Book Review: The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor – Elizabeth Norton

temptation-elizabeth-tudorTitle: The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor: Elizabeth I, Thomas Seymour, and the Making of a Virgin Queen
Author: Elizabeth Norton
ISBN: 9781605989488
Pages: 416
Release Date: January 4, 2016
Publisher: Pegasus
Genre: Nonfiction—History
Source: Publisher


In The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor: Elizabeth I, Thomas Seymour, and the Making of a Virgin Queen, historian Elizabeth Norton looks at a short time in the life of the woman who would become Elizabeth I—after the death of her father, King Henry VIII, but before her brother’s death. Norton examines the evidence surrounding rumors of an affair between the very young princess and Thomas Seymour and discusses the larger implications and ramifications they had.


Despite its title, The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor: Elizabeth I, Thomas Seymour, and the Making of a Virgin Queen is much larger than just the investigation of the possibility surrounding a scandalous affair. It is a snapshot of life in England after the death of a once-loved now-feared monarch, a country in religious turmoil and unsure of its future. Norton does a great job setting the scene for this book; she uses narrative interludes to really give the reader a feel for the times, for the uncertainty that surrounded everything and everyone, to great effect.

The two main pillars of The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor are Thomas Seymour, husband to the former queen (and Henry VIII’s sixth wife) Katherine Parr, and the princess herself. The meteoric rise of Elizabeth I is juxtaposed beautifully against the fall of Seymour; as Elizabeth gains prudence and wisdom and regrets her childish folly, Seymour revels in his foolishness and pays the ultimate price. It’s interesting to see how Seymour’s actions affect Elizabeth, and how we can presume they shaped her and her future reign.

Did Elizabeth Tudor actually have an affair with her stepfather? It’s the million-dollar question, and Norton doesn’t side step it. She tackles it head on, but it’s clear there’s no agenda or bias behind her work. She presents evidence that could possibly support the idea that they did indeed, and there was a child born from it—but also takes care to present alternative hypotheses that also fit the evidence. I appreciated this balanced look at the issue.

Sometimes histories can be dry, but The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor never suffers from that. It’s always engaging and interesting, filled to the brim with fantastic historical personages. Norton does especially well with Seymour; he was the worst of the worst, preying on a young princess who he was supposed to protect, and the author manages to portray that well without ever appearing to pass judgment on him. If you enjoy reading British history, this is a book that should definitely be on your shelf.

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  1. I am a Tudor fan so this is very me

  2. Where does the author land on whether they did or didn’t? That whole story was always particularly yucky to me — I know women married younger back then etc etc., but just her being fourteen and fifteen when this was all going down grosses me out to no end.

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