What Did Elizabeth and Essex Shout At Each Other?

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, was far to quick to put his hand to his sword

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, was too quick to put his hand to his sword

According to court gossip a famous scene occurred in 1598, when a handful of councillors met Queen Elizabeth I to discuss the appointment of a new Lord Deputy of Ireland. The Earl of Essex, the queen’s favourite and formerly the Earl of Leicester’s stepson, favoured another candidate than the rest, the queen included. Characteristically, Essex could not put up with this and suddenly turned his back on the queen. This amounted to an act of lèse-majesté, and Elizabeth boxed his ears and according to most biographers “bade him get him gone and be hanged”.

I was therefore surprised to read in one of the most successful biographies, Alison Weir’s Elizabeth the Queen (The Life of Elizabeth I in America), that Elizabeth shouted at the earl:

Go to the devil! Get you gone and be hanged!

The direct speech continues when Essex fumes while being dragged out of the room after having provocatively touched his sword in the queen’s presence:

I neither can nor will put up with so great an affront, nor would I have borne it from your father’s hands.1

The direct speech in the second person made me suspicious. Most of the other biographers I checked at random paraphrase the original source, citing Thomas Birch’ Memoirs Of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, From the Year 1581 till her Death:

Upon this he put his hand to his sword, and when the admiral interposed, swore, that he neither could nor would bear such an indignity, nor would he have taken it even from King Henry VIII.2

Thomas Birch himself, who published his memoirs in 1754, quoted Elizabeth’s early biographer William Camden, who originally wrote in Latin and was later translated. That version also contains indirect speech in the third person, Essex apparently saying that “he neither could nor would put up [with] so great an affront and indignity, neither would he have taken it at King Henry the Eighth his hands.”3

1 Weir 2008 p. 434
2 Birch II p. 384
3 Guy 2016 p. 284

Birch, Thomas: Memoirs of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth. (1754).
Erickson, Carolly (1983): The First Elizabeth. Summit Books.
Guy, John (2016): Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years. Viking.
Neale, John (1992): Queen Elizabeth I. Academy Chicago Publishers.
Weir, Alison (2008): Elizabeth the Queen. Viking.



Posted in Elizabeth I, errors & myths, sources & historians, strange facts from popular books | Tagged

A New Blog and An Old Question

Were Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley lovers?

The big question: Were Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley lovers?

Just a quick update that I have finally set up my little art blog, El Jardín de los Deseos, where I post one of my favourite pictures every few days, just for fun …

I’m also very pleased to say that a few weeks ago I have been asked by the U.K.’s Yesterday TV channel to give my opinion on that perennial and fascinating question, “Where Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley lovers?” … A few of my thoughts are quoted here


Posted in Elizabeth I, Robert Dudley | 1 Comment

“My Lord of Leicester, Kneeling by Her Highness”

Loseley House, where Elizabeth I stayed with Robert Dudley in 1569. Photo by Andrew Mathewson CC BY-SA 2.0.

Loseley House, where Elizabeth and Robert Dudley stayed in 1569. Photo by Andrew Mathewson CC BY-SA 2.0.

In 1569, like almost every year, Queen Elizabeth went on summer progress. Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, reluctantly accompanied her. The reason was that he was planning his marriage to Mary Queen of Scots (who was in Elizabeth’s custody), and he did not want to attract negative attention through his absence. On 11 August the royal party stopped at the new house of Sir William More, Loseley, which had only been finished the year before. The next morning Norfolk went to see the queen in the room that served as her privy chamber. The scene he found there he described months later when he was in trouble over his plans with the Scottish queen: What he saw was a boy, one of Sir William’s sons seated before the queen, who was “playing upon a lute and singing, Her Majesty sitting upon the threshold of the door, my Lord of Leicester kneeling by Her Highness”.

On seeing the duke, Elizabeth commanded him to come to her. “Not long after my Lord of Leicester rises and came to me, leaving Her Highness hearing the child, and told me that as I was coming, he was dealing with Her Majesty in my behalf; to which I answered, if I had known so much I would not have come up”. Norfolk then inquired how the queen was disposed to him, to which Leicester replied, “indifferent well”, and that Elizabeth had promised to speak with Norfolk at the next stop on her progress, the Earl of Arundel’s house.

A somewhat greyed Earl of Leicester kneeling by Elizabeth's side. The Duke of Norfolk is entering through a curtain. W. F. Yeames' interpretation of a scene described by Norfolk in 1569.

A somewhat too old Earl of Leicester kneeling by Elizabeth’s side. The Duke of Norfolk is about to enter the room. W. F. Yeames’ interpretation of a scene described by Norfolk in 1569.

This beautiful scene is one of several that show us that Elizabeth was not always surrounded by her ladies, as is usually claimed, but that she did enjoy quiet moments without them. Robert Dudley is usually not far away. The scene piqued the interest of the prolific Victorian painter William Frederick Yeames, who painted it in 1865.

Quotations from:
Williams, Neville (1964): Thomas Howard, Fourth Duke of Norfolk. Barrie & Rockliff.

Posted in Elizabeth I, paintings, Robert Dudley, sources & historians | Tagged | 3 Comments

John Dudley at The Anne Boleyn Files

Southampton, Thomas Wriouthesley 1st Earl of by HolbeinNorthumberland PenshurstI am happy and feel very honoured that you can now read about John Dudley and his many friends (he really had a lot) at the amazing The Anne Boleyn Files! Please go here …Paget, William 1549 NPG

Posted in friends & foes, John Dudley

John Dudley Interview

I feel very honoured to have been interviewed about John Dudley: The Life of Lady Jane Grey’s Father-in-Law by the Lady Jane Grey Reference Guide, a Lady Jane institution! Please go here …

Lady Jane Grey accepting the Crown after Leslie

Posted in John Dudley, my book

John Dudley on Kindle

Northumberland PenshurstI am happy to say that my biography

John Dudley: The Life of Lady Jane Grey’s Father-in-Law

is now available on Kindle worldwide,



as well as in paperback.

Thank you anyway!

… Three days later, Edward wrote in his journal, the Duke of Somerset had “sent for the secretary Cicel to tell him he suspected some ill. Mr. Cicel answerid that if he were not gilty he might be of good courage; if he were, he had nothing to say but to lament him.” On 16 October, the Duke of Somerset was arrested after dinner, to which he had appeared late, “Sir Thomas Palmer on the terrace walking there.”

Posted in John Dudley, my book | 2 Comments

John Dudley Book

John_Dudley_Cover_for_KindleI am very happy to say that

John Dudley: The Life of Lady Jane Grey’s Father-in-Law

is now available from amazon and amazon marketplace. Thank you, all!


The book is in paperback and has 270 pages, and it is a (mostly) narrative biography of Robert Dudley’s father, John, who led a very interesting life at the courts of Henry VIII and Edward VI (though to his great chagrin he was not allowed to continue this life at the court of Mary I).

Posted in John Dudley, my book

Coming Soon: John Dudley Book

John Dudley Knole mit RahmenI am happy to say that I am almost finished with writing my biography of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, Robert Dudley’s somewhat notorious father.

John Dudley: The Life of Lady Jane Grey’s Father-in-Law

will be available from amazon in early February 2016.

Now, what can readers expect? I’ve chosen a narrative approach, such as usually enjoyed by the “general reader” or Tudor enthusiast (like myself). I also discuss some of the questions discussed on this blog in the last few years, though, as well as many additional topics. Many of John’s very interesting contemporaries and friends also feature prominently, such as William Parr, Thomas Wriothesley, and Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset; but also ambassadors and other Dudleys, like John’s brother Andrew, his wife Jane, and his children, especially his sons John, Guildford, and Robert. For example, if you do want to know why John Dudley’s daughter Mary married the courtier Henry Sidney when she did you should read my book 🙂

Just watch this space if you are interested! Thank you!

BookCover John Dudley white cover purple light letters


John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland  (1504–1553), one of the most notorious figures of Tudor England, is best known as the father-in-law of Lady Jane Grey, whom he helped to place on the English throne for nine days. However, he was also a courtier and diplomat, a general and de facto regent, as well as a patron of art and exploration and a devoted family man; and in the past decades his image has undergone significant changes from villain to talented statesman. The father of Queen Elizabeth’s friend Robert Dudley and grandfather of the poet Philip Sidney led a colourful life at the courts of Henry VIII and Edward VI which is vividly retold in this fully documented biography.

Posted in John Dudley, my book | 9 Comments

“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.

Posted in 1553, John Dudley, sources & historians | Tagged , | 3 Comments

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.

Posted in 1553, Edward VI, Elizabeth I, John Dudley, sources & historians | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,