Review: Death and the Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I and the Dark Scandal That Rocked the Throne by Chris Skidmore

by Chris Skidmore

Publication Date: January 18, 2011
St. Martin's Press |448p


In the tradition of Alison Weir’s New York Times bestselling Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley, comes the most sensational crime story of Tudor England.

On the morning of September 8, 1560, at the isolated manor of Cunmor place, the body of a young woman was found at the bottom of a staircase, her neck broken. But this was no ordinary death. Amy Robsart was the wife of Elizabeth I’s great favorite, Robert Dudley, the man who many believed she would marry, were he free. Immediately people suspected foul play and Elizabeth’s own reputation was in danger of serious damage. Many felt she might even lose her throne. An inquest was begun, witnesses called, and ultimately a verdict of death by accident was reached. But the mystery refused to die and cast a long shadow over Elizabeth’s reign. 

Using recently discovered forensic evidence from the original investigation, Skidmore is able to put an end to centuries of speculation as to the true causes of Robsart’s death. This is the story of a treacherous period in Elizabeth’s life: a tale of love, death, and tragedy, exploring the dramatic early life of England’s Virgin Queen.


Having long been fascinated by the mysterious death of Amy Robsart and after reading the varied reviews, both positive and negative, of Chris Skidmore’s Death and the Virgin Queen I just had to pick it up and check it out for myself. What’s that saying about curiosity again?! Well, it didn’t kill me, but it sure did almost bore me to death!

Death and the Virgin Queen attempts to reconstruct the time leading up to and the events on the day that Amy Robsart, wife to Elizabeth’s favorite Robert Dudley, was found dead at the bottom of a staircase at Cunmor Place starting one of history’s most tantalizing mysteries. He explores the various theories surrounding her death – did Amy commit suicide or was the fall accidental and related to the rumors of her being ill, did Robert have her killed so that he could be with Elizabeth or was she killed by Robert’s enemies as a way to get revenge (he was much hated at court) and further sully his name and reputation and shows the different bits of evidence available to support each theory. However, with there being little information on Amy and her whereabouts, there is quite a bit of “she could have been” and “she most likely” in the book.

The synopsis tells us that Death and the Virgin Queen puts an “end to centuries of speculation”, but I didn’t find this to be true for myself. In fact, it seems to have drummed up more questions than answers and only offers the authors’ assumptions at what may have happened. I also felt that it was a very dry read and I usually love non-fiction, but I found it hard it keep my attention on it. It was also quite repetitious and almost a little too in-depth on Elizabeth and her reign. I realize the author needs to set the story, but it seemed as if Amy’s death was an afterthought. All in all, it was interesting to read the theories surrounding her death but I didn’t feel like anything new and definitive was brought to the table. Unless some piece of concrete evidence is unearthed, we will probably always wonder what happened to Amy.



  1. I have not been a huge Elizabeth fan, but this has always been an intriguing question. But thanks to your review I will certainly skip this one.

  2. This is one that I would like to try. I would like to see the authors perspective on the death of Amy Robsart. I'm a big tudor fan.

  3. I can't imagine a book made on the premise of Amy's death!

  4. Even though some reviewers did not care for this, I find that it might be intriguing to read what the author was able to uncover. I would certainly be interested in reading this book.

    Connie Fischer

  5. Connie - Love your comment! For me, bad reviews make me want to read the book even more than good reviews! Which is why I chose to read this one. I love that you still have an open mind. While I never want to discourage someone from reading a particular book I did need to be honest about how I felt about it. But that doesn't mean that someone else won't like it - we are all different and that's what I love about reading...there's something for everyone. When you do pick it up I'd be very interested to get your take!

  6. I have been reading more non-fiction lately, but I find that the non-fiction has to be even more engaging for me to stick with it than a novel does (if that makes sense).
    Too bad this one was tedious for you; here's hoping your next read is a better one!


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