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Rival Queens

Narrated by: Emma Cunniffe
Length: 17 hrs and 1 min
4.4 out of 5 stars (123 ratings)

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Summary

Random House presents the audiobook edition of Rival Queens by Kate Williams.

Elizabeth and Mary: cousins, rivals, queens. They loved each other, they hated each other - they could never escape one another. 

Kate Williams’ thrilling new history tells the story of Elizabeth I of England and her betrayal of Mary, Queen of Scots. At the end of the Tudor era, here were two women on two thrones. But this was a man’s world, and many believed that no woman should govern. All around Elizabeth and Mary were sycophants, spies and detractors who wanted their power, their favour and their bodies. And so they became one another’s closest confidantes in the struggle to be both women and queens. 

Alliances were few, but for many years theirs survived - until the forces rising against them, and the struggles of love and dynasty, drove them apart. It was a schism that would end in secret assassination plots, devastating betrayal and, eventually, the signing of Mary’s death warrant in Elizabeth’s hand. 

Kate Williams’ Rivals Queens offers an electrifying new perspective on Elizabeth and Mary and the most important relationship of their lives - that which they had with one another.

©2018 Kate Williams (P)2018 Random House Audiobooks

What listeners say about Rival Queens

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Betrayal and exploitation

Another book on Mary Queen of Scots? Her deeply tragic story is well known – incarcerated in various castles for 18 years by her cousin Elizabeth l and her entourage terrified of Mary taking the English throne, and finally beheaded at the age of 44. Here is the full account of her uber-dramatic life: birth in Scotland in 1542 and Queen at 6 days old; much of her childhood and her brief marriage to the Dauphin spent in France; her arrival to inhospitable Scotland as an 18 year-old widow; falling in love with Darnley (possibly Elizabeth’s cast-off); birth of a rightful male heir; Bothwell accused of the plot which strangled Darnley and blew up his house; reported rape of Mary by Bothwell and subsequent marriage; miscarriage of twins whilst under house arrest; desperate appeals to Elizabeth to save her ignored; 18 years incarceration and final execution with the little lap dog beneath her under-skirts, red the colour of Catholic martyrdom. The contemporary stance of the author Kate Williams sheds a fresh light on Mary as an exploited monarch doomed very much by the fact of her being a woman. Her marriage to the outrageously evil Bothwell is explained in terms of current interpretations of the effects of trauma on women. Williams makes full use of the vast archive of letters and documents available for research. The vicious rivalries between the religious factions and the tragic trajectory of Mary’s life are fully depicted in all their terrible violence and barbarity. I was disappointed with the narrator Emma Cunniffe and had I not been interested in the text I wouldn’t have continued. This is a shocking, violent slice of history and needs a vigorous voice, not this over-gentle, soothing one. In addition she mispronounces a good many words (leads (meaning roof); Shrewsbury; chanson…) and gets the stress wrong of many more polysyllabic words. No doubt proper supervision and editing are prohibitively expensive for the producers?

55 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Confusing narration spoils a scholarly work

This book is clearly written and very interesting for me, who had read widely over the years on these two women. Fascinating to have their detailed stories in the same scholarly work. But I could not finish it. I found so many places where the meaning of a phrase or sentence was confused by the narration. So many times the emphasis on a syllable, word or phrase was in a misleading place, where a misplaced pause in the sentence obfuscated the meaning. I had to bale out, sadly. I may buy a copy but cannot listen to this reader making a poor fist of it.

49 people found this helpful

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Poor Narration

this is the worst narration I have heard in all the audible books I have purchased. Pauses in the middle of sentences, Relly hard to listen to this book

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Awful delivery

The narrator has a lovely tone but reads falteringly with a lisp and constant absurd pauses mid-sentence as though every page is one endless, strange mantra.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

An easy listen but...

...contain anachronistic analysis and many names are not pronounced as generally accepted. Nevertheless an accessible introduction to the subject.

1 person found this helpful

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Accurate account

Really well narrated, super interesting and fascinating. Another perspective on female rulers. Worth listening, reading. Loved it.

5 people found this helpful

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Interesting background listen

A sympathetic look at Mary Queen of Scots life and trials. Good listen for many

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Well researched, written and read

This is fascinating history that seems well researched and well written and makes interesting listening. However, I have to take issue with the author’s position of having sympathy for Mary. Yes she was mistreated, did not get a fair trial and she was exploited for personal and political gain and she operated in a world that was deeply misogynistic, but Mary was, like Elizabeth and the Scots, English, French and other nobles who persecuted her, nothing more than a gangster. She and Elizabeth may have called themselves queens and noble and those who served them may have called themselves lords and noblemen, but there was nothing noble about them, they were thieves, exploiters, cheats and murderers, all of them. They were not great leaders of their people, they obtained their wealth and power through force and exploitation, they were respected by the populace for no reason other than the fact that to do otherwise was suicide. To have sympathy for Mary is akin to having sympathy for Kim Jong Un on the grounds that he is not as bad as Kim Jong Il or to have sympathy for Mao Tse Tung on grounds that you think he wasn’t as big a mass murderer as Joseph Stalin. I also suspect that popular support for either Mary or Elizabeth was the same as the the popular support for Kim Jong Un, people don’t have any choice, or rather the choice is to support them or to die. Mary, like most Kings and Queens that came before and after her was just a gangster who chose the title of Queen rather than Don for herself, and the title of Lord for her supporters rather than Lieutenant. She just wasn’t quite as good a gangster as Elizabeth and her gang.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A fascinating history, if a bit rambly at times

This was a really in depth and fascinating history of two truly incredible queens, well written and well narrated. It was well researched and filled with quotes and references to source materials that gave it an extra dimension that I enjoyed. However... Maybe it was just me, but it felt like there were times where she would go over the same point three or four times. Sometimes she was adding a quote from historical sources and such, which made sense, but there were times when it felt incredibly unnecessary. All the same I enjoyed this book and I'm glad to have read it. *Trigger warnings - accounts of sexual assault and rape.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Editing is a little odd

Drags at times and I had to take a break from it, good detail throughout though and it's not the authors fault that the tale just becomes increasingly dreary. One comment is that the editing is really slapdash, it's very obvious when recordings have been put together in production and sometimes the gaps in words or the changes in volume are really striking. Additionally some French or Latin passages aren't translated which doesn't really help in an audiobook.