Who Was … Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester?


Lettice Knollys was the wife of two great nobles – Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex, and Elizabeth I’s favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. It is also possible that she was an illegitimate granddaughter of Henry VIII through her grandmother, Mary Boleyn’s, affair with Henry, possibly resulting in her mother, Catherine Carey. Lettice lived in the reigns of six different monarchs – Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I.

Name: Lettice Knollys (at birth) / Lettice Devereux (married name) / Lettice Dudley (married name)

Title/s: Viscountess Hereford /Countess of Essex /Countess of Leicester

Birth: 8 November 1543 at Rotherfield Greys, Oxfordshire, England

Death: 25 December 1634 at Drayton Bassett, Staffordshire, England

Burial: Beauchamp Chapel of the Collegiate Church of St Mary, Warwick, England

Spouse: Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex 1541-1576 / Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester 1532-1588 / Sir Christopher Blount c.1555 – 1601

Children: (by Walter Devereux) Penelope Blount, Countess of Devonshire c.1563-1607 / Dorothy Percy, Countess of Northumberland c.1564-1619 / Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex 1565-1601 / Walter Devereux 1569-1591 / (by Robert Dudley) Robert Dudley, Baron Denbigh 1579-1584

Parents: Sir Francis Knollys c.1511-1596 & Catherine Carey c.1524-1569

Siblings: Sir Henry Knollys c.1541-1582 / Mary Stalker 1542-1593 / William Knollys, 1st Earl of Banbury c.1544-1632 / Edward Knollys 1546-1580 / Sir Robert Knollys 1547-1626 / Elizabeth Leighton 1549-c.1605 / Richard Knollys 1552-1596 / Sir Thomas Knollys c.1558-c.1596 / Sir Francis Knollys c.1552-1643 / Anne West, Baroness de la Warr 1555-1608 / Katherine Fitzgerald, Baroness Offaley c.1560-1632 / Dudley Knollys 1562-1562

Noble Connections: Lettice was the grand-daughter of Mary Boleyn through her daughter, Catherine Carey, and thus the great-niece of Anne Boleyn, second wife to Henry VIII. Lettice’s mother was a favourite of Elizabeth I and Lettice herself married Elizabeth’s favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, as her second husband, having first been married to Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex.

Continue reading “Who Was … Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester?”

Discussion Questions – ‘The Virgin’s Lover’ by Philippa Gregory


  1. Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley were childhood playmates and also have in common the experience of being accused of treason and locked in the tower. How does Dudley use this shared history to influence Elizabeth? Is he successful?

'The Virgin's Lover' by Philippa Gregory (2004).
‘The Virgin’s Lover’ by Philippa Gregory (2004).

I think Dudley was quite manipulative in a way. He used what he knew was Elizabeth’s weakness to get close to her, and make her almost dependent on him. He tried to ingratiate with her when she was vulnerable and alone. I think there were so few people who had things in common with Elizabeth that she was automatically drawn to someone who shared one of the most important experiences of her life and that shaped her into the monarch she was. I think there was also an element that no one really treated Elizabeth as a normal person apart from Dudley – everyone else saw her either as a bastard or a queen. I think he is successful at first, but that, as Elizabeth settles more into her role, she realizes how dangerous it could be and changes her approach to him, at least in public.

  1. What is your opinion of Amy? She says about Dudley, “In his heart I know that he is still the young man that I fell in love with who wanted nothing more than some good pasture land to breed beautiful horses” (105). Has Amy completely misjudged her husband, particularly how ambitious a man he is?

I think that Dudley knew that he could never have that life, even if he wanted it, and I think that when he and Amy married he wasn’t so attached to Elizabeth. His father was on his way up, but not yet at the height of his power. He must have known that his future was at court. I think that Amy was blinded by her love for him, and assumed that he and she wanted the same kind of life. It was inevitable with who his father was that Dudley was destined for a life at court rather than in the country, and I don’t think that he really wanted any other kind of life. I don’t think Amy really understood Dudley, or his love for the court, because she had never been there, and I think it was difficult to understand the allure without having experienced it yourself. Continue reading “Discussion Questions – ‘The Virgin’s Lover’ by Philippa Gregory”

Book Review – ‘The Marriage Game’ by Alison Weir


Alison Weir 'The Marriage Game' (2014)
Alison Weir ‘The Marriage Game’ (2014)

Alison Weir, The Marriage Game (London: Hutchinson, 2014) 432 pages, Hardback, ISBN 978-0-0919-26250

Genre/s: = Historical / Drama / Romance

Setting: = London, Kenilworth and Hatfield (England)

Characters: = Elizabeth I of England / Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester / Mary, Queen of Scots / Lettice Dudley, Countess of Leicester / Katherine Knollys / Kat Astley / William Cecil, Baron Burghley / Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex / Christopher Hatton / Sir Francis Drake / Sir Walter Raleigh / Francis Walsingham Continue reading “Book Review – ‘The Marriage Game’ by Alison Weir”

Spotlight: Catherine Carey, Lady Knollys


Name: Catherine Carey / Catherine Knollys

Title/s: Lady Knollys

Birth / Death: c.1524 – 15 January 1569

Spouse: Sir Francis Knollys c.1511 – 1596

Children: Mary Stalker c.1541-1593 / Henry Knollys c.1542-1582 / Lettice, Countess of Essex and Leicester 1543-1634 / William, 1st Earl of Banbury c.1544-1632 / Edward Knollys 1546-1580 / Robert Knollys 1547-1626 / Richard Knollys 1548-1596 / Elizabeth Leighton 1549-c.1605 / Thomas Knollys d.1596 / Francis Knollys c.1552-1643 / Anne West 1555-1608 / Catherine Fitzgerald 1559-1620 / Margaret Knollys (unknown) / Dudley Knollys 1562 Continue reading “Spotlight: Catherine Carey, Lady Knollys”

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