), could never be bettered. That’s probably still true, but this book nevertheless adds something significant to our understanding. Rival Queens is marketed as an account of the conflict between Elizabeth and Mary, but in truth is yet another biography. What makes it special is Williams’s understanding of how gender shaped Mary’s life. This is a feminist history, but not a clumsily theoretical one. Theory and sophisticated analysis never smother the pacey narrative...This is not the best biography of Mary, but it has something that sets it apart — an acute reminder that, underneath all that finery, Mary was just a woman.

Reviews

4 stars out of 5
Gareth Russell
6 Dec 2018

"a scintillating, provocative analysis of Mary and Elizabeth's reigns, and of their relationship"

There is much to cover in this elegant synthesis of royal biography and political thriller, and Williams is adroit in her handling of it. Very occasionally, her desire to offer a digestible précis culminates in a questionable point - for instance in using an apocryphal 17th-century account of how the aged Countess of Salisbury "was hauled back, screaming to the block" in 1541 or in her description of Elizabeth's stepmother, Catherine Howard, as a young woman who "had been groomed and assaulted", which presents as established fact a resurrected Victorian theory.These are, however, mere flies in the ointment. Williams offers a scintillating, provocative analysis of Mary and Elizabeth's reigns, and of their relationship

4 stars out of 5
1 Dec 2018

"Williams’s perceptive life of Mary is very much one for the #MeToo era"

Drawing extensively on original sources, Williams’s perceptive life of Mary is very much one for the #MeToo era. She argues persuasively – if not conclusively – that Mary was a victim of male exploitation rather than the adulteress and murderess her enemies claimed.