Friday, June 24, 2011

Roguish Rake - Robert Dudley

Since today is Robert Dudley's birthday, I felt it was a befitting gift to highlight him as the Tudor Tattler's first Roguish Rake.


Robert Dudley is one of the most popular figures of Elizabeth England, most because he was Elizabeth's great love (and possibly lover?). He pursued Elizabeth for years, trying to get her to marry him. Of course, the "Virgin" Queen resisted. Rather, she offered him friendship. He accepted, but this didn't stop him from finding..."friendship" elsewhere as well. 

Robert's illegitimate son Robert
There are several women who seem to revolve around Dudley. The first is Lady Douglas Sheffield. Their secret affair began around 1569 after the death of her husband. Douglas soon discovered she was pregnant. This posed a slight problem for Robert. He, at this point, still hoped to marry Elizabeth...however he was unwed and had no heir. He finally broke down and wrote the poor woman saying, "You must think it is some marvelous 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." He kindly offered to help find her another husband for propriety's sake (AND hide the affair from Elizabeth). Douglas was probably less than pleased with this reply.

She gave birth to a son and named him Robert Dudley (as if to say "Yeah...it's totally your kid, jerk). Robert accepted paternity and aided financially in the raising of his son. Douglas eventually remarried and moved to Paris with her new husband. There she became fast friends with Catherine de Medici.

While pursuing Douglas, Robert also pursued her sister, Frances Howard. According to one courtier "There are two sisters now in the court that are very far in love with him, as they have long been; my Lady Sheffield and Frances Howard. They (of like striving who shall love him better) are at great wars together and the queen thinketh not well of them, and not the better of him."

Naughty Robby.

Lettice Knollys
As if two sisters and a Queen weren't enough, Robert found time to pursue and marry Lettice Knollys. Lettice was the Queen's cousin, granddaughter of Mary Boleyn. While her hubby, Walter Devereaux, Earl of Essex, was out of town, Lettice and Robert began a secret affair. According to one eyewitness, "As the thing is publicly talked of in the streets, there can be no harm in my writing openly about the great enmity between the Earl of Leicester and the Earl of Essex, in consequence, it is said, of the fact that while Essex was in Ireland his wife had two children by Leicester. ... Great discord is expected in consequence." As if on que, Devereaux died in 1576, his last words bemoaning the "frailness of women."

After the proper mourning period (and the fact that she was probably with child), Lettice and Robert secretly married. I suppose Robert was tired of waiting on Elizabeth, and decided that since Lettice was pregnant anyway (not to mention a great beauty), he might as well get an heir out of the whole mess.

Young Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex
Elizabeth didn't care for her pretty cousin, especially when she got wind of her connection to Robert. She permanently banished her from court. Her great animosity toward the Countess didn't stop Elizabeth from making Lettice's son, Robert Devereaux, her favorite years later...though she did end up executing him...

I suppose if one were to ask Robert Dudley why so many women, he would probably say that there was only one woman for him; Elizabeth. But since he couldn't have her, he had to settle for other, less desirable women.

So, what do you think? Was Dudley a poor puppy to one of the greatest teases in history, or a true Roguish Rake? Pin It

1 comment:

  1. This may seem strange, but I was always told that I am a relative of Rober Dudley. Not sure it's a good thing but I took a close look at the ear in the painting and that is what we call "the Dudley ear knott". It is on the top of the ear. My father, Adrich Dudley III, my brother, me and both of my children have it. My son's birthday is the same as Rober Dudley. Strange isn't it?

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