Robert Dudley KG MP
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Robert Dudley KG MP (abt. 1532 - 1588)

Sir Robert "1st Earl of Leicester" Dudley KG MP
Born about in Richmond, Surrey, Englandmap [uncertain]
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married 4 Jun 1550 (to 8 Sep 1560) in Greenwich, Kent, Englandmap
Husband of — married 21 Sep 1578 (to 4 Sep 1588) in Wanstead, Essex, Englandmap
Descendants descendants
Died at about age 56 in Cornbury, Oxfordshire, Englandmap
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Robert Dudley KG MP is Notable.

Robert Dudley, fifth son of John Dudley and his wife, Jane Guildford [1][2] gave his day of birth as the 24th of June but the actual date is nowhere recorded. The Hilliard miniature of 1576 said he was 44 years old at the time which gives a year of 1532 or 1533 depending on when it was executed.[3]

At the time of Robert's birth, his father was a rising man at the court of Henry VIII. [4] Henry died on the 28th of January 1547 and was succeeded by his son, Edward VI, then aged 9, who was heavily under the influence of his uncles, Edward Seymour, who became Lord Protector of the Realm and Duke of Somerset, and Somerset's brother, Thomas. [5] The Seymours were overthrown and by February 1550 Robert's father, by then Earl of Warwick, had become leader of the Council [6] and effectively ruler of England.

Amy Robsart

Later that year and not then 18 years old Robert was married to Amy Robsart, daughter of Sir John Robsart and his wife, Elizabeth Scott, at the Palace of Placentia at Greenwich on the 4th of June 1550. [7] [8]

Amy was the same age as Robert. 1550 was also the year that Robert was knighted. [9]

In 1552 Robert was returned to Parliament as Member for Norfolk at a by-election to replace Sir Edmund Knyvet who had died, and in 1553 was returned in his own right, [10]

After Edward VI died on the 6th of July 1553 John Dudley, by then Duke of Northumberland, tried to make his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey, queen instead of the Roman Catholic Princess Mary. Northumberland's failure jeopardized his family and Robert and his brothers, John, Ambrose, Henry and Guildford were incarcerated in the Tower of London as was his uncle, Andrew Dudley. The brothers passed time carving their names. [11]

John Dudley went to the block at Tower Hill on the 22nd of August 1553. [4] [12] Mary Tudor's Coronation took place on the 1st of October. [13]

When Mary announced her intention to wed Philip II of Spain, a rebellion led by Thomas Wyatt broke out against the match. Lady Jane's father Henry Grey, Earl of Suffolk, was a co-conspirator. The failed rebellion led to the execution of Wyatt and Suffolk for their crimes, and Lady Jane Grey and Robert's brother her husband, Guildford Dudley, as too dangerous to live. Princess Elizabeth was sent to the Tower at this time and it is thought that this was when Robert's great friendship with her developed.

After the Queen's marriage had taken place the remaining Dudley brothers were released, not least because of the strenuous efforts made by their mother, Jane Dudley. John Dudley, the new Earl of Warwick, died shortly thereafter and Henry Dudley died in 1557 in France, fighting in the service of Philip of Spain. [14] Ambrose and Robert remained firm friends throughout their lives.

Elizabeth I


Robert was with Elizabeth at Hatfield on on the 18th of November 1558, her accession day, and was at once made her master of horse and very quickly became named by the Spanish as the most important person at court being made a Knight of the Garter in 1559.[15] He served again as MP for Norfolk in 1559. [16]

Amy Dudley was kept firmly in the background. Robert was at Windsor with Elizabeth when Amy was found dead at the bottom of the stairs at Anthony Forster's Cumnor Place on the 8th of September 1560. This tragedy gave rise to rumours that she had died by Robert's design so that he would be able to marry the Queen, rumours that have not abated to this day. [17]

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots

Brought up in France and a Roman Catholic, Mary, Queen of Scots, formerly Queen of France, had returned to Protestant Scotland in 1561. A grand-daughter of Margaret Tudor, elder sister of Henry VIII she was Elizabeth's obvious heir, [18] but would clearly face serious competition from her cousin, Henry, Lord Darnley, then aged 17, or even his mother, the Countess of Lennox. [19]

In 1563 Elizabeth suggested Robert become the husband of the widowed queen. To make him a suitable candidate, she created him Earl of Leicester (Note that he was also said to have been created Earl in 1561, taking the same arms as his brother, Ambrose); [20] and granted him Kenilworth Manor and Castle,[21] and lands in Denbigh and Chirk.

Kenilworth Castle

Mary was interested since there were hints that, were she to marry Robert, Elizabeth would name her as heir to England. The English Queen did however expect that Robert and Mary would live at the English court. Robert declined. It was a somewhat surprising episode since the Queen could hardly bear to have him out of her sight and he was largely treated and behaved as her consort.

Although he had never attended University, Robert was granted an MA by Cambridge University in 1564 when he and his brother, Ambrose, visited with the Queen. [22]

By 1566 he wrote of Elizabeth, that he truly believed that she would never marry. They had become friends, he said, before she was 8 years old and she had said it then and later when she was old enough to marry. [3] Even so the Queen was possessive and jealous of the women her favourites loved.

Douglas Sheffield

Robert Dudley

About 1570 he began an affair with Douglas Sheffield, daughter of William Howard and his wife, Margaret Gamage, and widow of Sir John Sheffield. The Queen and Robert were both in their late thirties and any prospect that they might some day marry and have heirs to inherit the throne had almost vanished. Even so he chose not to marry Douglas for fear of losing the Queen's favour and his own power and influence. Douglas bore him a son, Robert, in 1574. While he always denied marrying Douglas, he acknowledged her son as his.

Many historians have accepted that Robert and Douglas were married [2] [23][24] However Douglas married Sir Edward Stafford on the 29th of November 1579, just over a year after Robert re-married. Years after Leicester's death their son tried to claim his father's and his uncles titles, the matter coming before Star Chamber. Douglas deposed that she and Robert were married at Esher in Surrey, "in wintertime" in 1573. She was not believed. [25][24]

Leicester's Building

Though mostly at court Robert also saw to the modernising of his castle at Kenilworth and it was there in 1575 that he entertained Elizabeth with lavish feasting and pageantry.[21] He improved the building he had built for her in 1571 wherein were her private apartments.

Tudor Garden

The garden he had created beyond the Great Tower, complete with an aviary, has been re-created by English Heritage.

Lettice Knollys

His second significant liaison, with Lettice Knollys, daughter of Sir Francis Knollys and his wife, Catherine Carey and widow of Sir Walter Devereux, had been rumoured to have resulted in a pregnancy: "the bride wore a loose robe."

Lettice Knollys

Lettice was the Queen's cousin on the Boleyn side. Robert and Lettice were married at 7 in the morning on the 21st of September 1578 [2] at Wanstead in Essex. [26]

While the wedding was kept secret from the Queen, depositions were taken to ensure the legitimacy of any children.

Among the witnesses were:

As it turned out no child was born for several years. A son, whom they called Robert, was born at Wanstead in 1581. The marriage did not result in the loss of the Queen's favour when she learned of it, but Lettice was never forgiven. Little Robert Dudley died in 1584 aged 3. [26] Robert and Lettice had no more children but he took a keen interest in her children by Devereux.

Governor General

Governor General

Tension between England and Spain had been an ongoing issue throughout the reign and in 1584 William the Silent, Prince of Orange was murdered, resulting in chaos in the United Provinces. The Dutch looked to England for help. [17] Seemingly to discredit Robert, a book called "Leycesters Commonwealth" appeared on the continent, probably printed in Amsterdam, accusing Robert of murdering Amy. Firm measures were taken to prevent the book from appearing in England and many copies were seized and destroyed.[27]

Elizabeth finally let Robert off the leash and he was dispatched to Holland under arms in which cause he mortgaged his estates to the sum of £25,000. On the 25th of January 1586 he accepted an offer to become Governor-General of the United Provinces. Elizabeth was furious and sent Sir Thomas Heneage to express her disapproval to the States General. [17] The entire affair was a disaster and, after the Battle of Zutphen, during which his nephew, Sir Philip Sidney, was mortally wounded, Robert was ordered home. [17]

Sir Robert Naunton, writing before his own death in 1635, had no respect for him summing up the affair with "Veni, Vidi, Redii", "I came, I saw, I went home". [28]

Spanish Armada

At the time of the Spanish Armada in 1588 Robert was made Lieutenant and Captain-General of the Queen's Armies and Companies and was beside the Queen at Tilbury when she made her famous speech. Without her guard, but with two pages going before her, she rode a grey amongst her army accompanied by Leicester, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, Robert's step-son, and Sir John Norreys. By this time the Armada had already been defeated and was rounding Scotland to make its way home. [29]


Robert was by this time ailing and set out for Buxton in Derbyshire to take the waters. He died on the 4th of September 1588 at Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire, [17] having requested in his will that he be buried in the Collegiate Church of St Mary, Warwick. [3]

A list of the honours granted him may be found at "The Official Baronage of England by James E Doyle". [30]


  1. Benolte, Thomas; Philipot, John; & Owen, George. The Visitations of the County of Sussex: 1530 and 1633-4. London: The Harleian Society, 1905. Vol LIII, p 45
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Lundy, D. (n.d.). "Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester.", citing: Mosley, C. (2003). Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th ed. Wilmington, DE: Genealogical Books Ltd.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Simon Adams, ‘Dudley, Robert, earl of Leicester (1532/3–1588)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2008 accessed 22 Oct 2017
  4. 4.0 4.1 Wikipedia: John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland
  5. Wikipedia: Edward VI
  6. Wikipedia: Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset
  7. History of Parliament online 1509-1558: DUDLEY, Sir Robert (1532/33-88)
  8. Wikipedia: Amy Robsart
  9. Spartacus Educational: Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
  10. History of Parliament online 1509-1558: Norfolk
  11. A medieval Pot Pourri: THE GRAFFITI OF THE TOWER OF LONDON
  12. Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 16 Dudley, John (1502?-1553) by Richard Watson Dixon
  13. Wikipedia: Mary I of England
  14. Wikipedia: Henry Dudley (1531–1557)
  15. Wikipedia: List of Knights and Ladies of the Garter
  16. History of Parliament online 1558-1603: DUDLEY, Sir Robert (1532/3-88), of Kenilworth, Warws
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 Wikipedia: Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester
  18. Wikipedia: Mary, Queen of Scots
  19. Wikipedia: Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
  20. Burke's General Armoury Page 303: Dudley Earl of Leicester
  21. 21.0 21.1 British History online: Kenilworth Castle
  22. Cambridge Alumni: Robert Dudley
  23. Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 16 Dudley, Robert (1532?-1588) by Sidney Lee
  24. 24.0 24.1 History of the Dudley Family, p. 627
  25. Wikipedia: Douglas Sheffield, Baroness Sheffield
  26. 26.0 26.1 Wikipedia: Lettice Knollys
  27. Leycesters Commonwealth
  28. Sir Robert Naunton: Fragmentia Regalia Page 29: Leicester
  29. Wikipedia: Speech to the Troops at Tilbury
  30. The Official Baronage of England by James E. Doyle. Vol 2, Dukes and Viscounts. 1885 Page 342-345. [1]
  • Adams, S. (2011). Leicester and the Court: Essays on Elizabethan Politics (Politics, Culture and Society in Early Modern Britain)
  • Richardson, D. (2013). Royal Ancestry, II: 279, III: 340
  • "Correspondence of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leycester, during his Government of the Low Countries, in the years 1585 and 1586, (1844). Camden Society Series, 27, p. 27. London. Google Gooks Space: Camden Society Series

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Interesting referencing between Robert Dudley, Queen Elizabeth I and Lettice Knollys.
posted by Margaret Ann Mc Nutt
Dudley-4654 and Dudley-1 appear to represent the same person because: These are profiles for the same person - same dates, there is mention in the biography of Dudley-1 that he had a relationship with Douglas Sheffiled (birth name Howard) and had a son Robert Dudley with her. These two profiles are duplicates - please merge them.
posted by John Atkinson