Not only is this stunning citole the only surviving piece of it’s kind from the XIV century, it was also played by Robert Dudley to Elizabeth I.

A citole is the medieval equivalent of a guitar. This example is both a unique survival of its type and an outstanding example of medieval secular art. It was highly prized in its day and highly regarded throughout its history.

Alterations have been made, including attempts to convert it to a violin. Among the changes is the insertion of a silver plate above the peg box, engraved with the arms of Elizabeth I, Queen of England (1558-1603) and her favourite and lover, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. One of the most likely uses for the citole in medieval times would be as accompaniment to love ballads. The amorous associations clearly persisted into the Elizabethan age.

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HISTORY MEME - WORLD VERSION ♛ [01/07] pairings : Elizabeth I of England & Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (XVI)

Robert Dudley was counted among Elizabeth’s special friends by Philip II’s envoy to the English court a week before Queen Mary’s death. On 18 november 1558, the morning after Elizabeth’s accession, he witnessed the surrender of the Great Seal to her at Hatflield. He became Master of the Horse on the same day. As soon, rumours started to be spread on their relationship. In 1560, his wife died, an inquest was started but the jury found that it was an accident. Ironically, this death put an end to a possible secret wedding. In 1563, Elizabeth suggested him to marry Mary, Queen of Scots, but, offended, Mary refused it. Robert became Earl of Leicester. When he married Lettice Knollys, Elizabeth’s cousin, the Queen bannished him from court for a while. But she had never been able to be away from him. He stayed by his side until his very death. At his death, she stayed inside her rooms for hours, maybe days. She kept his last letter as a treasure until her own death.


A Beautiful, Historically Accurate Miniseries About the Relationship Between Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, starring Jessica Chastain and Tom Hardy

“You must go now,” he said, smiling up at her.

She saw the first of dawn creep around the drawn tapestries on the windows. “Yes, I must leave,” she agreed, and slid from the bed, arranging her gown and hair, fluffing her flattened neck ruff.

His voice was low and breaking. “What if you did not have to leave…never had to leave?”

“I must wait for that in heaven, Rob.”

*Quotes adapted from Legacy and His Last Letter


A Historic Love // Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley

Well, I am glad to hear you say it is love. Was and is. There are those who say I was of the calculating kind. But what I felt for you I could not help, sometimes it… Did not help my cause at all. But truth be told it was as constant as the heavens. When I lost my way it guided me as stars do sailors.


The configuration of the rooms meant that the king could pass directly to his chamber on the queen’s side from his bedchamber on his own side. As only the groom of the stool would accompany the king into these private rooms, and the equivalent chief lady on the queen’s side, a reasonable modicum of privacy was afforded to the king and queen. When they emerged into their respective Privy Chambers in the morning, there was no telling exactly where or how they had spent the night. Life in a Tudor Palace.

Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Leicester - William Frederick Yeames (1835 - 1918) - signed and dated “W F Yeames 1865” (lower left) - oil on canvas.

The present lot reputedly represents Queen Elizabeth receiving the Earl of Leicester and interrupted by the Duke of Norfolk.

Private collection, UK.