A release by Margaret George is always an event, and this is the first of two posts I'll be posting in celebration of her new novel. Check back tomorrow for a Q&A with Margaret, along with the chance to win a signed first edition of ELIZABETH I.
Please join me in welcoming Margaret George.
Secrets of the Virgin Queen by Margaret George
Elizabeth Tudor, the second most famous virgin in the world, has been having a difficult time defending her virtue lately. People refuse to believe that she was a virgin. Since this question can never be definitively settled, the argument can go on forever - and it has. In her own day, opinions about the queen’s virginity had more to do with politics than with evidence. If you were Spanish or Italian or Portuguese and loyal to the pope, then you had to believe that she was an ‘incestuous bastard born of an infamous courtesan’ with the morals of her mother. The pope had issued declarations that she was not the rightful queen and that no one should recognize her as such. Her enemies spread stories about her immorality and lovers, showing how unfit she was for the throne. On the other hand, if you were a Protestant from Germany or Scandinavia or Scotland, the queen’s purity was fiercely defended. She was the guardian of the faith against the evil Armadas sent by the satanic forces of Spain, and God only protects the pure of heart and body. Elizabeth herself made no bones about her virginity. She claimed to have embraced it for the sake of her people, so that she could say, ‘I have been content to be a taper of pure virgin wax, to waste myself and spend my life that I might give light and comfort to those that live under me.’ She appropriated every symbol of virginity that she could - white dresses, selection of the eglantine rose as her emblem, paintings that featured herself with an ermine (a creature that would die rather than soil its white fur) and a sieve (a Roman test of virginity), the moon, and pearls.
But, did the lady protest too much? Was this all a coverup? And if so, who was her lover? Popular opinion, then and now, pointed to Robert Dudley as the chosen one. It’s certain that she came as close to being in love with him---if she was capable of being in love---as with anyone. He was a swashbuckling ladies man and known as a love ‘em and leave ‘em kind of guy. Clearly he had a lot to offer in that department. But did she take him up on it? Evidence would say not. There was no privacy at court, and her foreign enemies had spies everywhere who would have discovered this tasty tidbit, if it existed. More than that, even had there been an opportunity with ironclad privacy, her own psychology did not permit her to yield to anyone, not even for pleasure. “There will be but one mistress here and no master,” she warned Dudley. Hardly the thing you say to anyone you want to go to bed with. In those days the concept of the zipless f--- did not exist. In fact, being someone’s lover created a legal relationship with them, something she would have shunned. (At one time an obstacle to Henry VIII’s marriage with Anne Boleyn was that they were ‘related’ because Anne’s sister had been Henry’s mistress.) Safe in her marble tomb in Westminster Abbey, the queen kept her secret to the grave. We may never know the truth, and that’s exactly as she wanted it.
Thank you, Margaret. To learn more about Margaret and her work, please visit her website. Don't forget to come back tomorrow for a chance to win a copy of ELIZABETH I.