Death and the Virgin : Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart Paperback
The dramatic story of Elizabeth's first ten years on the throne and the unexplained death that scandalised her court. Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558 a 25-year-old virgin - the most prized catch in Christendom.
For the first ten years of her reign, one matter dominated above all others: the question of who the queen was to marry and when she would produce an heir. Elizabeth's life as England's Virgin Queen is one of the most celebrated in history.
Christopher Skidmore takes a fresh look at the familiar story of a queen with the stomach of a man, steadfastly refusing to marry for the sake of her realm, and reveals a very different picture: of a vulnerable young woman, in love with her suitor, Robert Dudley.
Had it not been for the mysterious and untimely death of his wife, Amy Robsart, Elizabeth might have one day been able to marry Dudley, since Amy was believed to be dying of breast cancer.
Instead, the suspicious circumstances surrounding Amy Robsart's death would cast a long shadow over Elizabeth's life, preventing any hope of a union with Dudley and ultimately shaping the course of Tudor history. Using newly discovered evidence from the archives, Christopher Skidmore is able to put an end to centuries of speculation as to the true causes of her death.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 448 pages, Illustrations (some col.), col. ports.
- Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
- Publication Date: 06/01/2011
- Category: British & Irish history
- ISBN: 9780753827017
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Review by john257hopper
This comprehensive and highly readable book analyses the evidence surrounding the mysterious death of Amy Robsart, found at the bottom of a flight of stairs with her neck broken one day in September 1560, at a time when her husband Lord Robert Dudley sought the hand in marriage of the young Queen Elizabeth. The author examines all the evidence available, which was recently (2008) embellished by the discovery in the National Archives of the original coroner's report believed lost for centuries, and slightly earlier (1978) by the discovery in the British Library of a contemporary journal. He looks at all the theories: murder by Dudley or others; plain accident; accident exacerbated by possible illness; or suicide, brought upon by despair caused either or both by illness or abandonment by Dudley. A reasonable case can be made for any of these theories and the author does not come down firmly in favour of any one or the other of them (though the back cover of the book, in typical overblown publisher's style, claims that the author "puts an end to centuries of speculation"). Suicide might seem the least likely option, due to the disgrace this would attract in an age where the fate of the soul after death was taken extremely seriously. Most historians have tended to shy away from believing that Dudley did away with his wife in order to marry the Queen, as he would have had to be very stupid not to foresee the consequences that transpired in fact, i.e. that the scandal created by the death made it less likely that he could marry the Queen, not more so; and also as the contemporary evidence seems to show genuine shock on his part and a seeming desire to have the matter investigated, even if only for the most part to clear his own name. This seems logical to me. Yet some of the evidence in the journal discovered in 1978 in the British Library does point towards some murky plotting, at least by Dudley's supporters, if not by the main himself (though the source is very biased) . The coroner's report concluded it was an accident and the evidence it contains about injuries from falling down the stairs fits this conclusion, but could also fit a conclusion of injuries caused by inflicted violence. We will surely never know for certain what happened, though my own view is still that murder by Dudley is unlikely for the reasons given above; sometimes, accidents really do happen.Much of the book covers the broader background to Elizabeth's attempts to dodge marriage either with Robert Dudley, or with anyone else, which speak to the stubbornness of the Queen's character, and her enormous caution in committing herself irrevocably to any one course of action (a feature which I think also makes murder carried out at her orders an very unconvincing explanation for poor Amy's death).