The Virgin’s Lover is an interesting book. I am a huge admirer of Queen Elizabeth I. Philippa Gregory loves writing about the Tudor Family. This book is all about the first two years of the Queen’s reign and her love affair with Sir Robert Dudley.
It being February and all – the month of lovers and what not, I thought it would be fitting to make this my book of the month for February. So without further ado, my review of The Virgin’s Lover…
So What’s this book about?
As I said, this is a love story between the world’s most famous Queen and her commoner childhood friend. It’s more than that though. It’s really a love triangle between these two and Dudley’s wife, Amy. Philippa Gregory gives us three different perspectives of this affair. Scratch that. She gives us four.
The Virgin’s Lover may be centered around Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley but Amy and the Queen’s top adviser, William Cecil, who does his damnedest to prevent the scandal that surrounds the young queen and her lover, shows us just how serious – and dangerous – this relationship was to the Queen.
What did I think of the book?
I love Philippa Gregory! I especially love her books on the Tudors. She really does such a good job of mixing real life with fiction (based on documentation of facts and rumors that is). I had to constantly remind myself throughout the book that it was in fact, fiction.
She does an amazing job of making you forget that.
I did enjoy the book, though it’s not my favorite book by this author. I couldn’t help feeling a bit betrayed by her in her depiction of one of my favorite historical figures. That’s more to do with me than with the writer.
Was the Queen Strong?
I have always seen Queen Elizabeth I as one of the strongest women in history. I always saw her as a woman who stood up for herself in the face of so many men telling her that ruling wasn’t a woman’s job. I see her as fierce and formidable and she made history choosing to rule alone.
I felt the author portrayed Queen Elizabeth as weak minded, entirely dependent on the men around her – perhaps a bit too much than she actually was – and not as much the queen that history knows her to be.
This is where the constant reminders came in for me. I had to recognize that A, this is fiction and B, it’s based on the first two years of the queen’s reign. Trying to put myself in her shoes, she probably was completely dependent on her advisers.
She was a young queen, new to the throne. She was inexperienced but she was also a survivor. She was constantly terrified that someone was going to kill her and this drove her to paranoia and she trusted very few people.
The man who dared love a Queen
Robert Dudley was one of those few people. Queen Elizabeth trusted him completely with her life and with her heart. What Philippa Gregory does though is show a different side of Dudley. Through his interactions with his wife, Amy, we see a different side of the man that I never saw before.
But through my own research over the years, my own life experience, and comparing fact with fiction, I think the author’s portrayal of Robert Dudley is probably more accurate than anything I’ve seen in other fictions about the virgin’s lover.
They say that he truly loved Elizabeth. Even the author states it in her Author’s note. Maybe he really did love her but throughout the book I couldn’t help but feel that he loved himself more. He was very manipulative and way too ambitious for his own good.
Maybe the real man did believe it was his destiny to become king and rule at Elizabeth’s side. This made him more cocky than he should have been. And he used Elizabeth’s love for him against her whenever it suited him.
Manipulation of someone you claim to love is not love. His ambitions ruled him more than his love for Elizabeth. At one point in the book, he starts to really make demands on her as if he is her husband. He acts as many husbands did in those days.
That he is to rule over her and she is to obey him. And the way he treated his wife, Amy. I have watched movies and read other books on Robert and his wife. This is the first time though that I got to read her story. Regardless of whether it was true or not, I really felt for her.
He cast her aside and only when she died did he show he cared about her at all. But that was the guilt taking over his mind. He didn’t care for her in life but when she died, he felt remorseful for the way he treated his estranged wife.
And what of William Cecil?
As for William Cecil, I don’t know what to think of him. On the one hand he really did seem to have the Queen’s best interest at heart but he also truly loved his country. I respect that a great deal.
But again, this is fiction. I do love how The Virgin’s Lover put me right there as if I was walking with these characters, feeling their feelings, and learning their thoughts. It reminds that it is so hard sometimes to separate fact from fiction as most of what people know about the two lovers was mostly rumors.
It stirs a passion in me though to find out more. What was written back then about the Virgin Queen and her lover? It wasn’t all rumor but the rumors is what makes this love story so fascinating!
My final Thoughts
If you are a history buff and find the Tudors or even just Queen Elizabeth I interesting, I would recommend this book. I don’t know that I would recommend this book for romance enthusiasts as it is full of romance but the romance is more betrayal and scandal than it is the actual romance part. Then again, if that’s your thing, this might be the book for you.
Still, I enjoyed reading The Virgin’s Lover and I would encourage all of you out there that if this your type of book, do give it a try. You never know, you might find a new interest in history if you don’t already.
At any rate, I look forward to reading more of Philippa Gregory’s books.
Thanks so much for reading!
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