NOTE: this article is jointly written by Cameron Dudley and
Robert was born in 1532, the son of John
Dudley, Duke of Northumberland and Jane Guilford. He was brother to Guilford
Dudley, who lost his head over his marriage to Lady Jane Grey. He, too, was
sentenced to death with his father in 1553 but was pardoned by Queen Mary, who
made him master of the ordnance. He later caught the fancy of Queen Elizabeth.
The mysterious death of his first wife, Amy Robsart (1532?-60), cast suspicion
upon him. It was believed he had ambitions to marry the queen, who continued to
show him high favor and created him Earl of Leicester in 1564.
Leicester (as he was known then) later
involved himself in an invalid marriage to Douglas Sheffield (Lady Douglas),
which he kept secret. This union produced a son, Robert (who later became a
Knight) and a daughter, Douglas (there were no problems with names back then!)
He then married a woman by the name of Letitia Knollys in September of 1578, a
widow of his rival, Walter Devereux (1541?-76), 1st earl of Essex. She brought
into this marriage her son by Essex, Robert Deveroux, who was then Roberts
Step-son. (he never acknowledged him--to do so would have negated the boys
title--he became the Earl of Essex upon his fathers' death). As a result of
Leicester's marriage, he suffered the Queen's displeasure, but in 1585 she
relented and appointed him commander of an expedition to the Low Countries to
assist them in their revolt against Spain. The following year he was appointed
governor of the Low Countries, but he was recalled in 1588 because of
differences with the Dutch governing body. The queen, to whom he was
reconciled, made him a lieutenant general of the forces sent to resist the
Spanish Armada. He died on September 4, 1588, shortly after the Spanish defeat.
Robert had a very controversial life. He
was known as a "defender of religion", having built many churches and
monuments. However, among the religious he was really known as "the Friend of
the Puritans." Many things were written about him during his life, and flavor
depends on whom is doing the writing. To fully know the implications of the
religious sayings above, one would have to study the religious fervor of the
times. Suffice it to say, Richard was both a religious and political chameleon.
So much so, in fact, that one wonders what would have happened if Lady Jane's
very short reign would have succeeded!
Much of the controversy surrounds his
"relationship" with Queen Elizabeth. This "on-again-off-again" being in "favor"
with the Queen has left many researchers to speculate whether or not there had
ever been a sexual relationship between the two. Some sources go so far as to
state that Robert had certain laws so worded that, upon an issue between
himself and the Queen (no matter what sex) that upon the Queen's death the
child would immediately take the throne!! No issue from the Queen was
Robert Dudley, then, had two sons--both
named Robert. The son from Amy Robsart--his first wife--died before the age of
ten. The second, his "illegitimate" son from Lady Douglas, went to Italy after
his failed attempts to gain his fathers inheritance. He died in Florence, and
his male offspring all died there.
There are some poems (one notable "Leicester's Ghost"--a rehash of a libellous article in poem form), and other articles that through great disrespect on Robert's life, and some that extol him as a paragon of virtue. Which is it?? We may never know.
HIS RELATIONSHIP TO DUDLEYTOWN: there is
none. While all the Legend Tellers state that the "curse" on the Dudley's came
via Robert, no male offspring survived to live in America. Robert, and ALL his
offspring, including the females, all died natural deaths. There is NO link
from Robert Dudley to ANYTHING in Dudleytown.