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“Virgin: Prelude to The Throne” by Robin Maxwell

Posted By Claire on January 6, 2010

Virgin by Robin MaxwellOne of the very first Anne Boleyn novels I read was Robin Maxwell’s “The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn”, a book I loved because I so wanted to believe that Elizabeth had been able to learn the true story of her mother’s life, through her own words. I was captivated by that novel and this one grabbed me in the same way.

I have always been interested in the whole Elizabeth/Thomas Seymour “affair” as I have never really understood it. We know from historical sources that Thomas Seymour, who was married to Elizabeth’s step-mother the Queen Dowager Catherine Parr, would enter the teenage Elizabeth’s bed chamber and get into bed with her. It is said that he would tickle her and stroke her and that once he entered dressed in just his nightshirt. If that wasn’t enough, Catherine Parr joined him on occasions and even restrained Elizabeth while Seymour slashed Elizabeth’s gown into pieces with a dagger. Completely inappropriate behaviour and very difficult to understand, particularly when Seymour was already married to a rich woman. What on earth was he up to?

That’s why I love Robin Maxwell’s novel. Robin reveals Thomas Seymour as a sociopath, a man who would stop at nothing to get power and riches, a man without conscience, morals or perhaps even a soul. It is chilling the way that he charms the women who surround him: Kat Ashley, Catherine Parr, Lady Jane Grey and even Elizabeth. Elizabeth just can’t help being attracted to this man even though she knows she oughtn’t to be, after all, he is her beloved step-mother’s husband. I know that Robin’s novel is fiction and we will never know who the real Thomas Seymour was, but this novel explains how and why he got away with doing what he did to Catherine and Elizabeth. Who knows whether Robin is correct but her Thomas Seymour and her take on events is rational and believable.

In the “Author’s Note” at the end, Robin makes the following point:-

“Even among the texts that view the Seymour affair as significant enough for a detailed account, there are next to none that go beyond the facts and provide an analysis of the individuals and relationships involved in the most fascinating psychosexual interplay…Thomas Seymour ranks as the number-one bad boy of Tudor history. A textbook-perfect sociopathic/charismatic personality, he ran roughshod over the Renaissance landscape, severely altering every life he touched.”

I agree, complete bad boy but even the reader falls under his spell!

The most chilling part of the novel for me was the scene at Catherine Parr’s deathbed. I don’t want to spoil it but it gave me goosebumps!

Virgin by Robin MaxwellThe Test

So, does this novel pass my all important historical fiction test:-

1. Is it “unputdownable”? – Yes. I used every excuse under the sun to hide away and read this book. It’s one of those books that you can get read in a day or a couple of days and then wonder why you have sore red eyes!

2. Does it make you want to research the characters more? – Yes. I’ve already put a lot of research into both Elizabeth I and Thomas Seymour, but this book makes you want to find out the truth about Seymour and his motives, although this might be as easy as finding the Holy Grail.

3. Is it believable? – Yes. Of course it IS fiction but Robin has obviously researched the period meticulously and just told the story in her own way, filling what she calls the “glaring omissions” in the historical sources between Henry VIII’s death in 1547 and Thomas Seymour’s execution in 1549 and making sense of the many inconsistencies.

If you want a book to cuddle up with this winter and you like romance, intrigue and history, then get “Virgin” and don’t forget the other books in the trilogy: “The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn” and “The Queen’s Bastard”.
Click on the first cover image to purchase “Virgin” at and the second cover image to buy from


One Response to ““Virgin: Prelude to The Throne” by Robin Maxwell”

  1. Rachel Zimand says:

    Could someone please tell me who is on the cover of my copy of Robin Maxwell’s Virgin? It says Princess of Saxony, but was that one of Elizabeth I’s titles, or is it someone else? And if it is someone else, why is she on the cover? Thanks

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