“I Can Saye No More”: John Dudley’s Farewell Speech to the Council

In the morning of 14 July 1553 the streets of London were bustling with preparations for an armed response to the Lady Mary’s challenge against the newly proclaimed queen, Jane. Jane’s father-in-law, the Duke of Northumberland, had been appointed (by herself) to lead the army which was being recruited from the duke’s retainers and by the generous payment of up to 20 pence per day for volunteers.1 Jane’s father, the Duke of Suffolk, had been the council’s first choice of general, but apparently he did not feel fit. He was possibly unwell,2 or he may have suffered from nerves or even some diplomatic illness.

Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey, made queen “rather of force … then by hir owne seking and request”

Northumberland had misgivings, too. It was crucial which duke stayed and which duke went: Suffolk was a political lightweight lacking authority and so Northumberland – though considered the best soldier in England – was needed to keep Jane’s council in line. He was perfectly aware of that. And so when he addressed his colleagues before his last meal at home, he revealed what he really thought of them as well as his true opinion of recent events (even if we keep in mind that the chronicler wrote in hindsight):

“My lordes, I and theis other noble personages, and the hole army, that nowe go furthe, aswell for the behalfe of you and yours as for the establishing of the quenes highnes, shall not onely adventer our bodyes and lives amongest the bludy strokes and cruell assaltes of our adversaryes in the open feldes, but also we do leave the conservacion of our selves, children, and famelies at home here with you, as altogether comytted to your truths and fydellyties, whom if we thought you wolde through malice, conspiracie, or discentyon leave us your frendes in the breers [briars] and betray us, we coulde aswell sondery waies foresee and provide for our owne savegardes as eny of you by betraying us can do for youres.

But now upon the onely truste and faythefullnes of your honnours, wherof we thincke ourselves moste assured, we do hassarde and jubarde [jeopardize] our lives, which trust and promise yf ye shall violate, hoping therby of life and promotyon, yet shall not God counte you innocent of our bloodes, neither acquite you of the sacred and holley othe of allegiance made frely by you to this vertuouse lady the quenes highenes, who by your and our enticement is rather of force placed therin then by hir owne seking and request.

Consider also that Goddes cause, which is the preferment of his worde and the feare of papestry’s re-entrance, hathe been as ye have herebefore allwaies sayed, the oryginall grounde wherupon ye even at the first motyon granted your goode willes and concentes therunto, as by your handes writinges evidentlie apperith.

And thincke not the contrary, but if ye meane deceat, thoughe not forthwith yet hereafter, God will revenge the same. I can saye no more; but in theis troblesome tyme wishe you to use constaunte hartes, abandoning all malice, envy, and privat affections.”

Therewith-all the first course for the lordes came uppe. Then the duke did knit uppe his talke with theis words: “I have not spoken to you on this sorte upon any distrust I have of your truthes, of the which allwaies I have ever hitherto conceaved a trusty confidence; but I have put you in remembrance therof, what chaunce of variaunce soever might growe emongest you in myne absence; and this I praye you, wishe me no worse goode spede in this journey then ye wolde have to yourselves.”

“My lorde, (saith one of them), yf ye mistrust eny of us in this matter, your grace is far deceaved; for which of us can wipe his handes clene therof? And if we should shrincke from you as one that were culpable, which of us can excuse himself as guiltles? Therefore herein your doubt is too farre cast.” “I praie God yt be so (quod the duke); let us go to dyner.”3

1 Ives 2009 p. 200
2 de Lisle 2008 p. 107
3 Chronicle of Queen Jane pp. 7 – 8

The Chronicle of Queen Jane and Two Years of Queen Mary. (ed. J. G. Nichols, 1850).

de Lisle, Leanda (2008): The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: Mary, Katherine, and Lady Jane Grey. A Tudor Tragedy. Ballantine Books.

Ives, Eric (2009): Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery. Wiley-Blackwell.

A Grand Conspiracy in 1553? – Grants

Money is probably the best evidence for a conspiracy in 1553. The “cash flow” does not only tell us that there was a plot, but also when it took place. In May, but mostly in June 1553, a lot of property changed hands in England: To put his daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, on the English throne, the Duke of Northumberland needed to buy support. The greatest plums went to the Princess Mary, Edward VI’s half-sister and, by law, the heir to the throne.

Not every royal grant in 1553 was a bribe. Many beneficiaries indeed seem to have profited from death bed largesse rather than needing to be bought. Henry Gates, the brother of Sir John Gates (the chief influence in Edward’s privy chamber) was unlikely to disagree with the accession of Jane Grey. Sir John, deemed a fanatical Protestant, was later even suspected of coming up with the plan to make her queen.

Edward Lord Clinton, Northumberland's nephew, was another beneficiary of royal grants

Edward Lord Clinton, nephew of the Duke of Northumberland and a beneficiary of royal grants

Several beneficiaries were personally close to Edward, while not being powerful figures themselves. One of the earlier grants was made on 22 May 1553, to John Cheke, the king’s beloved tutor. Others who received grants were Sir Henry Sidney and Thomas Wroth, the friends in whose arms Edward died only days later. None of these men had to be bought. Sidney and Wroth worked closely with Northumberland, and Cheke, another keen Protestant, was reported to be one of those planting Mary’s demotion into Edward’s head.1

The most important and most difficult people to buy were the noblemen. The Earl of Shrewsbury was a great provincial magnate, rather cool towards the Edwardian regime and keeping aloof from involvement in central government. He certainly had to be bought. Most difficult, and as it turned out impossible, to win was the grand Earl of Arundel, who had fallen into disgrace together with the Duke of Somerset. Other than Somerset he had kept his head and had been released, but he had received a huge fine, which was adjusted and confirmed as late as 10 May 1553!2 – A sign, surely, that any plots for the succession were not yet in the making. Interestingly, Arundel’s fine was remitted on 1 July. Only on 21 June 1553, the day he and many others signed Edward’s “Devise”, was Arundel restored to the privy council.3

The other noblemen receiving grants were not enemies of the regime, but allies. John Russell, Earl of Bedford, may have been not particularly committed but he too was a Protestant and John Dudley had already rewarded his support (with an earldom) on an earlier occasion. Henry Neville, Earl of Westmorland, 29 years old, could almost be called the Duke of Northumberland’s protegé. An incorrigible gambler, he was always in debt. His ancient name notwithstanding, he owed his position of power in the North of England to the duke’s regime, in whose interest he worked. The Earl of Pembroke and the Earl of Huntingdon were also allies, almost cronies; and Huntingdon was not only a recently acquired relative (his son having wed Northumberland’s daughter), but he and his son were also regular house guests of the Dudleys.4

Of the remaining peers, Lords Clinton and De La Warr were relatives as well; De La Warr was the Duchess of Northumberland’s uncle, while Clinton was the duke’s nephew (by marriage). Lord Darcy, on the other hand, was one of those men Northumberland called “my special friends”. As Edward’s Lord Chamberlain he was also the most important channel of communications between the king and his chief minister.

The London financier, Thomas Gresham, received his grant on 1 July 1553 (King Edward dying on the sixth); it is always a good thing to have warm relations with money people. And Gresham had been very useful before.

The largest grant for Princess Mary: Framlingham Castle

The biggest grant to Princess Mary: Framlingham Castle. Photo by Squeezyboy. CC BY 2.0

The most intriguing group of grants are those given to Princess Mary and her circle. Mary received the substantial Framlingham Castle and Park in mid-May and Hertford Castle as late as 6 June.5 In the same month she also received lands worth £604 17s 1¾d p.a. in exchange for lands near the Essex coast and a diamond and pearl pendant from Edward VI.6 As late as 19 June – the day public prayers started to be held for Edward’s recovery – her best friend and lady-in-waiting, Susan Clarencius, was allowed to buy more lands in Essex.7

Framlingham Castle in Suffolk (which she would use as her fortified headquarters within a few weeks) was the most generous gift Mary ever received from her brother. It came as the last step in an exchange of lands talked of since December 1552, but the point in time is still highly significant. Added to this came the considerable lands, and another functioning castle, received in Hertfordshire on 6 June. How plausible is it that Northumberland would have transacted this deal with Mary when at the same time he was plotting her overthrow?

Or was it actually a deal of another nature? One historian has argued that the Edwardian government sought to buy even the king’s sisters. That the grants of Framlingham and Hertford Castle to Mary and some other benefits to Elizabeth (as hinted at by William Camden) were part of a deal to accept their brother’s ideas for the succession.8 We must remember that Mary actually took possession of her new strongholds and that Framlingham especially proved to be crucial in her forthcoming struggle, for the crown and against Northumberland and his troops. Had she duped the duke? That Susan Clarencius was favoured as late as 19 June only supports this impression. Whatever the answer, it seems inconceivable that Northumberland would have let Mary have a place like Framlingham – in her home turf East Anglia – if he had anticipated to fight against her in the near future. It would have been strategic suicide.

Considering how, and especially when, some things happened between March and July 1553 – in parliament, in foreign relations, in issuing rewards – it clearly appears that there was a conspiracy for the crown. However, it becomes also clear that there was no grand conspiracy, no master plan planned over many months, as tradition would have it. The circumstantial evidence discussed points towards June as the time when the plan to enthrone Jane really came into being. And that’s pretty late.

Grants by Edward VI to courtiers and noblemen, April – July 15539

  • 17 April
      Henry Neville, 5th Earl of Westmorland
  • 22 May
      John Cheke, royal tutor, lands worth £100 p.a.
  • June
      Lord Edward Clinton
      Lord Thomas Darcy
      Thomas West, 9th Baron De La Warr
  • 12 June
      Henry Gates, brother of Sir John Gates, lands worth £102 12s 7d p.a.
      Francis Hastings, 2nd Earl of Huntingdon, £158 8s 5d p.a.
  • 23 June
      Sir Henry Sidney, privy chamber, lands worth £160 6s 11½d p.a.
  • 26 June
      William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, Dnyate, Somerset
      John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, lands worth £78 16s 7d p.a.
      George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, mansion of Coldharbour, London, and lands worth £66 13s 1½d p.a.
  • 1 July
      Thomas Gresham, financier, lands worth £201 14s 9½d p.a.
  • 3 July
      Sir Henry Sidney, keepership of Sheen (Palace of Placentia)
  • 4 July
      Thomas Wroth, privy chamber, lands worth £87 3s 8½d p.a.

continued from
A Grand Conspiracy in 1553? – Parliament
A Grand Conspiracy in 1553? – Foreign Affairs

1 Loach 2002 p. 163
2 Loades 1996 p. 262
3 Ives 2009 pp. 161 – 162
4 Hoak 1976 pp. 63 – 65; Cross 1966 pp. 9, 13; Loades 1996 p. 308
5 Skidmore 2007 p. 264; McIntosh 2008 ch. 4; MacCulloch 1995 p. 538
6 Skidmore 2007 pp. 264, 329
7 MacCulloch 1995 p. 538; Ives 2009 p. 186
8 McIntosh 2008 ch. 4
9 Skidmore 2007 pp. 264, 327; Ives 2009 p. 317; Gammon 1973 pp. 185, 275; Loach 2002 p. 165

Cross, Claire (1966): The Puritan Earl: The Life of Henry Hastings, Third Earl of Huntingdon 1536-1595. Jonathan Cape.

Gammon, S. R. (1973): Statesman and Schemer: William, First Lord Paget. Tudor Minister. David & Charles.

Hoak, Dale (1976): The King’s Council in the Reign of Edward VI. Cambridge University Press.

Ives, Eric (2009): Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery. Wiley-Blackwell.

Loach, Jennifer (2002): Edward VI. Yale University Press.

Loades, David (1996): John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland 1504–1553. Clarendon Press.

Lock, Julian (2004): “Fitzalan, Henry, twelfth earl of Arundel (1512–1580)”. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.

MacCulloch, Diarmaid (1996): Thomas Cranmer: A Life. Yale University Press.

McIntosh, J. L. (2008): From Heads of Household to Heads of State: The Preaccession Households of Mary and Elizabeth Tudor. Columbia University Press.

Skidmore, Chris (2007): Edward VI: The Lost King of England. Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

A Grand Conspiracy in 1553? – Foreign Affairs

On 13 March 1553 the English privy council busied itself with granting a licence for the export of 200,000 pairs of old shoes.1 On 27 June 1553 the members of the same council swore themselves to secrecy about their forthcoming proceedings and banned the council clerks from their presence. The secret matter in hand was the succession of Lady Jane Grey to the crown of Edward VI,2 whose death was daily expected. The date of 27 June is noteworthy; it is a very late date compared to what is usually said about the Duke of Northumberland’s plotting. Traditionally, John Dudley and his colleagues on the council in the early months of 1553 did little else than thinking of how to avert the succession of Mary Tudor. However, as is hinted by their actions in March, this is far from the truth and it looks as if the decision to go through with their scheme came very late in the day.

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland

Although England was a small country, English foreign policy under the Duke of Northumberland tried to stay clear from getting sucked up in the perennial rivalry between France and the Empire. Thus, when war once again broke out in September 1551, a policy of neutrality was pursued despite existing treaties of friendship with both powers.3 In December 1552 Northumberland decided to bring about a European peace by English mediation, which, if successful, would add to the prestige of Edward VI. He sent his brother (Sir Andrew Dudley) and his son-in-law (Sir Henry Sidney) on diplomatic missions to the emperor and the King of France, respectively.

On 11 February 1553 Dudley and Sir Richard Morrison, the English resident ambassador at the Habsburg court, had an audience with the emperor at Brussels. Charles V declared that he would gladly make peace, if only the French king could be trusted (which he could not). Then, as Andrew Dudley was taking his leave and offered to kiss the emperor’s hand, “the Emperor cast his arm about Dudley’s neck, with great show of accepting his coming [and] of liking his message.”4

Back in England, Andrew Dudley was received by Edward VI. In early April follow-up missions were sent to both Brussels and Paris. The Imperial ambassador, Jehan de Schefye, also had an audience, with the Duke of Northumberland, who opined that

if the King of France were inclined to make peace, his Imperial Majesty ought to forgive what had happened, without remembering past offences. I rejoined that his Majesty was bound to defend his territories and subjects, and by all appearances the King of France was not seeking peace, as he was making a brave show of warlike preparations. He answered, smiling, that the Emperor was also making great preparations, but he did not explain himself further.5

Henry Sidney had also returned to England, with promising signs from the King of France “that he would not refuse to entertain peace, particularly as the King of England, his well-beloved son and brother, had taken a hand in them; and he would do more for his sake than for that of any other prince.”6 However, all these hopeful nicecties were ended in the first week of June by the warring parties, the benefits from continued hostilities turning out more advantageous.7

Meanwhile, Northumberland had even brought the German Protestant states into the equation, and his active pursuit of a European peace had lasted from December 1552 until late May 1553. It seems significant that it was the Continental powers who ended these diplomatic initiatives. Was Northumberland planning to exclude Mary from the succesion all those months? Is it conceivable that he would have risked so much to offend the emperor, Mary’s great protector, and at the same time give him a free hand against England through a peace with France? While most historians seem to have ignored the question, at least two did not think so.8

More mundane business went on as well: During May 1553 the English government tried to get hold of a man known by the name of Black Will, “who of long time has been a notable murderer and one of the most wretched and vile persons that lives”. Will had reached Flanders – Habsburg territory – where English agents finally succeeded in hunting him down after more than two years. A flurry of diplomatic activity ensued, and ambassador Philip Hoby received instructions how to achieve Black Will’s extradition. Hoby reported success on 19 May, writing that “Black Will is to be delivered up, it being a pity so abominable a murderer should escape unpunished”, but in the end the regent did not quite comply with the English government’s wishes. However, Black Will did not escape punishment, for, after commiting several further murders, he was executed in Flanders.9

It was now common knowledge that King Edward was dying, and Jehan de Scheyfye had convinced himself that Northumberland was engaged in some “mighty plot” to settle the crown on his own head.10 However, as late as 12 June he knew nothing specific and had only recently reported that Northumberland would divorce his wife and marry the Lady Elizabeth.11

To France, meanwhile, the notion of the emperor’s cousin Mary sitting on the English throne seemed disagreeable; the new ambassador, Antoine de Noailles, had several talks with Northumberland and the council, indicating support for any schemes removing her from the succession. It was also suggested to Northumberland that he take the throne himself.12 On 15 June Henri II personally wrote a letter “à mon cousin le duc de Northomberland”, whose contents however consisted chiefly of a demand to extradite a French nobleman and his wife, who, accused of crimes against the state, had escaped from prison and found refuge in England.13 Henri had also sent a special delegation to England, which was received at the court on 28 May 1553. It was nearly a month later, though, on 26 June, that the Duke of Northumberland had himself rowed up the Thames to pay a secret visit to the French ambassador’s home.14

continued at
A Grand Conspiracy in 1553? – Grants

continued from
A Grand Conspiracy in 1553? – Parliament

1 Hoak 1976 p. 220
2 Hoak 1976 pp. 10, 277
3 Loades 1996 pp. 203 – 206; 241 – 242
4 CSP Foreign 12 February 1553
5 CSP Span 17 March 1553
6 CSP Span 31 March 1553
7 Loades 1996 p. 244
8 Jordan 1970 p. 177; Loades 1996 pp. 241 – 244
9 Bellamy 2005 p. 124; CSP Foreign 19 May 1553
10 Ives 2009 p. 151
11 Loades 1996 p. 239; Loades 2003 p. 79
12 Loades 1996 p. 255; Skidmore 2007 pp. 255 – 256
13 Vertot II pp. 36, 30
14 Loach 2002 p. 166

Ambassades de Messieurs de Noailles en Angleterre. Volume II. (ed. by Abbé Vertot, 1763)

Calendar of State Papers, Spain. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/search/series/cal-state-papers–spain

Calendar of State Papers, Foreign. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/search/series/cal-state-papers–foreign

Bellamy, John (2005): Strange, Inhuman Deaths: Murder in Tudor England. Sutton.

Hoak, Dale (1976): The King’s Council in the Reign of Edward VI. Cambridge University Press.

Ives, Eric (2009): Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery. Wiley-Blackwell.

Jordan, W. K. (1970): Edward VI: The Threshold of Power. The Dominance of the Duke of Northumberland. George Allen & Unwin.

Loach, Jennifer (2002): Edward VI. Yale University Press.

Loades, David (1996): John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland 1504–1553. Clarendon Press.

Loades, David (2003): Elizabeth I. Hambledon Continuum.

Skidmore, Chris (2007): Edward VI: The Lost King of England. Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

A Grand Conspiracy in 1553? – Parliament

Historians have disagreed considerably on deciding when exactly the Duke of Northumberland’s plot to plant his son Guildford on the English throne – by marrying him to Lady Jane Grey – came into being. Traditionally this happened quite early, sometime in 1552, so as to give the duke enough time for his nefarious enterprise. It has been observed that he did not have enough time,1 however, so that in recent decades (i.e. from 1970 onwards) the date has wandered to early 1553, or to the spring, or even to the early summer of that fateful year. In parallel it has also been debated whether there was even a plot at all, or whether the attempted change in the succession was rather instituted according to the wishes of the adolescent king. Most historians now believe that Edward VI and his chief minister plotted together.

Many differing scenarios of the events can be found in history books, and some are more plausible than others, while it is probably impossible to arrive at the exact truth. There can only be interpretations of what may have happened, and there is plenty of evidence to consider.

Edward VI, in the pose of a King in Parliament

Edward VI, in the pose of a King in Parliament

Tradition has it that Edward was a sickly child and suffered from a weak constitution, but his health seems to have been normally robust. However, at Christmas 1552 he caught a cold, and in early February 1553 he was suffering from a high fever which alarmed the authorities enough to summon the Lady Mary, his half-sister, to London. On arrival she was obsequiously honoured in recognition of the fact that she was the heir apparent.2 Edward never fully recovered his health, but it was not at all clear from the outset of his illness that he would die within a few months. There were intermittent signs of hope until in late May his condition worsened dramatically.

Henry VIII had buttressed his changes to the succession of the crown by Acts of Parliament, and apparently this set a precedent that any further changes would also need to be sanctioned by parliament to be lawful. Aware of this, Edward VI on 19 June 1553 personally stipulated that his will should be ratified by that body. The next day the writs were sent out for the assembly to meet on 18 September.

Tantalizingly, Edward VI had opened a parliament on 1 March 1553, only to close it on 31 March. Oddly enough, the government had dissolved the parliament instead of simply proroguing it, which would have dispensed with the need of new elections for the next session of parliament; this indicates that on 31 March Northumberland had no idea that he would be in need of one in the foreseeable future. As it came, the parliament called in June for September really came together in October 1553, to inaugurate the reign of Queen Mary.

Is it conceivable that Northumberland would have disbanded the one institution that could have sanctioned his alleged plans for the crown, the business unfinished? It has been argued that he would not have dared to broach the subject of the succession in parliament;3 however this seems unconvincing in the light of his bold later doings, and he had already decided to call parliament in the first place in spite of misgivings over asking them for a subsidy. While, as was usual, the subsidy was the chief purpose there were also other tough questions handled with great efficiency,4 and any mid-Tudor parliament could not seriously have denied its sovereign anything if demanded by him in person (as Edward, though in bad health, could certainly have done).

It is likely therefore that in March 1553 the government – or Northumberland and his cronies – were not yet aware of Edward’s plans for the succession or even his hopeless case.5 It is sometimes said that the Venetian ambassador had an audience with the king in March, in which he found him to be clearly dying.6 However, in the relazione or diplomatic report out of which this detail seems to have been evoked there is no mention of any audience or of a moribund Edward;7 and anyway the ambassador writing on 17 March that Edward was – possibly – mortally ill was the Imperial rather than the Venetian. In the case of the Habsburg ambassador, however, wishful thinking played as big a part as actual information.8

continued at
A Grand Conspiracy in 1553? – Foreign Affairs

1 Loades 2008a
2 Hoak 2008; Loach 2002 p. 159; Ives 2009 p. 84
3 de Lisle 2008 p. 87
4 Loades 1996 pp. 231 – 232, 236 – 237
5 Loades 2004 p. 69
6 Chapman 1958 p. 269; Hoak 2008; de Lisle 2008 p. 87
7 CSP Venetian 18 August 1554
8 Loades 2004 pp. 120 – 121; CPS Span 17 March 1553

Calendar of State Papers Spain: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol11

Calendar of State Papers Venice: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/venice/vol5

Chapman, Hester (1958): The Last Tudor King: A Study of Edward VI. Jonathan Cape.

de Lisle, Leanda (2008): The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: Mary, Katherine, and Lady Jane Grey. A Tudor Tragedy. Ballantine Books.

Hoak, Dale (2008): “Edward VI (1537–1553)”. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition.

Ives, Eric (2009): Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery. Wiley-Blackwell.

Jordan, W. K. (1970): Edward VI: The Threshold of Power. The Dominance of the Duke of Northumberland. George Allen & Unwin.

Loach, Jennifer (2002): Edward VI. Yale University Press.

Loades, David (1996): John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland 1504–1553. Clarendon Press.

Loades, David (2004): Intrigue and Treason: The Tudor Court, 1547–1558. Pearson/Longman.

Loades, David (2008a): ‟Dudley, John, duke of Northumberland (1504–1553)“. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition.

Loades, David (2008b): The Life and Career of William Paulet (c.1475 – 1575): Lord Treasurer and First Marquess of Winchester. Ashgate.

Tytler, P. F. (1839): England under the Reigns of Edward VI. and Mary. Volume II. Richard Bentley.

Melancholy Knights, by Hilliard and Oliver

Essex in armour HilliardIn 1569 the unmarried courtier, Sir Henry Lee, had the idea that Elizabeth I’s accession day on 17 November (1558) should be specially celebrated at the court with great jousting or tilting. By the 1580s these Accession Day tilts had become an important occasion for the queen’s young knights to show their prowess and their skills with arms. Nicholas Hilliard painted his patron the Earl of Essex full-length in tilting armour, in a miniature. It shows him at the Accession Day of 1595, his armour showing diamonds within a circle, a personal emblem of Essex.

Cumberland in tilting armour HilliardThe seafaring knight, George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland, was also portrayed in tilting armour by Hilliard, although his looks more like fancy dress. However, this effect is caused by the elaborate tabard or surcoat he wears over it; his armour proper would have been the most beautiful at court as Clifford acted as Queen’s Champion during the 1590s. The Hilliard miniature shows him with the queen’s glove – her “favour” – pinned to his hat.

Hilliard Henry PercyEssex’ intellectual brother-in-law, Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland, became known as “the Wizard Earl”. Whether his melancholy was aggravated by his unhappy marriage to Dorothy Devereux or not, he found solace in scientific experiments, and another miniature by Nicholas Hilliard depicts him in a pose which seems to hint at exactly these two themes – science and melancholy. The earl managed to keep clear of the Essex conspiracy, only to be entangled (by association) in the Gun Powder Plot; he spent 17 years in the Tower, where he had plenty of time for his scholarly pursuits.

Hilliard’s pupil Isaac Oliver became ever more successful in the late 1590s and under James I gained royal patronage. The melancholy youth was still en vogue, as shown by his Young Man Seated Under A Tree. The Oxford scholar, Robert Burton, even combined melancholy with science in his 1621 book, Anatomy of Melancholy.

Isaac Oliver Young man sitting under a tree

continued from
Essex, by Hilliard and Oliver

Aston, Margaret (1996): The Panorama of the Renaissance. Thames & Hudson.




Essex, by Hilliard and Oliver

Hilliard Young man amongst roses V&AOn his death, the Earl of Leicester’s mantle fell on the shoulders of his stepson, the Earl of Essex. He did not inherit a penny, but he nevertheless was his political heir and was expected to take over his court faction. Leicester’s nephew, Sir Robert Sidney, demanded as much in a letter to Essex, for the young earl was already the great favourite of Elizabeth’s later years.

Essex c.1588 by Hilliard croppedHowever, Robert Devereux was also Robert Dudley’s heir in the realm of artistic patronage. Leicester had been the friend and most important patron of Nicholas Hilliard, and Essex also became his friend and patron. In 1595 he even gave him money, the incredible sum of £140 (the cash was needed for house repairs). In 1588, the year of the Armada (and Leicester’s death), Hilliard made what is believed to be a portrait miniature of Essex, who was then about 23.

Essex also employed other artists to paint his likeness, most importantly Isaac Oliver among miniaturists. After his return as a hero from the Cadiz expedition he grew a beard.

Essex Isaac Oliver drawing

Essex by Oliver

Essex miniatureWithout his beard, Robert Devereux had been exceptionally handsome and embodied the late Elizabethan ideal of the melancholic youth. (Unfortunately, a strong streak of melancholy proved his undoing). A full-length oval miniature by Hilliard depicts a young man among roses, almost certainly the 21-year-old Earl of Essex as a courtier, who “wears the Queen’s colours, black and white, and is surrounded by the eglantine rose, a symbol of the Queen.”

continued at
Melancholy Knights, by Hilliard and Oliver

Goldring, Elizabeth (2014): Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and the World of Elizabethan Art. Yale University Press.


Parrots for Ladies

A lady with her green parrot, 1540s.

A lady with her green parrot, 1540s, by Maarten van Heemskerck

On her death bed, Jane Dudley, the widowed Duchess of Northumberland and mother of Robert Dudley, remembered her recently acquired friends from Spain who had helped secure the freedom of her sons. Among the Spanish grandees mentioned in her will, the only woman was to have a rare bird: “I give to the duchess of Alva my green parrot; I have nothing worthy for her else”.

Psittacula krameri, or the green rose-ringed parakeet from India, while an exotic enough animal, was regularly found in European households as a status symbol. The sister of King Francis I of France, Marguerite of Navarre, had herself portrayed by Jean Clouet holding a green parrot. And as she was not only a princess and queen, but a writer as well, the bird was a fitting allusion. Parrots were seen as symbolizing eloquence; after all they could talk.

Marguerite d'Angouleme, Queen of Navarre, with parrot

Marguerite d’Angoulême, Queen of Navarre, with parrot

In November 1539, Lady Lisle, the wife of the king’s Lord Deputy at Calais and another woman owner of parrots, received yet another bird from a French gentleman:

Madame, I send you a parrot … beseeching you to be willing to accept it in as good part as I right heartily offer it to you. It grieveth me that it is no better and more worthy of your honour, in which I hold it well employed.

Madame, it cannot yet talk, but this is because it hath yet learnt nothing and it is young. As you have one that doth speak it will learn with yours.

See also:
The Green Parrot

Adams, Simon (2002): Leicester and the Court: Essays in Elizabethan Politics. Manchester University Press.

St. Clare Byrne, Muriel (ed.) (1983): The Lisle Letters: An Abridgement. Secker & Warburg.

Walker-Meikle, Kathleen (2012): Medieval Pets. Boydell Press.

Smith and Stevenson or Dining With The Jurors

On 8 September 1560,

the aforesaid Lady Amy … being alone in a certain chamber within the home of a certain Anthony Forster, in the aforesaid Cumnor, and intending to descend the aforesaid chamber by way of certain steps (in English called “steyres”) … there and then accidentally fell precipitously down the aforesaid steps to the very bottom of the same steps, through which the same Lady Amy there and then sustained not only two injuries to her head … but truly also … there and then broke her own neck, on account of which fracture of the neck the same Lady Amy then and there died instantly; … and thus the jurors say on their oath that the aforesaid Lady Amy in the manner and form aforesaid by misfortune came to her death and not otherwise1

Robert Dudley received a letter from Mr. Smith, the jury's foreman

Robert Dudley, c.1560. He wrote that he received a letter from the jury’s foreman, Mr. Smith.

So far the conclusion of the coroner’s inquest that investigated the death of Amy Dudley, née Robsart, the first wife of Lord Robert Dudley. Not impressed, several historians have cast doubt on the propriety of the inquest’s proceedings. They suspect that the jury of 15 men of Cumnor (near Abingdon in Berkshire, now Oxfordshire) might have been rigged, by the agency of Lord Robert.

The jury’s foreman seems to have been a former servant of Elizabeth I, ‟one Smith … who was the Queen’s man being Lady Eliz.“ This was probably Richard Smythe, a “burgess of Abingdon”.2 A few days into the inquest at Cumnor (which had started almost immediately after Amy was found), Robert Dudley was informed by him about the likely outcome:

I have received a letter from one Smythe, one that seemeth to be the foreman of the jury. I perceive by his letters that he and the rest have and do travail very diligently and circumspectly for the trial of that matter which they have charge of, and for any thing that he or they by any search or examination can make in the world hitherto it doth plainly appear, he saith, a very misfortune; which for mine own part … doth much satisfy and quiet me.3

Corresponding with jury members has been criticized as irregular behaviour, of course, but one may ask what harm could come from reading Mr. Smith’s letter. The harbinger of welcome news, Mr. Smith without doubt wanted to make sure he acquired a thankful patron, and he may well have succeeded.

Even more suspiciously, in May 1566 Robert Dudley, by then Earl of Leicester, gave ‟four ells of black taffeta for a short gown and three yards of black velvet to guard the same … to Mr. Smith the Queen’s man“.4 It has been claimed that this Smith was the same man as Smith the foreman – and that the black taffeta and black velvet was a sort of belated bribe for services at the jury six years earlier.5 However, it has also been admitted that Smith is a very common name,6 and there was probably more than one Smith in Elizabeth’s service. The Smith of the jury, by 1566, was no longer in her service; but the previous year he had served as mayor of Abingdon.7 1566 was also the year that Leicester invited the queen to Oxford University, where he was chancellor. The former mayor of Abingdon would have been the sort of person invited to grace the assembly with their presence, and of course he would have needed the right outfit for the occasion. A gift of valuable stuffs was a fairly common occurrence, anyway, and it seems rather far-fetched to read a sinister meaning into it.

If Robert Dudley came to know Mr. Smith by letter, it has been criticized that he “knew another juror personally”.8 The name of this supposed acquaintance is John Stevenson.9 John Stevenson, from Southwell near Cumnor, had possessions worth £9, according to the tax authorities. Importantly, his brother, Edward Stevenson, also served as juror (and, also from Southwell, was assessed with the equal amount).10 John Stevenson is also alleged to have been in Robert Dudley’s service, listed as a “ferrier” in a 1559 wages list, between grooms of the stable and riders. His yearly salary was £4 and he lived in Dudley’s household, which cost Dudley an extra £16 10s p. a. (and he also received a cap from Dudley’s haberdasher on one occasion).11 I believe there were two John Stevensons.

On hearing of his wife’s demise, Robert Dudley had sent his steward and kinsman, Thomas Blount, to Cumnor. The next day he had also sent him instructions, to be imparted to the assembled jury. Though these were harmless exhortations to do their duty with “no respect to any living person”,12 this message to the jury has been catalogued as another attempt at influencing them. And Blount and Dudley were not done yet: Blount is said to have dined with two jury members on his way home; allegedly before the verdict was reached.13 Below is what Blount wrote to his master before he left Cumnor, in his last letter from the scene; it will be noted that he planned “to meet with one or two of the jury”, that we do not know for certain that he did so, and that we do not know the exact number of possible dinner guests.

It has to be added that the letters between Dudley and Blount survive only as copies, though Elizabethan ones. Presumably Robert Dudley himself commissioned them in 1567, to be presented to the privy council during another investigation into the case. Historians might suspect that the text has been tampered with on this occasion, although none seems to have done so in earnest; perhaps because the set of letters constitutes the principal source for the circumstances of Amy Dudley’s death. Another reason to take them at face value is that many potentially incriminating details (like hints at suicide or even dinners with jurors) are mentioned and that the tone appears genuine. If the letters had been edited for consumption by a hostile audience in the privy council, a passage like the this would not have survived:

I have done your lordship’s message unto the jury. You need not to bid them to be careful, whether equity of the cause or malice to Forster do forbid it, I know not. They take great pains to learn a truth, to-morrow I will wait upon your L. and as I come I will break my fast at Abingdon; and there I shall meet with one or two of the jury. And what I can I will bring; they be very secret, and yet do I hear a whispering that they can find no presumptions of evil. And if I may say to your Lordship my conscience, I think some of them may be sorry for it, God forgive me. And, if I judge amiss [sic], mine own opinion is much quieted, the more I search of it, the more free it doth appear unto me. I have almost nothing that can make me so much to think that any man should be the doer thereof as when I think your L.’s wife before all other women should have such a chance. The circumstances and as many things as I can learn doth persuade me that only misfortune hath done it, and nothing else. Myself will wait upon your Lordship to-morrow, and say what I know.14

1 Skidmore 2010 p. 378
2 Adams, Archer, Bernard 2003 p. 66; Skidmore 2010 p. 210
3 Skidmore 2010 pp.384 – 385
4 Skidmore 2010 p. 369
5 Skidmore 2010 pp. 369 – 370; Bernard 2000 pp. 170 – 171
6 Doran 1996 p. 228; Bernard 2000 p. 171
7 Adams, Archer, Bernard 2003 p. 66
8 Guy 2013 p. 189; Doran 2015 p. 124
9 Skidmore 2010 p. 369
10 Skidmore 2010 p. 210
11 Adams 1995 pp. 414, 422
12 Skidmore 2010 p. 379
13 Guy 2013 p. 189; Doran 2015 p. 124
14 Skidmore 2010 p. 384

Adams, Simon (ed.) (1995): Household Accounts and Disbursement Books of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, 1558–1561, 1584–1586. Cambridge University Press.

Adams, Simon; Archer, Ian; Bernard, G. W. (eds.) (2003): ‟A ‘Journall’ of Matters of State happened from time to time as well within and without the Realme from and before the Death of King Edw. the 6th untill the Yere 1562“ in: Ian Archer (ed.): Religion, Politics, and Society in Sixteenth-Century England. Cambridge University Press.

Bernard, G. W. (2000): Power and Politics in Tudor England. Ashgate.

Doran, Susan (1996): Monarchy and Matrimony: The Courtships of Elizabeth I. Routledge.

Doran, Susan (2015): Elizabeth I and Her Circle. Oxford University Press.

Guy, John (2013): The Children of Henry VIII. Oxford University Press.

Skidmore, Chris (2010): Death and the Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart. Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

See also:
The Death of Amy Robsart: Accident? Or Suicide?
The Death of Amy Robsart: The Improbability of Murder
Believe the Coroner!

Robert Dudley’s Health

Robert Dudley was a fit man – an excellent dancer and horseman of athletic built. Even his diet was (according to our standards) reasonably healthy: He abhorred the heavy drinking habits of his time and had a taste for salads and fruit. This preference, however, was somewhat unusual. Fruit was considered a health hazard, while salads were notoriously suspect: Leicester’s enemies were quick to point out that so and so had “suddenly died” after “eating salads” at the earl’s house.

Robert Dudley suffered from malaria

A fit young man, Robert Dudley nevertheless suffered from what may have been malaria

Few people were always in good health, though, and Robert Dudley’s first illness we know about occurred in late spring 1559, when he suffered from a “quartan ague” or “fit”. This may well have been malaria, an illness endemic in East Anglia. His wife Amy hailing from Norfolk, Robert may also have picked it up there. Alternatively, some epidemic may have been haunting the court, as his sister Katherine was suffering from the same disease at the same time. Whatever it was, Robert had fully recovered by June, having paid a surgeon 10s for “letting your lordship’s blodd.”1

Robert Dudley was not, like his father, a known melancholic and possible hypochondriac. He too was health-conscious, though, like most of his contemporaries, and he firmly believed in the healing powers of fresh air, especially outside London. Since these were the first decades of a phenomenon later called “smog”, the harmful combination of the London fog and the smoke from the town’s use of coal (shipped from Newcastle) as fuel, this is not a surprise. A particularly bad “cold” Leicester was suffering from in February 1573 may as likely have been an allergy to smog, as appears from his report to Elizabeth: “I have hitherto so well found myself after my travel as I trust I am clearly delivered of the shrewd cold that so hardly held me at my departing from you.”2

His concern about Elizabeth’s own health and her “over-long stay in that corrupt air about the city”3 never went away, and he repeatedly urged the queen to leave town and enjoy the countryside:

So good a medycyne I have alway found exersise with the open good ayre as yt hath ever byn my best remedye ageynst those dellycate deceases gotten about yor deynty cytty of London, which place but for necessyty Lord he knoweth how sorrey I am to se yor Majesty remayne … Yf when season shall serve yor good determynacion may hold to spend some tyme abroade to finde the difference about and furder of from London, hit shalbe wel begonne now, but I wold God hit had byn long before put in profe, God graunt now that yow may finde much good therof, as yet for yor tyme heareafter yow may reape the benefytt of good contynuance of yor desired health. You se swette Lady with howe weighty matters I trowble yow withal.4

Leicester was “a leading patron of fashionable doctors”,5 among them the Italian Giulio Borgaruccio – whom he allegedly retained to prepare his most subtle poisons – and Dr. Bailey of Oxford University. “Dr. Giulio” and Bailey also entered the queen’s service; Elizabeth apparently had less use for William Turner, who wrote Of the Nature and Properties of Baths and could count on Robert Dudley as a vocal supporter. The baths at Buxton in Derbyshire conveniently belonged to the property of the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury (Bess of Hardwick); the couple was delighted to welcome their old friend the Earl of Leicester as one of their very first celebrity visitors. In June 1577 he came with his brother Ambrose, Earl of Warwick, and his nephew-by-marriage the Earl of Pembroke.6 He suggested that William Cecil, Lord Burghley, join the party, writing:

I wish your L. with all my heart had been here this goodly seasonable time, wherein our physicians bear us in hand, we shall do more good in a few of these days than a month of such weather as usually they say this country hath, but since our coming I never found it fairer or warmer than I have done here till this day being ye 20th which is a foul day and a stormy. My brother and I both have great cause to like and commend this water … We observe our physicians’ orders very diligently and obediently and to say truth there is no pains or penance in it but great pleasure both in drinking and bathing in the water. Me thinks it must be good for your L., but if you do as we hear you did ye last time it is not possible you should take good of it: you were every day taking great journeys abroad, ten, twelve miles a day and used liberal diet with company dinners and suppers.

Evidently, Burghley’s detox had turned into a retox; not so with Leicester:

We take another way, we dine two or three of us together now my L. of Pembroke is here and have but one dish or two at the most to eat of. We take the air a foot or horseback moderately and yet often times using exercises this way. And hereby we find great benefit already.7

One of the reasons for Leicester’s visits to Buxton was a swelling in his calf. In 1565 he had suffered a serious riding accident which confined him to his bed for weeks. In 1585 he again fell from his horse and could no longer get into his boots, his foot being too swollen. He even employed his own specialist, John Ezard, “your lordship’s bonesetter”, figuring among his staff.8

Robert Dudley was an athletic man with well-shaped legs. However, he once suffered from a swelling in his calf and also suffered bone fractures.

Robert Dudley was of athletic built with well-shaped legs. However, he was periodically molested by a swelling in his calf, and also suffered bone fractures.

Leicester and his colleagues also continued to be plagued by the flu, so much so that in February 1584 the functions of the privy council became seriously hampered by the absence of its principal working staff: Cecil was suffering from the gout, Walsingham and Leicester both lay down with an “ague”.9 In such cases, Robert Dudley could rest assured to be in the best hands. The queen never failed to send him medicines, and his letter of thanks of October 1583 (during another fever) surely testifies to their unique intimacy:

Thanks for your great grace and favour to your poor ôô by your oft and most comfortable messengers, which hath brought best help and remedy to your old patient, that always has from that holy hand been relieved. I have no more to offer again but that which is already my bond and duty – the body and life, to be as ready to yield sacrifice for your service as it has from you received all good things.10

Elizabeth had always been extremely concerned about Robert’s health. She was not even annoyed at instances of diplomatic illness; in fact, especially in those cases she was likely to rush to his bedside if she could make it happen. This was true in the 1560s as it was true after his marriage in the 1570s, or in the last years of his life, when he had fallen into disgrace while in the Netherlands. Elizabeth had been extremely angered by his acceptance of the general-governorship of the United Provinces, and one secure way to mollify her was to mention that his health was not the best. This was what one of Leicester’s emissaries to the queen was doing in March 1586, and it worked:

Uppon Frydaye last, as her majestye walked in the garden, I thowght to tast her affectyon unto your lordship by an nother meanes, and stepped unto her and sayd, that your lordship beynge in dowght of fallynge into a dyssese that Goodrowse dyd once cure you of, your lordship was now an humble sewtor unto her highnesse, that yt wold please her to spare Goodrowse, and to gyve hym leave to comme unto your lordship for soome tyme. I assure your lordship yt moved her much, and shee answered me, that with all her hart you shold have hym, and that shee was sorry that your lordship had that need of hym.11

Unfortunately, Leicester’s health did decline during his stay in the Low Countries. It was there that he first complained of “the stone”, which could mean practically anything from kidney stones to stomach or bowel problems, and which may have been a cause of his final illness in 1588. Malaria is again a possibility, since he suffered from a high fever in his very last days. He had evidently been unwell before his final breakdown at Cornbury, Oxfordshire, on 29 August, however. On his way to the Buxton baths, in the morning he had written what would turn out to be his last message to Elizabeth, again thanking her for her medicine, finding “it amend much better than with any other thing that hath been given me”. He also wrote suggestively of his “own poor case”. Death seems not have come as a total surprise to him.

1 Adams 1995 p. 69
2 Jenkins 2002 p. 172
3 Jenkins 2002 p. 175
4 Adams 2008
5 Adams 1996
6 Jenkins 2002 p. 221
7 Chamberlin 1939 pp. 206 – 207
8 Adams 1995 pp. 218, 469
9 Collinson 1967 p. 255
10 CSP Dom Addenda 1580 – 1626 p. 99
11 Leycester Correspondence p. 174

Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of Elizabeth, Addenda 1580-1626. (ed. M. A. E. Green, 1872)

Correspondence of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leycester, during his Government of the Low Countries, in the Years 1585 and 1586. (ed. John Bruce, 1844). Camden Society.

Adams, Simon (ed.) (1995): Household Accounts and Disbursement Books of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, 1558–1561, 1584–1586. Cambridge University Press.

Adams, Simon (1996): “At Home and Away. The Earl of Leicester”. History Today. Vol. 46 No. 5.

Adams, Simon (2008): ‟Dudley, Robert, earl of Leicester (1532/3–1588)“. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition.

Chamberlin, Frederick (1939): Elizabeth and Leycester. Dodd, Mead & Co.

Collinson, Patrick (1967): The Elizabethan Puritan Movement. Jonathan Cape.

Jenkins, Elizabeth (2002): Elizabeth and Leicester. The Phoenix Press.

The Lovesick Earl, Part II

The quarrel between the Earl of Leicester and Sir Thomas Heneage continued into 1566, though at some point it must have died down because 20 years later, when Elizabeth sent Heneage to rebuke Leicester in the Netherlands, he showed so much friendship and became so close to the earl that Elizabeth ended up rebuking himself. Leicester, for his part, mentioned Heneage in his will, calling him “my good old friend”.1 Now, in the spring of 1566, the queen was flirting with the Earl of Ormond, a good-looking Irishman; on 11 March 1566 Diego Guzmán de Silva informed Philip II:

They tell me that Lord Robert is much annoyed thereat. This Ormond is a great friend of Heneage, and they have been favourable in the Archduke’s business. Things change so, however, here, that nothing is certain from one hour to the other.2

A week later he knew that “the earl of Leicester has left here to visit a sister of his, the wife of the earl of Huntingdon, who is ill”.3 Leicester’s real intention had been to visit (for the first time) his estates in Warwickshire (including Kenilworth), which the queen had granted him in 1563. He did not get far, however, as he told Cecil:

since my coming into the country, I have not at all seen my house or anything I have thereabout … the only cause was my sister, with whom I tarried continually, because I would do her all the comfort I could for the time.4

Sir Nicholas Throckmorton. In the later 1560s he busied himself as Robert Dudley's advisor in matters of love and politics.

Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, Robert Dudley’s advisor in matters of love and politics

Of course, the Spanish ambassador could not believe in so much innocence and thought Ormond and Heneage were the reason for the trip:

from what I hear, I believe his departure is owing to his annoyance that the Queen should favour those whom I mentioned in my last letter. He thinks that his absence may bring the Queen to her senses, and even may cause her to take steps regarding her marriage with him; although Leicester thinks that if she forgets to call him back, and treats him like she treats everything, he will retire to his house for a short time, and thus will not lose his place. If it be true that the Earl is going away offended, and it is not all a trick to deceive people, who wish that the queen should marry, and to prevent them from blaming him for the delay, we shall soon learn, but the general opinion is that he is really offended.5

It was Elizabeth, though, who was soon offended amid the rumours buzzing at court:

I wrote to your Majesty that the earl of Leicester had left. The Queen wrote calling him back, but he pleaded private business. She then sent a gentleman of her chamber, an adherent of Leicester to summon him, whereupon he wrote by one of his servants to the Queen begging for 15 days’ leave, which the Queen refused, and ordered him to return at once. He is expected to-night, or to-morrow. The Irish earl of Ormond still rises in the favour of the Queen.6

The queen’s ladies also warned Robert Dudley not to stay away much longer; Blanche Parry informed him of “Her Majesty’s unkindness taken with your long absence”, since “she had not heard from you since last Monday”.7 A few days later, in early April and having been away some three weeks, Leicester indeed returned, much welcomed by the queen. He was now even prepared to support Elizabeth’s marriage to some foreign prince – the Archduke Charles of Austria – in order to escape the blame for Elizabeth not marrying at all:

I found her with the earl of Leicester walking in the lower gallery of the garden. She praised the Earl very highly to me and said that when I arrived he was just persuading her to marry for the sake of the country and herself, and even on his account, as everyone thought that he was the cause of her remaining unmarried, which made him unpopular with all her subjects, and much more to the same effect (whereupon she said that if he were a King’s son she would marry him to-morrow), and if she did not do so he could not avoid retiring from court to escape the hatred of the people. All this and other things of the same sort were said very affectionately.8

Elizabeth was still not keen to bind herself, although she continued the negotiations. In August 1566, Leicester told the French ambassador a secret:

speaking less guardedly he told me that his true opinion was that she would never marry … he considered that he knew her Majesty as well as or better than anyone else of her close acquaintance, for they had first become friends before she was eight years old. Both then and later she said she never wished to do so. Thereafter he had not seen her waver in that decision. However, if by chance she should change her mind and also look within the kingdom, he was practically assured that she would choose no one else but him, as she had done him the honour of telling him quite openly on more than one occasion.9

Elizabeth would not marry herself, but neither would she tolerate her favourite’s interest in any other woman, let alone her beautiful cousin Lettice; the 1565 incident still rankled in 1567: Having absented himself to Norfolk, in early May 1567 Dudley had received a package with two letters, one from the queen and another from Sir Nicholas Throckmorton (who was keeping him abreast on court life and some delicate council business touching the case of his late wife Amy Robsart). His reply to Throckmorton showed his despondency:

I have received yours, and another enclosed from one whom it has always been my greatest comfort to hear from, but in such sort that I know not what to impute the difference to; if there is any years’ proof have made trial of unremovable fidelity enough, without notable offences, what shall I think of all that past favour which in such unspeakable sort remained towards me, thus to take my first oversight as it were an utter casting off of all that was before?

Well, I know with whom I have to do. I will always submit to their good will. I can justly confess much from them, and acknowledge very little of myself, but I will endeavour to my uttermost, whatsoever they do with me, to serve, honour, and obey them. No small grief it is to me to find them thus now, that so far otherwise have seen them not long ago; and my grief the greater because I see that remediless which I thought should never have needed help. Thus I will leave troubling you, knowing it is no pleasure to my friends to hear what is unpleasant to myself.

It would have been great comfort to me, as in times past, to answer what you sent enclosed; so is the case so changed as I dare scarce now think what I have been told before to say and write. I entreat you to give humble thanks for the pain taken with their own hands, although I could wish it had been of any others’ report or writings; then I might yet have remained in some hope of mistaking. It makes me another man, but towards them ever most faithful and best wishing, whilst my life shall last.

P.S. I see I shall not need to make so great haste home, when so good opinion is conceived of me; either a cave in a corner of oblivion, or a sepulchre for perpetual rest, were the best homes I could wish to return to.10

This letter was penned on 4 May, and was calendared under 1567 in the 19th century; more recently, it has often been dated to 1566.11 However, on 11 May 1566 de Silva reported that “the Queen still shows her usual favour to Lord Robert, although he is rather more distant. The Irishman Ormond is in higher favour every day.”12 This sounds very much as if Leicester was at court, and is at odds with his letter from his Norfolk sulking corner. Moreover, two replies from Throckmorton to Dudley, of 9 and 10 May 1567, tie in perfectly with the latter’s letter from Norwich, the second making a direct reference to Leicester’s “sepulchre”. Thus, the original dating seems to be the correct one:

You shall understand what the Queen wishes you to hear from her through your brother [Ambrose] who was in charge in my absence. Lady Stafford [one of Elizabeth’s most trusted ladies] sees no cause in matters within her reach why you should hasten hither. The storms which were up here lately are now so appeased that it seems there was no rough sea. Retain your adamant sepulchre until you have the condition better annexed and more surely verified than I see as yet occasion to hope.13

The day before, 9 May, Throckmorton had already described his encounter with Elizabeth and her reaction to Leicester’s letters; the earl had managed to write one to the queen, drawing a black heart as the symbol of his unhappiness:

Mr. Colsill arrived from your L. the 8th of this month, in the morning. He delivered your token, and I presented your writing [at] what time no person was present, but my Lady Knolles [Catherine Carey, another of Elizabeth’s favourite ladies]. Her Majesty read your letter over thrice together, and said you did mistake the cameleon’s property, who doth change into all colours according to the object, save white, which is innocency! At your cypher, the black heart, she shewed sundry affections, some merry, some sorrowful, some betwixt both. She did much commend the manner of your writing.

Then she willed me to show her what your Lordship had written to me. She read my letter twice, and put it in her pocket. Then I demanded of her whether she would write to your Lordship. She plucked forth my letter and said, “I am glad at the length he hath confessed a fault in himself, for he asketh pardon.” I said, “Madam, do you mean in your letter or in mine?” “In yours”, she answered. I said, “That which you mean is but a conditional supposed proposition.” Then she read again my letter, and said, “Here is enough to suffice me.” “Yes”, said I, “and to accuse your Majesty also” “Whereof?” said she. “Of extreme rigor”, said I. Then she smiled and put up my letter.

I asked again whether Her Majesty would write to your Lordship. She said, “I will bethink myself all this day.” I do judge by Sir H[enry] Lee she meaneth to send your Lordship a token and some message.14

continued from:
The Lovesick Earl, Part I

1 Wilson 1981 p. 179
2 CSP Span I p. 529
3 CSP Span I p. 529
4 Adams 2002 p. 359
5 CSP Span I pp. 529 – 530
6 CSP Span I p. 538
7 Whitelock 2013 p. 108
8 CSP Span I p. 523
9 Adams 2002 p. 139
10 CSP Dom Addenda 1566 – 1579 pp. 28 – 29
11 Apparently first suggested by Wilson 1981 pp. 181, 324
12 CSP Span I p. 549
13 HMC Pepys pp. 102 – 103
14 CSP Dom Addenda 1566 – 1579 pp. XIV – XVI

Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of Elizabeth, Addenda 1566-1579. (ed. M. A. E. Green, 1871)

Calendar of … State Papers Relating to English Affairs … in … Simancas, 1558–1603. (ed. by Martin Hume, 1892–1899). HMSO.

Report on the Pepys Manuscripts Preserved at Magdalen College, Cambridge. (1911) Historical Manuscripts Commission. HMSO.

Adams, Simon (2002): Leicester and the Court: Essays in Elizabethan Politics. Manchester University Press.

Whitelock, Anna (2013): Elizabeth’s Bedfellows: An Intimate History of the Queen’s Court. Bloomsbury.

Wilson, Derek (1981): Sweet Robin: A Biography of Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester 1533–1588. Hamish Hamilton.