Dudley's youth was overshadowed by the downfall of his family in after his father, the Duke of Northumberland, had unsuccessfully tried to establish Lady Jane Grey on the English throne. Robert Dudley was condemned to death but was rehabilitated with the help of Philip II of Spain, then England's king consort.
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In October he became a privy councillor and in was appointed Lord Steward of the Royal Household. Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester was one of Elizabeth's leading statesmen, involved in domestic as well as foreign politics alongside William Cecil and Francis Walsingham. Although he adamantly refused to be married to Mary Queen of Scots, Dudley was for a long time relatively sympathetic to her. From the mids he strongly advocated her execution.
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As patron of the Puritan movement he supported non-conforming preachers, but tried to mediate between them and the bishops within the Church of England. A champion also of the international Protestant cause, he led the English campaign in support of the Dutch Revolt from — The expedition was a military and political failure and ruined the Earl financially. Leicester was engaged in many large-scale business ventures and a main backer of Francis Drake and other explorers and privateers.
During the Spanish Armada the Earl was in overall command of the English land forces. In this function he invited Queen Elizabeth to visit her troops at Tilbury. This was the last of many events he organized over the years, the most spectacular being the festival at his seat Kenilworth Castle in on occasion of a three-week visit by the Queen.
Dudley was a principal patron of the arts, literature, and the Elizabethan theatre. Robert Dudley's private life interfered with his court career and vice versa. When his first wife, Amy Robsart, fell down a flight of stairs and died in he was free to marry the Queen. However, the resulting scandal very much reduced his chances in this respect. Popular rumours that he had arranged for his wife's death continued throughout his life, despite the coroner's jury's verdict of accident.
For eighteen years he did not remarry for Queen Elizabeth's sake and when he finally did, his new wife, Lettice Knollys, was permanently banished from court. This and the death of his only legitimate son and heir were heavy blows. Shortly after the child's death in a virulent libel known as Leycester's Commonwealth was best-selling in England. It laid the foundation of a literary and historiographical tradition that often depicted the Earl as the Macchiavellian "master courtier" and as a deplorable figure around Elizabeth I.
More recent research has led to a reassessment of his place in Elizabethan government and society. Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester's photo gallery. No photos have been uploaded yet. Books with Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester. Philippa Gregory Goodreads Author. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Margaret George Goodreads Author.
Victoria Holt. Robin Maxwell Goodreads Author. Laura Andersen Goodreads Author. Sarah Gristwood Goodreads Author. During the years that followed, Robert kept his wife away from court — mindful, perhaps, that it might damage his relationship with Elizabeth. He remained loyal to her throughout, even when it risked his own safety. They spent many hours together and had a great deal in common, sharing a love of hunting, dancing and lively conversation.
His loyalty was rewarded when Elizabeth became queen in , at the age of She immediately appointed Dudley to be her Master of Horse, a prestigious position that involved regular attendance upon his royal mistress. But it was no longer easy for the couple to meet in private. Nevertheless, Elizabeth made it clear that she had no intention of giving up her favourite.
If anything, she found ways to spend even more time with him. Before long, their relationship was causing a scandal not just in England, but in courts across Europe. The obvious intimacy between them provoked endless speculation about just how close their relationship was. It is unlikely that Elizabeth, who had seen so many powerful examples of the perils of sex and childbirth, would have risked the throne she had fought so hard for by sleeping with her favourite.
But their friendship probably charted a careful course between platonic and sexual. His age placed his conception at , which coincided with Elizabeth being bedridden with a mysterious illness that caused her body to swell. The account therefore had an air of credibility, made more so by the fact that Arthur was able to name a servant who had allegedly spirited him away from the royal palace of Hampton Court near London as soon as he was born and raised him as his own, only confessing the truth on his deathbed in The circumstances were suspicious.
Amy insisted that all her servants attend a local fair. When they returned, they found her at the bottom of a short flight of stairs, her neck broken. Whether it was an accident, suicide or murder has never been resolved beyond doubt.
Two Portraits of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester - National Portrait Gallery
Dated 16th Century. The finger of suspicion pointed at Dudley, whom his enemies claimed would not have flinched from having his own wife put to death so that he could realise his ambitions of marrying the queen. Elizabeth was also in the frame: many believed that her passion for Dudley had driven her to have his wife murdered so that she could have him at last. They would hardly have taken such a risk, especially as they would have known that it would prove counterproductive to any plans they may have had to marry.
The scandal reverberated not just around the kingdom but across the courts of Europe, so that Elizabeth was obliged to distance herself from Dudley in order to avoid being implicated any further. But in private, the queen refused to give up her favourite. Now that the scrutiny of the court was even more intense, she was obliged to go to even greater lengths to conceal their meetings.
In November , for example, she disguised herself as the maid of Katherine Howard later Countess of Nottingham in order to enjoy the secret pleasure of watching Dudley shoot near Windsor Castle.
Another attempt at discretion was less successful. On a visit to court in , the Scottish ambassador Sir James Melville spied the portrait as Elizabeth was searching for one of his own royal mistress. As her reign progressed and the pressure to marry grew ever more intense, Elizabeth pretended to consider numerous potential suitors. But she would never commit to any of them. He besieged her with protestations of his undying affection, all of which his royal mistress received with obvious pleasure but with no firm promises. By , Dudley was growing desperate and decided to make one last, spectacular attempt to persuade Elizabeth to marry him.
Pulling out all the stops, he invited her to his Warwickshire estate, Kenilworth Castle, and staged several days of extraordinarily lavish entertainments at a huge cost.
Robert Dudley: Queen Elizabeth I’s great love
The queen loved every minute of her visit there, but would not be dazzled into acquiescence. For all his desperation to marry the queen, Dudley had been secretly courting one of her ladies-in-waiting, Lettice Knollys. This no doubt added to her attraction for Dudley, who had enjoyed a flirtation with Lettice for the previous 10 years. Now that his last-ditch attempt to persuade Elizabeth to marry him had failed, he took Lettice as his mistress.
For a time, Elizabeth was blissfully unaware that her favourite was betraying her.