Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester : Facts, History, Life, Death

Research Topics   History Essays British History Tudor Life Queen Elizabeth 1 Dudley, Robin


  • 5th son of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland.
  • born: June 24, 1532.
  • Married Amy Robsart in 1549.
  • death: 1588

Robert Dudley as Prisoner of the Tower

Under Mary 1, he was a prisoner of the tower of London after his father, Northumberland tried to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne.

Elizabeth was held prisoner at the same time. During his imprisonment, he became close friends to Elizabeth. This friendship lasted his entire life. Elizabeth had first known Robert at King Edward VI court.

At Court

When Elizabeth became Queen, she made Dudley her master of the horse. He became a knight of the Garter in 1559 and a privy counselor the same year.

Robert Dudley was Queen Elizabeth 1 favorite. They had a long history together. He tried to get Elizabeth to marry him many times.

Because he was Elizabeth's favorite, many were jealous of Dudley so he had many enemies at court.

Elizabeth often called Robert, Robin and he is often referred to as just Leicester after he was granted earldom of Leicester in 1564.

Secret Marriage/Betrayal / Exile

In 1564, Elizabeth suggested Dudley marry Mary Stuart who was a prisoner of the English. In 1571, Dudley contracted to marry with the Lady Sheffield in secret. 5 years later, he married in secret Lettuce Knollys who was the widow of Walter Devereaux Earl of Essex.

Dudley tried to ruin the proposed marriage match between Frances Duc d' Anjou with Elizabeth. Anjou's agent told Elizabeth of Dudley's secret marriage in 1579. This disgraced Dudley and angered Elizabeth who forced Dudley into exile. She thought Dudley had betrayed her. However, in 1581, Elizabeth choose Dudley to escort Anjou to be invested with the government of the Netherlands. 

Amy, Dudley's wife died after a suspicious fall breaking her neck. The death started rumors that Dudley wanted his wife dead so he would be free to marry Elizabeth. The rumors ruined any chances whatsoever of a marriage between Dudley and Elizabeth not that she would have considered it at all.  Sir Walter Scott wrote about Dudley's wife, Amy Robsart's death in his novel, Kenilworth.


He pressed for stricter policies against Catholics in England.

Dudley strongly favored a French alliance. He was a shareholder in Sir Frances Drake's voyage of 1577-1580.

The book, Leicester's Commonwealth was written in 1684 criticized Dudley. It was thought to be the work of the Jesuit Robert Parsons. The book was widely read even though it was suppressed by the Privy Chamber.

War in Netherlands

In 1585, Elizabeth sent 6000 troops to assist the United Provinces in their revolt against Spain. Dudley was to share executive authority with the province's council of state. He did not distinguish himself as General. Problems arose and Elizabeth did not wish to commit any more troops. In 1586 the situation in the Netherlands  grew worse.


picture of robert dudley

Sir Robert Dudley Portrait

related subject: Medieval Castles in England


In 1588, Dudley was appointed Lieutenant General of the Army at Tillbury to fight the Armada. He got sick. He died at his home at Cornbury Oxfordshire while traveling to Kenilworth..