ROBERT, Earl of Leicester

NOTE: this article is jointly written by Cameron Dudley and myself.

     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 forthcoming, however.

     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.

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