Virgin: Prelude To The Throne

Written by Robin Maxwell
Review by Sarah Nesbeitt

Maxwell, in her third novel of the Virgin Queen, illustrates in detail a frequently glossed-over episode in the life of the Tudor monarch: the romantic pursuit of the young princess by her stepmother’s husband, Thomas Seymour. At thirteen, Elizabeth has been re-granted her royal title with no small help from her father’s sixth wife, Catherine Parr, now Queen Dowager. A dangerous undercurrent of attraction, one not unnoticed by the pregnant Catherine, develops between the princess and Seymour, and their flirtation follows a swift, logical course until it reaches a shocking conclusion.

In many ways a typical teenager, Elizabeth’s infatuation with Seymour makes her occasionally forget her loyalty to Catherine and her own royal position. The twist to this well-known story is in the character of Seymour. Although his handsome physique and gallant manners tend to blind people to his faults, he can’t completely conceal either his unscrupulous nature or his underlying ambition to claim the power behind the throne in any way possible. Maxwell, finding gaps in the historical record, has formulated her own explanations of both Elizabeth’s and Catherine’s behavior. Given her interpretations, all of which seem historically plausible, one can easily imagine Elizabeth’s later refusal to marry.