Elizabeth I was fairly clear about her intention never to marry. she famously said that “I will have but one mistress here and no master.” It is also said that Elizabeth, aged eight, told Robert Dudley, shortly after the execution of her step-mother Katherine Howard that she would never marry – a precocious child would have spotted the dangers of child birth and execution!.
The rumours about Elizabeth and her Master of Horse spread around Europe. Elizabeth once complained that she was watched by a thousand eyes. Certainly various continental ambassadors spent a great deal of paper speculating upon the relationship that existed between Elizabeth and Robert and the consequences if they were to marry. Despite the fact that their relationship never officially progressed beyond courtly love it was true that Robert’c bedchamber lay next to Elizabeth’s and that she was absolutely furious when he eventually married her cousin Lettice Knollys. In Brentwood, Mother Dowelled got herself into huge amounts of bother when she claimed that Elizabeth were lovers.
Whilst William Cecil and the gossips of England’s ale house may have been concerned about Elizabeth’s relationship Elizabeth herself was all set to bring Dudley down a peg or two. She said to him in 1566, ‘I cannot do without my Lord Robert’, she told the French ambassador, ‘for he is like my little dog’. She is also reported to have told Dudley “when you are seen people know to expect me soon after.”
Perhaps this is why she appears with a lap dog in the so called Peace Portrait commissioned by Robert Dudley.