Spotlight: Robert Dudley


Name: Robert Dudley

Title/s: Earl of Leicester / Master of the Horse

Birth / Death: 24 June 1532 – 4 September 1588

Spouse: Amy Robsart 1532 – 1560 & Lettice Knollys 1543 – 1634

Children: Robert Dudley (died young) / Robert Dudley 1574 – 1649 (illegitimate by Douglass Sheffield nee Howard)

Parents: John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland 1504 – 1553 & Jane Guildford 1508 – 1555

Siblings: Henry Dudley 1526 – 1544 / Thomas Dudley 1526 – 1528 / John Dudley, 2nd Earl of Warwick / Ambrose Dudley, 3rd Earl of Warwick 1528 – 1589 / Guildford Dudley 1534 – 1554 / Henry Dudley 1535 – 1557 / Charles Dudley 1537 – 1542 / Mary Sidney 1532 – 1586 / Katherine Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon 1545 – 1620 / Temperance Dudley 1552 / Margaret Dudley / Katherine Dudley

Noble Connections: Robert Dudley’s father was Duke of Northumberland and his grandfather was Edmund Dudley, who was a trusted advisor of Henry VII, executed by Henry VIII. Robert was the favourite of Elizabeth I and he married Lettice Knollys, the widow of the Earl of Essex.

Events of their Lifetime: The marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn (1533), the birth of Elizabeth I (1533), the execution of Anne Boleyn (1536), the death of Henry VIII and accession of Edward VI (1547), death of Edward VI and accession of Mary I (1553), nine day reign of Lady Jane Grey (1553), death of Mary I and accession of Elizabeth I (1558).

Controversy: The main debate surrounding Robert Dudley was the state of his relationship with Elizabeth I. It has been suggested that they were lovers, or even that they were betrothed or married. It has also been suggested that Robert possibly had a hand in the death of his first wife, Amy Robsart, in 1560.

Works of Fiction:
Anderson, Laura, The Virgin’s Daughter (2015)
Gregory, Philippa, The Virgin’s Lover (2004)
Peters, Maureen, England’s Mistress (1991)
Peters, Maureen, Proud Bess (1990)
Plaidy, Jean, Lord Robert (also known as A Favourite of the Queen) (1955)
Plaidy, Jean, Queen of this Realm (1984)
Purdy, Emily, A Court Affair (2012)
Weir, Alison, Innocent Traitor (2007)
Weir, Alison, The Marriage Game (2014)

Portrayals on Screen:
Dennis Chinnery, The Queen’s Traitor, 1967, 5 episodes
Joseph Fiennes, Elizabeth, 1998, directed by Shekhar Kapur
Robert Hardy, Elizabeth R, 1971, 3 episodes
Tom Hardy, Elizabeth I, 2006, 4 episodes
Guy Henry, Lady Jane, 1986, directed by Trevor Nunn
Jeremy Irons, Elizabeth I, 2005, 2 episodes

Further Reading:
Adams, S., Leicester and the Court (2002)
Adlard, George, Amye Robsart and the Earl of Leycester (1870)
Aird, Ian, ‘The Death of Amy Robsart’, English Historical Review, 71 (1956)
Doran, Susan, Monarchy and Matrimony: the Courtships of Elizabeth I (1995)
Gristwood, Sarah, Elizabeth and Leicester (2007)
Skidmore, Christopher, Death and the Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart (2010)
Whitelock, Anna, The Queen’s Bed: an Intimate History of Elizabeth’s Court (2012)
Wilson, Derek, Sweet Robin: Biography of Robert Dudley (1981)
Wilson, Derek, The Uncrowned Kings of England: the Black History of the Dudleys’ and the Tudor Throne (2004)

Arms:

Arms of Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester
Arms of Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester

Portraits:

Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester c.1560
Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester c.1560
Robert Dudley c.1564
Robert Dudley c.1564
Robert Dudley Miniature 1576
Robert Dudley Miniature 1576
Robert Dudley 1575
Robert Dudley 1575
Robert Dudley Engraving by Hendrik Goltzius 1586
Robert Dudley Engraving by Hendrik Goltzius 1586
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