Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

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Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

Death: Died in Oxfordshire, England
Place of Burial: Beauchamp Chapel, St. Mary Collegiate Church, Warwick, Warwickshire, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland and Jane Guildford, Duchess of Northumberland
Husband of Amy Robsart and Lettice Knollys, Countess of Essex & Leicester
Partner of Lady Douglas Sheffield
Father of Francis (Raised in 'Bacon' family) and Robert Dudley, styled Earl of Warwick
Brother of Sir Henry Dudley, Kt.; Ambrose Dudley, 3rd Earl of Warwick; Lady Mary Dudley; John Dudley, 2nd Earl of Warwick; Thomas Dudley and 5 others
Half brother of Lady Anne Sutton Aske

Occupation: Courtier/ favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, 1st Earl of Leicester
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

  • Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester1
  • M, #102955, b. 24 June 1532, d. 4 September 1588
  • Last Edited=25 Apr 2010
  • Consanguinity Index=0.01%
  • Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester was born on 24 June 1532. He was the son of John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland and Jane Guilford.1 He married, firstly, Amy Robsart, daughter of Sir John Robsart, in 1550. He married, secondly, Douglas Howard, daughter of William Howard, 1st Baron Howard of Effingham and Margaret Gamage, in 1573.4 He married, thirdly, Lettice Knollys, daughter of Sir Francis Knollys and Katherine Carey, on 21 September 1578.5 He died on 4 September 1588 at age 56 at Cornbury, Oxfordshire, England.
  • He gained the title of 1st Earl of Leicester in 1564.
  • Child of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester and Douglas Howard
    • 1.Robert Dudley, Earl of Warwick2 b. 7 Aug 1574, d. 6 Sep 1649
  • Child of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester and Lettice Knollys
    • 1.Robert Dudley, Baron of Denbigh3 b. 1579, d. 19 Jul 1584
  • Citations
  • 1.[S37] Volume 1, page 1075. See link for full details for this source. Hereinafter cited as. [S37]
  • 2.[S130] Wikipedia, online http;// Hereinafter cited as Wikipedia.
  • 3.[S3409] Caroline Maubois, "re: Penancoet Family," e-mail message to Darryl Roger Lundy, 2 December 2008. Hereinafter cited as "re: Penancoet Family."
  • 4.[S37] See. [S37]
  • 5.[S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume V, page 141. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.
  • From:


  • Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester1,2,3,4,5
  • M, #48649, b. 24 June 1532, d. 4 September 1588
  • Father Sir John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, Sheriff of Staffordshire, Vice-Admiral, Lord High Admiral, Governor of Boulogne, Lord Great Chamberlain, Earl Marshal of England6,3,4 b. bt 1504 - 1506, d. 22 Aug 1553
  • Mother Jane Guilford6,3,4 b. c 1504, d. 22 Jan 1555
  • Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester was born on 24 June 1532.6 He married Douglas Howard, daughter of Sir William Howard, 1st Baron Howard of Effingham, Lord High Admiral and Margaret Gamage, circa December 1573; They had 1 son (Sir Robert Dudley), possibly illegitimate. Star Chamber ruled that they were never married.7,2,3,4,5 The marriage of Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and Douglas Howard was annulled before 21 September 1578; He ended his affair with her, but promised to pay her 700 pounds per year in support.7,3,4 Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester married Lettice Knollys, daughter of Sir Francis Knollys, Burgess of Horsham, Camelford, & Arundel, Constable of Wallingford Castle, Governor of Portsmouth, Treasurer of the Chamber & Household and Katherine Cary, on 21 September 1578 at Wanstead, Essex, England.1,8 Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester died on 4 September 1588 at age 56.1,3,4
  • Family 1 Douglas Howard b. c 1535
  • Family 2 Lettice Knollys b. c 1541, d. 25 Dec 1634
  • Citations
  • 1.[S11568] The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, by George Edward Cokayne, Vol. V, p. 141.
  • 2.[S16] Douglas Richardson, Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd Edition, Vol. II, p. 417.
  • 3.[S16] Douglas Richardson, Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd Edition, Vol. IV, p. 19.
  • 4.[S4] Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry, Vol. II, p. 279-280.
  • 5.[S4] Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry, Vol. III, p. 339.
  • 6.[S11568] The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, by George Edward Cokayne, Vol. VII, p. 549.
  • 7.[S5] Douglas Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry, p. 648.
  • 8.[S5] Douglas Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry, p. 187.
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  • Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, KG (24 June 1532 or 1533[note 1] – 4 September 1588) was an English nobleman and the favourite and close friend of Elizabeth I from her first year on the throne until his death. The Queen giving him reason to hope, he was a suitor for her hand for many years.
  • Dudley's youth was overshadowed by the downfall of his family in 1553 after his father, the Duke of Northumberland, had unsuccessfully tried to establish Lady Jane Grey on the English throne. Robert Dudley was condemned to death but was released in 1554 and took part in the Battle of St. Quentin (1557) under Philip II of Spain, which led to his full rehabilitation. On Elizabeth I's accession in November 1558, Dudley was appointed Master of the Horse. In October 1562 he became a privy councillor and in 1587 was appointed Lord Steward of the Royal Household. In 1564 Dudley became Earl of Leicester and from 1563 one of the greatest landowners in North Wales and the English West Midlands by royal grants.
  • Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was one of Elizabeth's leading statesmen, involved in domestic as well as foreign politics alongside William Cecil and Francis Walsingham. Although he refused to be married to Mary, Queen of Scots, Dudley was for a long time relatively sympathetic to her until from the mid-1580s he strongly advocated her execution. As patron of the Puritan movement he supported non-conforming preachers, but tried to mediate between them and the bishops within the Church of England. A champion also of the international Protestant cause, he led the English campaign in support of the Dutch Revolt from 1585–1587. His acceptance of the post of Governor-General of the United Provinces infuriated Queen Elizabeth. The expedition was a military and political failure and ruined the Earl financially. Leicester was engaged in many large-scale business ventures and a main backer of Francis Drake and other explorers and privateers. During the Spanish Armada the Earl was in overall command of the English land forces. In this function he invited Queen Elizabeth to visit her troops at Tilbury. This was the last of many events he organised over the years, the most spectacular being the festival at his seat Kenilworth Castle in 1575 on occasion of a three-week visit by the Queen. Dudley was a principal patron of the arts, literature, and the Elizabethan theatre.[1]
  • Robert Dudley's private life interfered with his court career and vice versa. When his first wife, Amy Robsart, fell down a flight of stairs and died in 1560, he was free to marry the Queen. However, the resulting scandal very much reduced his chances in this respect. Popular rumours that he had arranged for his wife's death continued throughout his life, despite the coroner's jury's verdict of accident. For 18 years he did not remarry for Queen Elizabeth's sake and when he finally did, his new wife, Lettice Knollys, was permanently banished from court. This and the death of his only legitimate son and heir were heavy blows.[2] Shortly after the child's death in 1584, a virulent libel known as Leicester's Commonwealth was circulating in England. It laid the foundation of a literary and historiographical tradition that often depicted the Earl as the Machiavellian "master courtier"[3] and as a deplorable figure around Elizabeth I. More recent research has led to a reassessment of his place in Elizabethan government and society.
  • Robert Dudley was the fifth son of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, and his wife Jane, daughter of Sir Edward Guildford.[4] John and Jane Dudley had 13 children in all and were known for their happy family life.[5] Among the siblings' tutors figured John Dee,[6] Thomas Wilson, and Roger Ascham.[7] Roger Ascham believed that Robert Dudley possessed a rare talent for languages and writing, regretting that his pupil had done himself harm by preferring mathematics.[8] The craft of the courtier Robert learnt at the courts of Henry VIII, and especially Edward VI, among whose companions he served.[9]
  • In 1549 Robert Dudley participated in crushing Kett's Rebellion and probably first met Amy Robsart, whom he was to wed on 4 June 1550 in the presence of the young King Edward.[10] She was of the same age as the bridegroom and the daughter and heiress of Sir John Robsart, a gentleman-farmer of Norfolk.[11] It was a love-match, the young couple depending heavily on both their fathers' gifts, especially Robert's. John Dudley, who since early 1550 effectively ruled England, was pleased to strengthen his influence in Norfolk by his son's marriage.[12] Lord Robert, as he was styled as a duke's son, became an important local gentleman and a Member of Parliament. His court career went on .....
  • With Lady Douglas Sheffield, a young widow of the Howard family, he had a serious relationship from about 1569.[111] He explained to her that he could not marry, not even in order to beget a Dudley heir, without his "utter overthrow":[112]
    • You must think it is some marvellous cause ... that forceth me thus to be cause almost of the ruin of mine own house ... my brother you see long married and not like to have children, it resteth so now in myself; and yet such occasions is there ... as if I should marry I am sure never to have [the Queen's] favour".[113]
  • Although in this letter Leicester said he still loved her as he did at the beginning, he offered her his help to find another husband for reasons of respectability if she so wished.[114] The affair continued and in 1574 Lady Douglas gave birth to a son, also called Robert Dudley.[115
  • Lettice Knollys was the wife of Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, and first cousin once removed of Queen Elizabeth on her mother's side. Leicester had flirted with her in the summer of 1565, causing an outbreak of jealousy in the Queen.[116] After Lord Essex went to Ireland in 1573, they possibly became lovers.[117] There was much talk, and on Essex' homecoming in December 1575, "great enmity between the Earl of Leicester and the Earl of Essex" was expected.[118] In July 1576 Essex returned to Ireland, where he died of dysentery in September.[117] Rumours of poison, administered by the Earl of Leicester's means, were soon abroad. The Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Henry Sidney, conducted an official investigation which did not find any indications of foul play but "a disease appropriate to this country ...
  • On 21 September 1578 Leicester secretly married Lady Essex at his country house at Wanstead, with only a handful of relatives and friends present.[127] He did not dare to tell the Queen of his marriage; nine months later Leicester's enemies at court acquainted her with the situation, causing a furious outburst.[128] She already had been aware of his marriage plans a year earlier, though.[129] Leicester's hope of an heir was fulfilled in 1581 when another Robert Dudley, styled Lord Denbigh, was born.[130] The child died aged three in 1584, leaving behind disconsolate parents.[131] Leicester found comfort in God since, as he wrote, "princes ...
  • From:,_1st_Earl_of_Leicester



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Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester's Timeline

June 24, 1532
June 5, 1550
Age 17
Richmond, England
- 1587
Age 25
- 1585
Age 31
University of Oxford
- 1588
Age 31
London, United Kingdom
- 1588
Age 37
May 1573
Age 40
In secret
August 7, 1574
Age 42
Richmond Palace
Age 46
September 4, 1588
Age 56
Oxfordshire, England