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.