Robert Dudley was born on June 24th 1532, the fifth child of thirteen to the proud parents of John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, Duke of Northumberland, and Lady Jane Guildford (1). Although he had many siblings, many died before reaching adulthood and are therefore not mentioned in many historical texts (1). Robert Dudley is said to have been a very intelligent man. He enjoyed ‘mathematics, astronomy, athletics, and astrology” (1). He was brilliant in horsemanship and enjoyed listening and playing music as well as drama. Most people know of Robert Dudley as ‘the man who had an affair with Queen Elizabeth I’ however, Dudley was quite more than that. Little is said about his childhood, maybe because he was still an innocent boy and not involved in too much scandal…yet. However, Dudley received his first encounter with rebellion during his father’s imprisonment regarding a conspiracy to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne.
The story of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland goes as follows: Upon the death of King Edward Seymour, John tried to make Edward acknowledge his daughter-in-law, Jane Grey to assail the throne. After Edward died, Grey was actually acknowledged queen until knowledge of John’s conspiracy was noted by the court. Grey was forced to give up the throne to Edwards’ half-sister, Mary Tudor, and later John, Robert, Guilford, Ambrose and Henry (all Dudley brothers) were sent to the tower to be interrogated. John Dudley lost his head, and Robert Dudley was sentenced to life imprisonment, until he was pardoned by King Phillip II, Mary Tudor’s husband (2). Fortunately for Dudley this was not his last encounter with royalty. Having been a long-time friend of Elizabeth I he fell under her favor during her reign, and became known as her ‘favorite’. This ‘favor’ would last for a time and produce many rewards and consequences for Dudley.
Dudley, upon freedom from his imprisonment had already taken a wife, Amy Robsart (3). Elizabeth, it would seem did not care about his particular relationship with Amy for it was rumored around court that Elizabeth and Dudley were indeed lovers, and had an existing relationship (3). Upon Elizabeth’s favors’ Dudley acquired the titles: Master of the Horse, 1st Earl of Leicester, and many more titles, placing him as a private advisor to the queen. Later in his life he was appointed over the Dutch campaign in 1585 and was given the title of ‘Governor-General of the Dutch Republic under the Treaty of Nonsuch” (3). He was also given command over the English forces against the Spanish Armada. However, the Spanish never landed on the soil and his hopes of being a great military leader were thwarted (3).
Dudley had always been ‘good with the ladies’ and this is clearly evident within his life. He took three wives and had several other ’flings’ with many of the Queen’s ladies. His first wife as stated was Amy Robsart, whom many historians believe he poisoned after her mysterious ‘fall down the stairs’ resulted in death (3). There is also the belief that Robsart was deathly ill and her murder was ordered by the Queen’s men (3). Honestly when it comes to Robsart, the theories keep coming. His second wife, Lady Sheffield bore him a son who was named Robert Dudley (4) and a daughter who was named Douglas (4). His third wife, some say was a legitimate marriage and some say wasn’t, but nevertheless he coerced with Lettice Knollys who happened to be the maternal cousin of Queen Elizabeth (3). The scandal continues!!!!! Along the pathway to marriage he broke several hearts including Lady Douglas’ sister, Frances Howard, Queen Elizabeth I and not to mention many of her ladies in waiting. When it all comes down to it, Dudley was the equivalent of a ‘gold-digger’. He wanted royalty and wealth, and was not afraid to take off his pants to get it.
The death of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, came suddenly to Elizabeth I’s ears. He apparently died from a malarial infection, or some say stomach cancer in his house in Oxfordshire on September 4th 1588 (3). We would love to write something of value about this man, mentioning something about his legacy. The fact is he left a legacy of regret, sadness, illegal births, and an unfulfilled life. Robert Dudley, hail to you for living the American Dream!
Robert Dudley: Earl of Leicester. Western Civilization. April, 2006.
Robert Dudley. Schoolnet. 3/22/2007
Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester. Wikipedia. March, 2007. 3/22/2007
Robert, Earl of Leicester.3/22/2007
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