Did Robert Dudley Betray His Father?

In his famous textbook, England under the Tudors (1955), Professor G. R. Elton wrote regarding John Dudley’s “desperate and doomed attempt to pervert the succession in his favour”, that

“failure was assured when the council failed to get possession of Mary’s person: warned in time (oddly enough by Northumberland’s younger son Robert), she fled into Norfolk”. (p. 213)

Now, as is well-known, Robert Dudley was indeed sent out with some 300 men the morning after King Edward’s death, but to get hold of the princess and bring her to London. There are plenty of candidates for the man who warned Mary just in time, but the Lord Robert seems not to have been among them. Of all his brothers it was actually he who was most actively involved in the business of securing the throne for Jane: he took and held towns like Thetford, Wisbech, and King’s Lynn for over a week – until he heard of his father’s surrender; and it has been argued by Professor David Loades that the whole venture might well have succeeded if the London council had sent Robert follow-up troops as reinforcements immediately.

One should perhaps not wonder too much about a work that saw King Edward as “a cold-hearted prig” (p. 202), Robert Dudley as “a handsome vigorous man with very little sense”, and Elizabeth’s love for him as a “particularly unsuitable infatuation” (p. 282) – with the exception that the obviously erroneous statement about Robert betraying his father should really have been gone by the 4th edition, in 1991!

Elton, G. R. (1991): England under the Tudors. 4th Edition. Routledge.
Haynes, Alan (1987): The White Bear: The Elizabethan Earl of Leicester. Peter Owen.
Ives, Eric (2009): Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery. Wiley-Blackwell.
Loades, David (1996): John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland 1504–1553. Clarendon Press.

About Christine Hartweg

Hi, I'm the author of "Amy Robsart: A Life and Its End" and "John Dudley: The Life of Lady Jane Grey's Father-in-Law". I blog at www.allthingsrobertdudley.wordpress.com
This entry was posted in 1553, errors & myths, Robert Dudley, strange facts from popular books. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Did Robert Dudley Betray His Father?

  1. Ugh! I wonder how far that error has traveled into other books?

    • Well, I for one have never seen it anywhere else, so I agree I am nitpicking but it’s really odd … Would be very interesting to know where Elton himself got it from. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, so I see it’s working!

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