On 4th September 1588 Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester died, aged 56 not long after the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
Dudley’s health had been deteriorating for some time with complaints of stomach pains. At the end of August 1588 Dudley set off to Buxton, Derbyshire to take in the water, the spa water in the baths were believed to have healing powers.
As Dudley was travelling to Buxton he stopped at a house at Rycote near Reading, a place he had visited previously with Queen Elizabeth, who he had a close relationship with throughout his life. It was here he wrote his final letter to his treasured Queen. Dudley wrote;
“I most humbly beseech your Majesty to pardon your poor old servant to be thus bold in sending to know how my gracious lady doth, and what ease of her late pains she finds, being the chiefest thing in this world I do pray for, for her to have good health and long life. For my own poor case, I continue still your medicine and find that amends much better than with any other thing that hath been given me. Thus hoping to find perfect cure at the bath, with the continuance of my wonted prayer for your Majesty’s most happy preservation, I humbly kiss your foot. From your old lodging at Rycote, this morning, ready to take on my Journey, by your Majesty’s most faithful and obedient servant,
Even as I had writ thus much, I received Your Majesty’s token by Young Tracey.”
After writing this letter Leicester continued his journey to Buxton stopping at Combury Park near Woodstock, Oxfordshire where his health failed even further when at 4pm on the 4th September he passed away. He was buried in the Beauchamp Chapel of the Collegiate Church of St. Mary’s, Warwick.
Queen Elizabeth was devastated at the loss of her ‘Sweet Robin’. An informer of the Spanish Ambassador reported that Elizabeth was so upset with grief that she locked herself in her chamber with no servants and refused to speak to anybody. It took the force of her council to break down her down and enter. Elizabeth kept Dudley’s final letter and when she died it was found kept in a box next to her bed with the inscription ‘His Last Letter’.