“Lord Robert Dudley, Master of the Horse, and son of the late Duke of Northumberland, a very handsome young man (giovane bellissimo)….” [Paulo Tieplo, Venetian Ambassador]

“The messenger I thought to send you found himself better at ease where he is; so wanting so fit a Mercury, I send you such an one as I had of my own, only to hear of your good estate, which I pray to continue longer in this world than ever earthly prince has done.” [Robert Dudley, in a letter to Elizabeth I]

Robert Dudley + Modern AU


These matters, my most dread and dear sovereign, have deeply pierced me, to find after so many displeasures procured toward me since my unfortunate arrival here, and yet having received sundry comfortable and gracious letters from you, that now in the latter end of my dangers and travails, suffered only for your service, that your Majesty will be so easily incensed against me, and to condemn me even in the worst degrees, as may appear by the words of your heavy writing here set down, not altogether so hard as they be under your own hand. God defend I should live justly to deserve it; for the hope of my life hath been the favour of your Majesty; but what worse conceit can be imagined than to be careless, negligent and improvident in so weighty a place and service as your Majesty hath placed me; to cast away your people, and vainly to consume your treasure; to condemn magistrates and seek popularity; but my trust is, the Lord hath not quite cast me out of your grace, loving you, fearing you, and caring for you as much and as loyally as any subject, not in England alone but under heaven doth his prince. And therefore my prayer to God is to put in your heart to judge according to that he knoweth in my heart; and your Majesty graciously, princely and indifferently to hear my cause and weigh it according to the fact of my deserts. And will crave pardon that I thus boldly have sought to satisfy you upon the grievous conceit I found in your letter of me; lying more heavily at my heart than all the worldly griefs else could have done. And so in most humble and faithfullest manner kiss the feet of your sacred Majesty. (x)


Elizabeth Tudor to Robert Dudley
19 July, 1586

Rob, I am afraid you will suppose by my wandering writings that a midsummer moon hath taken possession of my brains this month, but you must need take things as they come in my head, though order be left behind me. When I remember your request to have a discreet and honest man that may carry my mind and see how all goes there, I have chosen this bearer, whom you know and have made good trial of. I have fraught him full of my conceits of those country matters, and imparted what way I mind to take and what is fit for you to use. I am sure you can credit him, and so I will be short with these few notes.

First, that Count Maurice and Count Hollock find themselves trusted of you, esteemed of me, and to be carefully regarded if ever peace should happen; and of that assure them on my word, that yet never received any. And for Norris and other captains that voluntarily without commandment have many years ventured their lives and won our nation honour and themselves fame, be not discouraged by any means, neither by new-come men nor by old trained soldiers elsewhere. If there be fault in using of soldiers or making profit by them, let them hear of it without upon shame, and doubt not but I will well chasten them therefor. It frets me not a little that the poor soldier that hourly ventures life should want their due that well deserve rather reward; and look in whom the fault may duly be proved -let them smart therefor. And if the treasurer be found untrue or negligent, according to deserved he shall be used, though you know my old wont that love not to discharge from office without deserving. God forbid! I pray you let this bearer know what may be learned herein; and for this treasure I have joined Sir Thomas Shirley to see all this money discharged in due sort where it needed and behoved.

Now will I end, that do imagine I talk still with you, and therefore loathly say farewell ôô, though ever I pray God bless you from all harm, and save you from all foes with my millions of legion of thanks for all your pains and cares.

                                                     As you know, ever the same, E.R.

Let Wikes see that he is acceptable to you. If anything there be, that Wikes shall desire answer of, be such as you would have but me to know, write it to myself. You know I can keep both others’ counsel and mine own. Mistrust not that anything you would have kept shall be disclosed by me; for although this bearer ask many things, yet may you answer him such as you shall think meet, and write to me the rest.


“Bess, a throne is worth nothing if you are not beside me; my bed is cold if you are not next to me.”

“You sound like a poet, Robin, and not a very truthful one.”

“No poet, Bess.”

“What, then?” She knew his answer, or hoped she did.

“I’m a man…just a man, who loves a woman more than life.

p.116, His Last Letter by Jeane Westin

I am not, I thank God, fantastically persuaded in religion, but being resolved to my comfort of all the substance thereof, do find it soundly and godly set forth in this universal Church of England… which doctrine and religion I wish to be obeyed duly as it ought of all subjects in this land… For my own part, I am so resolved to the defence of what [which] is already established as I mean not to be a maintainer or allower of any that would trouble or disturb the quiet proceeding thereof.
—  Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, defending church of England against too ardent puritanism. Cited in Elizabeth and Leicester by Sarah Gristwood

Elizabeth & Leicester, Sarah Gristwood

The picture of a powerful and professional opposition politician is at odds with the more romantic vision of a red-headed, white-faced girl transported in an instant from poverty to power. But it explains how, when she did come to the throne, she was already politically involved with Robert Dudley.

When Robert came back from the continent, he probably spent a good deal of his time at the London houses of various family connections, having always an eye to the various Norfolk properties inherited by himself and Amy. Apparently, he was lying dormant; but a few years later Elizabeth would say - to the Duke of Saxony’s envoy - that, personal liking apart, she would always be grateful to Robert, because, in her time of need, he sold lands to raise funds for her. (Schemes and shadow governments costs money.) There is no other hard evidence - no evidence that he mortgaged lands, no evidence as to what he did with the proceeds; what went to Elizabeth, and what to buying the Dudleys’ way into the Spanish army. But the protestants circles with which she was in touch were  the circles in which he moved; indeed, he was at the center of a useful network to a striking degree. He had connections to William Cecil (who was in regular touch with the princess) and to the other Cambridge scholars; to the disaffected plotters who had followed Sir Henry Dudley; and simultaneously, to the Spanish courtiers.

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So, for the rest of Mary’s reign, Elizabeth would be protected by Philip, against Mary’s suspicions; and behind this shield she was able to move with increasing freedom. In theory, she was living retired. In practice, she was building her political support as surely as she studied to increase her Greek vocabulary. Nothing illustrates the strength of this shield better than the events of the next winter, 1556-6, when another plot aimed to replace Mary with Elizabeth on the throne; a plot of which Elizabeth almost certainly knew, in which she was almost certainly guilty. Yet it is less well known than the Wyatt rebellion, in part because Elizabeth suffered none of the same dramatic penalties. Indeed, she suffered none at all - because Philip (policy outweighing any passion for justice he may have felt) decreed that she should not.

It is interesting, to say the least, that the name of the leader in that conspiracy should be Sir Henry Dudley. Though a distant cousin only, he had been employed by Robert’s father. Still, there was no trace of the involvement of any of Robert’s immediate family. It was only ten years later, with Elizabeth on the throne, that William Cecil would make a list of those he considered to be close to Robert  and there, one on a list of many plotters against Marian regime, was the name of Henry Dudley. Perhaps it was just as well for Robert that Jane Dudley had taken such care to make friends among the Spanish clan, and that Philip, for his part, had every motive to forge links with the disaffected English nobility. It seems ironic that both Elizabeth and Robert should own their rehabilitation to Philip of Spain - later, so famously, the enemy of both.

Sarah Gristwood, Elizabeth and Leicester - “This night I think to die”

“…this marriage dance was a part of her reign, would always be a part of it, and to quiet her council, Parliament and her people, she must dance the dance while keeping Robin at her side.  She could not lose him.  No - she squeezed her eyes tight and bit her lip - she could never lose him.  She did not need him to rule, but she must keep him to breathe.” 

- p.96, His Last Letter by Jeane Westin

idk why i always find elizabeth and robert's interactions with the spanish so amusing
  • I wrote on the 2nd October that the Queen being rather unwell had not given me audience although she has of her own accord offered me one saying that she wished to see me. On the 5th instant at 11 Lord Robert who is now called the earl of Leicester, sent word to me that the Queen was better and would be glad if I would go and see her at 4 o'clock in the afternoon.
  • He (Leicester) sent an answer to the effect that they were not busy and that I could go at 3 as the French ambassador would go very soon, and would not be detained. I did not reply, to this as I did not think I should go in view of what I have said, and feeling somewhat annoyed about it and wishing to know whether there was any mystery of precedence in the matter.
  • Robert sent Spinola to me at once to say that I had no reason to think that he had any particular friendship with the Ambassador or wished to please him so much as me, the truth being that after his own Queen there was no Prince in the world under whom he was so greatly obliged to serve as your Majesty whose servant he had been, and to whom he owed his life and all he had. He said that in this there was no doubt, and so far as I was concerned, that not only he but also the Queen were so much attached to me that they were quite lost without me.
  • The next day Robert sent to ask me to dine with him as I could pass from his apartments to those of the Queen at an early hour. I accepted, and in the morning he sent Randolph, who is the man the Queen sent to Scotland, to tell me that he was going to attend service at a church, and begged me to wait for him as he would call for me, and take me to his lodging, He came as promised and brought with him his brother the earl of Warwick, Secretary Cecil and other gentlemen. He came early and we were in his room some time before dinner where he reiterated his offers and desire to serve your Majesty.
  • I afterwards went to the Queen, who told me she had enjoyed herself very much and congratulated me upon the victory of Peãon both on account of its being for the advantage of your Majesty and because it was against the infidels.

9 0ct 1564, Guzman de Silva to the King of Spain.

“The chamber hushed.

Two weeks only?  It seems longer.  But how dare Raleigh?  Elizabeth was tempted to slap his perfect face for giving Robin his sly backhand, but such a cocksure court rival needed different handling.  She would have him take care of his words, but not beaten down.  Still, there was bitter reproof in her face that she did not bother to remove.  He must learn that Elizabeth was the only person in the realm who could challenge Robert, Earl of Leicester, not a lowborn sailor from matter how a queen might favor his too-handsome face, well-turned calf and  artful love poetry.” 

- p.6, His Last Letter by Jeane Westin

Bess defending her love right before reminiscing about them dancing together “was like yesterday in her mind and always would be…The world may have seen them change, but they had never changed to each other.”