“Whatever the nature of the clash between Northumberland and the 1st Lord Paget in 1551–52, it did not destroy close relations between the families.”1 Certainly, when disaster overcame the Dudleys in the summer of 1553, the Duchess of Northumberland did not hesitate to write to her friend, Lady Paget, begging her and her husband to plead for the duke and her five imprisoned sons:
Nowe good madame for the love youe bere to God foregett me nott: & make my lady markes of Exiture my good lady & to remembere me to Mestres Clarencyous to contynewe as she haythe begone fore me: & good madame desyre your lord as he may doe: in spekynge fore my husbondes lyff: in way of cheryte I crave hyme to doe ytt madame I have held upe my hed fore my grett hevynes of hartt that all the world knowes canott be lyttyll: tyll nowe that inded I doe begyne to growe in to weke seknes: & also seche a ryssyng in the nyghte frome my stomake upe to ward that in my jugmentt my brethe ys lyke clene to goe away as my wemen cane full say ytt as they knowe ytt to be trewe by there owene payne they take with me: good madame off your goodnes remembere me: so God to kepe your ladyshep longe lyff with your lord & yours
your ladyshepes powrest frynd Jane Northumland as longe as pleys the quene
& good madame dysere my lord to be good lord unto my powere v sones: nayture cane noe othere wyss doe butt sue fore theme althoughe I doe nott so meche care fore theme as fore there fathere who was to me & to my mynd the moste beste gentylmane that evere levynge womane was mached withall: as nethere thos abowtt hyme nore abowtt me canott say the contrary & say trewly: howe good he was to me that owre lord & the quenes maygeste shewe there merssy to theme
Of course, no-one could (or would) save the Duke of Northumberland; yet old friendship had not turned into enmity. It is true that William Paget was among the first councillors to go over to Mary, but then he had not been a keen supporter of Jane Grey in the first place. Sympathetic to the old religion, and especially the Habsburgs, he could expect to be among Mary I’s foremost advisors, and so it came. However, to some extent he seems to have held his hand over the imprisoned Dudley boys.2 When their mother lay dying within a few months of the release of the surviving three, she asked Queen Mary (with whom she had erstwhile been on good terms) to respect her last will, and she also remembered Lord and Lady Paget:
My trust is the Queen’s Highness will be good and gracious lady, so much for the faithful poor heart I have all borne to her, although it was little in value for such a personage; that her Highness will not consent to have any part of my will broken, as God will think she doth me most right in so doing in this my most humble suits for my will. And my sons all three I leave them all to the King’s Majesty and her Highness beyond me.
I give Mistress Clarencius my tawny velvet jewel coffer; I give to my Lady Paget my high-backed gown of wrought velvet; to my Lord Paget one of my black enamelled rings I did use to wear.
During the early years of Elizabeth’s rule, Robert Dudley likewise was grateful to the old Lord Paget, and the two were believed to be thick as thieves by their enemies: “The L. Pagett is very grete with the L. Rob.”3
This, most probably, was the opinion of the fanatical Protestant and ideologue of social reform, John Hales. Hales, who had been a chief adviser of the Duke of Somerset, hated Robert Dudley, but also Lord Paget – Paget had vehemently opposed his anti-enclosure commission in the late 1540s. Now, in the early 1560s, he accused both men of plotting the downfall of Protestant England, so that Dudley could become king and Paget destroy the coinage. In fact, Paget was rather out in the cold during these years; though not in disgrace, he had lost his place on the privy council and Elizabeth called him a knave on occasions.4
Of Lord Paget’s sons, Henry, Thomas, and Charles, the older two succeeded him as Baron Paget of Beaudesert in 1563 and 1569, respectively. Henry especially was a close friend of Robert Dudley since boyhood.5 From 1559 onwards he made extended travels in Europe, in what later would have been called a “grand tour”. He regularly updated Lord Robert of his progress and of Continental events. Days after a lance had fatally pierced Henry II’s brain during a tournament, in July 1559, he reported the takeover of power in France by the Guise, Mary Stuart’s uncles, and how, “to show their great courage”, they had immediately burnt three or four persons in Paris, “for the sure punishing of all such as shall seem to profess the Gospel”. Even more alarmingly, Paget had also observed that “as the Queen of Scots came from evensong, the gentlemen made place for her by the name Queen of England”.6
A year later, Henry Paget had progressed to Venice. The Turks had recently sunk a great number of King Philip’s ships, and “Giacomo Malatesta is put in prison in Rome in Castell Saint Angelo for giving, so they say, the bastonado [a heavy beating] to Cardinal del Monte for finding him in a courtesan’s house. Most men are of the opinion here that his fault did rather deserve praise than imprisonment”.7
In August 1560 he wrote that the “Generall Council” was supposedly at an end – “clean dashed” – “but the cause they declare not”. Also it was rumoured that the pope would soon meet the Duke of Florence “and crown him King of Tuscany”: “Thus the Duke of Florence is like to flourish and, if fortune still favour him, like to grow so great as that they who have most exalted him shall have most cause to fear him”. – Cosimo I de’ Medici still had to wait a couple of years until the pope indeed made him a grand duke (to the Habsburgs’ dismay); and likewise a few more years of debating were in store for the Council of Trent before arriving at a successful conclusion. As had been expected, the adopted doctrine was totally unacceptable to the Protestants.
Religion would eventually also destroy the friendship of the Dudleys and the Pagets. But as late as 1574, Robert Dudley assured the 3rd Lord Paget, Thomas, that he had held his brother and his father “as dearly as any friends as ever I had”.8 Lord Thomas, on his part, remembered the affection that the Duchess of Northumberland had always shown him,9 then still a child. Made twenty years after her death, this is an interesting observation – either genuine testimony to her good character, or at least proof of Robert Dudley’s continuing love for his mother.
In January 1570 Robert Dudley acquired Paget Place on the Strand from Lord Paget;10 it was the mansion that became known as Leicester House and later, Essex House. In December 1572, Dudley stood godfather to Paget’s eldest son, William. Unfortunately, over the next decade, relations deteriorated. One cause for this was Lord Thomas’ treatment of his wife, Nazareth, who was the Earl of Leicester’s relative.11 Perhaps also to escape his domestic problems, in the 1580s Thomas and Charles Paget got involved in plots to free Mary Queen of Scots and assassinate Queen Elizabeth. In 1583 the brothers fled to the Continent and some scholars even have suggested Charles Paget as a possible co-author of Leicester’s Commonwealth, the vicious libel against the earl published in 1584. By June 1588, Lord Thomas Paget and his brother were reported to be in the company of the arch-conspirator and spy Thomas Morgan, and all three “took leave of the Duke of Guise yesterday to go to embark for England with the army … being assured of the enterprise for England”.12 The Earl of Leicester readied himself to meet them at Tilbury.
Dudley and Paget, Part I
1 Adams 2002 p. 330
2 Adams 2002 pp. 158, 330
3 Adams, Archer, Bernard 2003 p. 93
4 Adams, Archer, Bernard 2003 pp. 74, 94 – 95
5 Adams 2002 pp. 158, 330
6 HMC Bath V pp. 143, 144
7 HMC Bath V p. 157
8 Adams 2002 p. 158
9 Adams 2002 p. 170
10 Adams 1995 p. 26
11 Adams 2002 p. 330
12 HMC Bath V p. 212
Manuscripts of The Marquess of Bath, Volume V: Talbot, Dudley and Devereux Papers 1533–1659. (1980) Historical Manuscripts Commission. HMSO.
Adams, Simon (ed.) (1995): Household Accounts and Disbursement Books of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, 1558–1561, 1584–1586. Cambridge University Press.
Adams, Simon (2002): Leicester and the Court: Essays in Elizabethan Politics. Manchester 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.
Collins, Arthur (ed.) (1746): Letters and Memorials of State. Volume I. T. Osborne.
Gunn, S.J. (1999): ‟A Letter of Jane, Duchess of Northumberland, 1553“. English Historical Review. Vol. CXIV pp. 1267–1271.