Tag Archives: Earl of Warwick

On this day in 1574 – Sir Robert Dudley was born

Sir Robert Dudley was born on 7th August 1574 and was the illegitimate son of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester and Lady Douglas Sheffield. He grew up in his father’s household and was educated at Christ Church, Oxford.

At the age of 14, in 1588, as the Spanish Armada approached England the younger Robert Dudley joined his father at Tilbury as he commanded the army. The elder Dudley would die just weeks later and left his illegitimate son a large inheritance which included Kenilworth castle and estates and upon the death of his uncle the lordships of Denbigh and Chirk.

In 1591 Dudley was contracted to marry Frances Vavasour with the consent of the Queen, however, the stipulation was that Dudley was to wait until he was slightly older as he was still 17. In the same year Frances Vavasour secretly married another man and the Queen banished her from court. Instead Dudley went on to marry Margaret Cavendish secretly and as a result also found himself banished from court, this banishment only lasted a few days before Elizabeth allowed him back to court. Margaret died soon after their marriage.

Dudley became interested in exploration and in 1594 he assembled a fleet of ships led by his galleon the Beare. Dudley intended to head towards the Spanish who were in the Atlantic and disturb them, the Queen disapproved of the plan due to Dudley’s inexperience and that the fleet was worth a lot of money eventually she agreed to Dudley being a general and sailing the Guiana instead. Dudley recruited 275 sailors along with captains Thomas Jobson and Benjamin Wood. The fleet set sail on 6th November 1594 but were delayed by storms that divided the fleet. They eventually regrouped in the Canary Islands. By December they captured two Spanish ships and incorporated them into the English fleet up until this point it looked as if the expedition would be a failure. From Tenerife the fleet sailed towards Cabo Blanco and then on towards Trinidad where Dudley discovered an island that he claimed in the name of the Queen and called Dudleiana. The fleet recruited a Spanish speaking Indian to guide then in search of Gold but the guide deserted them and the fleet had to find their own way back to the meeting point. In March 1595 Dudley led the fleet north towards Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico before sailing towards Bermuda. With the fleet low on provisions and ammunition as well as no sign of any Spanish Dudley began leading the fleet home to England. It was travelling to England that they engaged in a two day battle with a Spanish ship, although they won the battle they did not capture the ship and landed back in Cornwall in May 1595.

The following year, in 1596, Dudley joined Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, in an expedition against Cadiz where he was knighted for his conduct during the Capture of Cadiz.

Also in 1596 Dudley married Alice Leigh and the couple went on to have seven daughters.

In 1603 Dudley was informed by a traveller, Thomas Drury, that his parents had secretly married and that Dudley was the legitimate son of his father. This began a case that appeared in front of the Star Chamber in 1604 to legitimise his claims and allow himself to be called the Earl of Leicester and Earl of Warwick. Over 90 witnesses appeared on behalf of Dudley who even had his own mother write that the marriage happened although she could not remember the details including the date or who conducted the ceremony. On the other side of the argument Lettice Knollys, Robert Dudley’s widow called 57 witnesses to deny the claims that were being put forward. As a result the Star Chamber declared that the marriage never happened and Dudley was not only illegitimate but deceived by Thomas Drury.

In 1605 Dudley left his wife and fled England with Elizabeth Southwell, his mistress and cousin after declaring that they had converted to Roman Catholicism. They found themselves in Lyon in 1606 where after receiving a papal dispensation married. The newlyweds headed to Florence where they would set up their new life together. After arriving in Florence, Dudley began calling himself the Earl of Leicester and the Earl of Warwick, titles that were denied to him by the Star Chamber. The couple would go on to have 13 children together, many of whom married into Italian families.

Dudley became a naval advisor to Ferdinand I, Grand Duke of Tuscany and set about designing and building war ships for the Tuscan navy.

In 1607 King James I ordered Dudley to come back to England and provide for his estranged wife and family, the King even revoked Dudley’s travel permit to force him to return, however, Dudley refused and remained on the continent. As a result the King confiscated Dudley’s estates and declared him an outlaw. Although the King had outlawed him, his son the Prince of Wales, remained in touch with Dudley and negotiated the sale of Kenilworth Castle. In 1611 a price of £14,500 was agreed upon with Dudley keeping the position of constable of the castle, the young Prince died the year later and Dudley had only received £3000 of the agreed fee. Kenilworth Castle became the property of the new Prince of Wales, Charles. Charles only paid £4000 for the property after he passed an Act of Parliament in 1621 that allowed Dudley’s estranged wife to negotiate the sale of the property.

In 1644 King Charles I created Dudley’s deserted wife a Duchess in her own right and recognised Dudley’s claims to legitimacy. Although he was now legitimate the King did not grant Dudley the titles or estates that belonged to his father.

Robert Dudley died on 6th September 1649 in Villa Rinieri and was buried at San Pancrazio in Florence. Dudley left his entire estate to Ferdinand II de’Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Robert Dudley jrA portrait believed to be Sir Robert Dudley

On this day in 1550 – Robert Dudley married Amy Robsart

On 4th June 1550 Robert Dudley married Amy Robsart at the royal palace of Sheen at Richmond. The couple were both close to their 18th birthdays and unlike many marriages at the time it was a marriage of love and not arranged by either family.

It is believed that the couple met when Sir John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, led his sons and an army north to put down a rebellion by Robert Kett that was brewing after Lord Sheffield was clubbed to death after falling from his horse. Dudley took his sons Ambrose and Robert with him and on 22nd August 1549 the troops camped outside the town of Wymondham, whilst Dudley, his sons and officers lodged at Stanfield Hall, the home of the Robsarts. This fleeting visit lasted just one night as by morning the army was on the move again towards Norwich.

Two weeks before the marriage took place both father’s sat down and drew up a marriage contract, both men were looking to get the best deal for their child and one of Sir John Robsart’s biggest concerns was the welfare of his wife after his death. Therefore he proposed that his entire estate that included the manors of Syderstone, Newton and Great Bircham would pass to Amy and Robert after both he and his wife had passed away. Sir John Dudley was concerned about the future married couple’s ability to live comfortably and so entered a clause that would ensure that a dowry of £200 was in place along with an annual allowance of £20 to be paid by Robsart to Robert. On top of the Dudley also provided £50 from the rent of some of his Leicestershire lands. Dudley also offered some land at the priory of Coxford for the couple to live, until Amy comes into her inheritance.

On 3rd June 1550 a wedding between Warwick’s son, John Dudley and the daughter of the Duke of Somerset, Anne took place. This wedding was arranged after Somerset was freed from the Tower of London after his involvement in the Kett’s rebellion. The marriage also took place at the palace of Sheen and the weekend of festivities were attended by the King.

The wedding between Robert and Amy was a smaller ceremony than the day before and was attended by many of the same guests; they were all perhaps feeling a bit worse for wear after the lavish banquet they had attended in honour of the eldest Dudley. Robert being the third son could not expect the same attention but the King and his half sister, Princess Elizabeth attended this wedding also.

Many signs pointed to this union being a marriage of love, years later Cecil wrote in a memorandum; ‘Nuptii carnales a laetitia incipient et in luctu terminantur, which translated to ‘carnal marriages begin in joy and end in weeping’. Cecil was close to being appointed Principal Secretary to the Privy Council and so it was likely that he was at the wedding and knew the couple.

After the marriage Robert Dudley was on his way to becoming an influential landholder in north-west England and despite an imprisonment in the Tower of London for his families involvement in placing Lady Jane Grey on the throne He was also on his way to becoming a regular at court and under Elizabeth Robert Dudley would become one of the most influential men in England.

Robert DudleyRobert Dudley

On this day in 1513 – Edmund de la Pole was buried

Edmund de la Pole was the son of John de la Pole, 2nd Duke of Suffolk and his wife Elizabeth of York, younger sister of King Edward IV and older sister of King Richard III. The De La Pole’s were some of the last legitimate Plantagenet’s in England during the Tudor reign.

Edmund’s older brother, John, had been named heir apparent by King Richard III after the death of his own son making his the focus of the Yorkists and those loyal to the Plantagenet’s after the death of Richard at Bosworth in 1485.

John de la Pole swore allegiance to the new King Henry VII but in 1487 joined the rebellion of Lambert Simnel, who claimed to be the imprisoned Edward, Earl of Warwick and a claimant to the throne. John de la Pole fought and died at the Battle of Stoke which was considered the last battle of the Wars of the Roses.

With the death of John the focus moved to Edmund as the claimant of the throne for the Yorkists and in 1491 Edmund inherited his father’s title of Duke of Suffolk although two years later this was demoted to Earl.

In 1498 Edmund was indicted in the King’s Bench for allegedly killing a man in a fury. He received the King’s pardon but in summer 1499 Edmund fled to Calais but was persuaded to return to England and returned into the King’s favour. Edmund went on to witness the confirmation of the treaty for Prince Arthur’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon.

After a brief trip to Calais with the King, Edmund began hearing that the Holy Roman Emperor would be willing to help anyone that carried the blood of King Edward IV back to the throne so Edmund began to approach the Emperor and after six weeks received word that the Emperor would help him with up to five thousand men for three months. However, the Emperor would not be able to gather these men for his support so instead agreed to lend money to Edmund.

On 28th July 1502 Maximillian signed an agreement with the English that in return for £10,000 he would not aid any English rebels regardless of their rank and so Edmund was on his own. On 12th February 1503 with Edmund still staying within Maximillian’s borders, Maximillian was requested to take an oath to swear that he would observe the treaty that he signed and that Edmund would be expelled from his lands.

January 1504 saw an attainder passed against the de la Pole’s including Edmund. He eventually left Maximillian’s land during Easter by leaving his brother, Richard, behind as hostage. Edmund headed to Gelderland to the Duke of Saxony where instead of being greeted and supported he was imprisoned. The Duke of Saxony was believed to have received money from King Henry VII to secure Edmund but for some reason he was never handed over to England.

Philip, King of Castile, eventually gained possession of Edmund and in January 1506 Edmund sent his servants to communicate with Henry and to negotiate a way to leave Philip’s possession. During January Philip was travelling to Castile when he was blown off course and landed in England. He visited Henry at Windsor where they discussed the surrender of Edmund into Henry’s custody. In March 1506 Edmund was paraded through London and placed into the Tower.

King Henry had promised Philip that he would not kill or harm Edmund but instead keep him imprisoned for the remainder of his life. Henry VII kept his word and Edmund was still alive when Henry VIII took the throne. In 1513 King Henry VIII ordered Edmund’s execution and on 30th March 1513 he was taken from his cell in the Tower and beheaded.

Edmund was buried on 4th May 1513 in the Church of the Minories, Aldgate.

Edmund de la Pole coat of arms