Tag Archives: Robert Devereux

Leicester’s Love Triangle

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester is famously known as the favourite of Elizabeth I. His reputation in history is that of an ambitious womaniser and though he hardly had a slew of lovers, what relationships he did have were certainly dramatic This was mostly because they were conducted in the court of a Queen who considered him off limits to anyone save herself. This wasn’t a completely ridiculous notion, seeing as, for much of their lives together, Leicester was openly courting Elizabeth and was considered a legitimate suitor for her hand. So if one were to think of a love triangle surrounding Leicester, the first thought would probably be of one involving Elizabeth and his first wife, Amy Robsart.

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The Virgin Queen’s “Virgins”

While Elizabeth I’s reputation as the Virgin Queen has been in question since her own lifetime, the ladies around her certainly didn’t aspire to the virginal state, despite their mistresses repeated lectures on the matter. It’s not known exactly why Elizabeth shied away from taking a husband, though theories range from witnessing her father’s violently unsuccessful marriages, a fear of pregnancy, or for the political implications of raising a man above her to the throne. Whether personal or political, Elizabeth’s negative opinion of marriage did not just apply to her own and she was notoriously unimpressed by romantic dalliances among her ladies, unless it was she who had orchestrated them. Elizabeth demanded absolute loyalty, requiring her ladies to devote their time solely to their duties in her service, at the expense of family life. Ladies who left court to have children were expected to return as soon as they were physically able to, leaving the child with a wet nurse far from court. The Queen’s reactions to court romances were sometimes so extreme that many of those around here conducted their affairs, and subsequent weddings, in secret, only to suffer Elizabeth’s increased displeasure when the marriage was discovered. Towards the end of her reign her attendants were so concerned with marrying in secret that the Spanish ambassador remarked the Queen discovered a new match each week. Here are some of the more unfortunate women who incurred Elizabeth’s wrath through their choice of husbands, though I’ve left out the most obvious; Lettice Knollys who married Robert Dudley, solely because the relationship between Lettice, Dudley and Lady Douglas Sheffield is worthy of a piece all of its own. Continue reading