Which witch- some Jacobean witch trials

king-james1The History Jar’s previous post showed that James’ witchcraft trials were no respecter of rank, although it is telling that Francis Stuart survived the encounter.  When James became king of England as well as Scotland he carried his interest in witches with him- not that trials were a new phenomena- between 1560 and 1701 there were 279 trials for witchcraft in Essex and those are only the ones that made it into the record books.

Like James, Henry VIII had thought that witches were plotting against him. And let’s not forget the rumour concerning Anne Boleyn. It was suggested that she carried the “devil’s mark”  in the form of a mark on her neck and in the existence of a sixth finger on her right hand.  Elizabeth introduced a law against witches in 1563.  James was simply able to dust the law down and remind folk that practising witchcraft and consulting with them was an offence punishable by death.

Probably the most famous English case during the reign of James I was that, in 1612, of the Pendle Witches where three generations of one family found themselves on the wrong end of the swimming test (that’s the one where if you sink and drown you’re not a witch but if you bob to the top of the water having had your hands tied to your feet then you were a witch and having been hauled out and dried off could be burned.) To be honest it’s the case that springs to mind when thinking about Jacobean witch trials.  Yet, in Scotland between 1603 and 1624 there were approximately 420 witchcraft trials a year which is a lot of elderly crones when all is said and done, even if only half of them were executed.

There were many fewer trials in England, Notestein suggests somewhere between forty and fifty, but they did tend to have a much higher profile and were mostly at the start of James’ reign.  Take for example the scandalous affair of Francis Howard, Countess of Somerset and the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury in the Tower.  Francis  was said to have gained poisons from her friend Anne Turner who had a reputation for being a wise woman and it it was discovered had associated with Simon Forman who had predicted his own death.  Even worse, if possible, Cunning Mary (a name with which to conjure) told the court that Francis had promised her a £1000. Anne was executed for her part in the murder whilst Francis who pleaded guilty was quietly pardoned and released.

Other notable cases were as follows:

1606

  • Royston in Hertfordshire, Joanna Harrison was found to have in her possession the bones of a man and a woman. Her property was searched after she made a man ill simply by looking at him.

1607

  • The Bakewell Witches demonstrates that it paid not to get on the wrong side of anyone. “A Scotchman staying at a lodging-house in Bakewell fell in debt to his landlady, who retained some of his clothes as security. He went to London, concealed himself in a cellar, and was there found by a watchman, who arrested him for being in an unoccupied house with felonious intent. He professed to be dazed and declared that he was at Bakewell in Derbyshire at three o’clock that morning. He explained it by the fact that he had repeated certain words which he had heard his lodging-house keeper and her sister say. The judge was amazed, the man’s depositions were taken down, and he was sent to the justices of Derby.” The writer (Wallace Notestein) added that there was little evidence for this but that a number of women were hanged in Bakewell on charges of witchcraft at this time.

1612

  •  Witches discovered in Northamptonshire. Eight women were accused of  torturing a man and his sister as well as causing lameness in the neighbourhood. One of them Agnes Brown had a wart that was taken to be the devil’s mark. She and her daughter already had a dubious reputation.  Another was suspected because a child looked at her in church and when he got home went into convulsions.
  • Arthur Bill and his parents were accused of bewitching Martha Aspine.
  • The Pendle witch trials which was essentially two families at feud with one another.  Sixteen women found themselves locked up in Lancaster Castle on witchcraft charges.

 

1613

  • In Bedford Mother Sutton and her daughter,Mary, fell foul of the local landowner who was called Enger. Enger claimed that on moonlit nights Mary was in the habit of manifesting herself at his side.  She would sit and knit and tell him that if he agreed her terms that he would be restored to full health.

1616

  • The Leicester witch hangings.  A boy had fits and claimed that they were caused by witches. As a result nine women were executed and six more were saved by James who was on progress and found that the boy was lying.

1618

  • The Earl of Rutland claimed that both his sons had been killed by witches.  The Belvoir witches were tried in Lincoln. Joan Flower and her two daughters were dismissed from Belvoir Castle and when the second of the earl’s sons died it was realised that not only had he been killed by witchcraft but so had his sibling who had died several years earlier. It should be noted that Joan and her daughters had been dismissed some five years before the boy died. I’ve posted about the death of the earl’s sons earlier. https://thehistoryjar.com/2018/01/20/witchcraft-scandal-and-the-duke-of-buckingham/

 

1620

  • The saw called Bilston Boy case. Essentially thirteen year old William Perry craved attention and got it by having fits. He accused Jane Clarke of causing the fits and the case went to trial.  It was only thanks to a very perceptive bishop that Jane didn’t hang.

1622

  • The Fairfax case in York saw six women accused on the testimony of children.

 

Notestein, Wallace (1909) A History of Witchcraft in England from 1558 to 1718.

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/31511/31511-h/31511-h.htm#Footnote_115-3_42

Elizabeth I – the final decade

queen_elizabeth_armada_portraitIn many ways the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 can be seen as the apex of Elizabeth’s reign – the Armada Portrait shows that God was definitely on her side and that in addition to reigning over England Elizabeth also ruled the waves and other parts of the globe – the latter can be seen from her proprietorial grip on a globe whilst the former is manifested in the carving of a mermaid on her chair – admittedly the artist had to do some reworking as the traditional symbolism of a mermaid was the opposite to that which usually depicted the Virgin Queen’s qualities.

It wasn’t long before Fortunes wheel began its downward cycle for the raging monarch.  The Earl of Leicester died on his was to take the waters in Buxton. Elizabeth, retired to her chamber to grieve and refused to come out. After the doors to her bed chamber had been broken down on the orders of Lord Burghley, the queen did not display much in the way of magnanimity to the widow -Lettice Knollys.  Instead she pressed for Dudley’s debts to the Crown to be repaid.  The irony cannot have been lost on Lettice.  Dudley had mortgaged Kenilworth, Leicester House in London and Wanstead to finance the campaign in the Netherlands.

At court the power dynamics changed without Dudley in the mix.  Sir Christopher Hatton rose in seniority whilst Dudley’s step-son  the earl of Essex became engaged in a bitter battle for supremacy with Sir Walter Raleigh.

Elsewhere radical Puritans made their voices heard and when Sir Christopher Hatton tried to silence them with laws of blasphemy the Queen found it politically expedient to be equally harsh to her Catholic subjects.  The war against Spain continued to drain the treasury. The Irish revolted. The Jesuits sent more agents. Harvests failed, prices soared and there was an out break of plague.  There were butter and fish riots.

Unsurprisingly there were one or two plots – including that of Dr Lopez- the queen’s own physician. Lopez as well as being a physician had also spied for both Walsingham and Dudley – now those particular chickens came home to roost when the Earl of Essex accused Lopez of plotting.  Lopez paid the price for playing the role of agent provocateur and also of Essex’s campaign to overthrow the Cecils.

The Earl of Essex was no Dudley -ultimately Robert Dudley had loved Elizabeth.  He and William Cecil might have cajoled and flattered on occasion but they knew that trying to bend the queen to their wills was not something to be undertaken lightly.  They did not see her as a mere woman – Essex on the other hand rather over rated his own appeal and powers of persuasion. And what was worse he ignored Elizabeth’s commands, returned from Ireland without permission, burst in on her when she was not rigged out in the full Gloriana costume and told her that she had a crooked carcass.  It was not behaviour designed to win friends and influence people. Defiance by Essex turned into rebellion.

After the Earl of Essex went to the block Elizabeth did her very best to appear as though she was neither aging nor tired but she stumbled when she got out of her coach at the opening of Parliament, was more bad tempered than in the past, ate little, suffered from arthritis and was prone to melancholy. It didn’t help that all her old friends and servants were dying one by one. Her fear of the darkness grew and she struggled to sleep more than a few hours each night – all of which is a bit of a contrast to the monarch bedecked in ribbons and pearls with her hand on the world.

Guy, John. (2016) Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years. London: Penguin

 

Queen Elizabeth I’s godchildren

elizabeth-1-rainbow-portraitAs you might expect Elizabeth I had many godchildren including Mary Queen of Scots’ infant son James – her proxy had to lurk outside the chapel during the baptism as Mary obviously had her son baptised within the Catholic faith whilst Elizabeth was very clearly Protestant. Once Mary was forced to abdicate and her half-brother the Earl of Moray took charge of the new king crowned by John Knox in Stirling, James was raised a Protestant.  In later years, when James was nineteen Elizabeth started to write to James with advice.  The pair exchanged correspondence occasionally thereafter.

Very conveniently the exact numbers of godchildren can be traced through the queen’s accounts.  In 1562 she gave 37d for “Mr Sakevill’s child.”  Unsurprisingly she was godmother to Lord Hunsdon’s child  and Sir Francis Knolly’s child the same year.  Both of the former were part of the extended Boleyn family through Elizabeth’s aunt Mary – they are sometimes referred to rather enviously of being the “tribe of Dan”  in an Elizabethan court context.

In addition to family she was also godparent to the children of her advisors – Robert Cecil’s son, William, became her seventy-ninth godchild. Then there were her nobility who angled for a royal sponsor for their children in the hope of royal patronage. The Earl of Northumberland’s son Algernon was one of Elizabeth’s godchildren in 1602.  Elizabeth was fond of the boy’s mother, Dorothy Devereaux and had helped arrange the marriage so it is perhaps not so surprising. More surprising is that the French ambassador’s children could also claim Elizabeth as her godmother.

As the years passed Elizabeth even became godparent to her godchildren’s children – notably the case of Sir John Harrington in 1587. Sir John’s mother was Isabella Markham, like Dorothy Devereaux a lady of the privy chamber. Sir John Harrington of Kelston is probably Elizabeth’s most famous godchild mainly because of his invention of a flushing toilet which Elizabeth decided might be unsanitary.  Elizabeth also described him as “saucy.”  He in his turn wrote fondly of her but recognised that as her death drew close that he needed to hitch his wagon to the rising star of James VI of Scotland.  Harrington was also in receipt of quite an unusual gift from his godmother.  She translated Seneca’s Moral Letters as a gift/advice for the six-year-old.

In total Elizabeth became godmother to one hundred and two children. Each of them received a gift of money upon their baptism, hence the detail of the list, and each of them could hope once they were adults to draw upon the favour of their relationship with Gloriana.

Just as an aside children could expect three godparents – two of  their own sex and one of the opposite sex.  The most senior godparent of the same sex had naming rights – presumably unless trumped by Her Maj.

“Queen Elizabeth’s Godchildren.” by Constance E.B. Rye. The Genealogist (NS) vol.2 (1885) page 262-265 [1]

 

Gloriana

Halifax Thursday 25th October

Places still available – 

If you’re thinking of coming to Gloriana a life in pictures there are still a few places available.  Please let me know if you’re a regular and would like to attend.

queen_elizabeth_armada_portraitElizabeth is most usually depicted in costumes laden with symbolism but when she made her first appearance on the political stage in September 1533 shortly after her brith on the 7th of that month she was paraded as a naked babe in arms by her proud father for the benefit of Europe’s ambassadors.

Ann Boleyn had retired for her confinement in Greenwich Palace in August 1533.  The room with its fastened windows and tapestry heavy walls must have seemed close and airless.  Henry had been promised a son but the child who was born at 3pm on the 7th was a girl.  Henry was swift to say that boys would follow – Elizabeth appeared to be a healthy infant and this particular father knew that many babies didn’t arrive safely in the world so he made the best of a bad bargain.

She was baptised when she was three days old at Greenwich in the Church of the Observant Friars.  An account of the baptism may be found in  Henry VIII’s letters and papers for 1533:

the Childe was brought to the hall, and then every man set forward: first, the Cittizens two and two; then Gentlemen, Esquires, and Chap-laines ; next after them the Aldermen, and the Maior alone; and next the Kinges Counsell; then the Kinges Chappel in coaps; then Barons, Bishops, Earles, the Earle of Essex bearing the covered basons gilt; after him the Marques of Excester with a taper of virgin wax; -next him the Marques Dorset bearing the salt; behind him the Lady Mary of Norfolke bearing the crisome, which was very rich of pearle and stone. The old Dutches of Norfolke bare the Childe in a mantle of purple velvet, with a long traine furred with ermine. The Duke of Norfoike with his marshal’s rod went on the right hand of the saide Dutchesse; and the Duke of Suffbike on the left hand ; and before them went Officers of Armes ; the Countesse of Kent bare the long traine of the Childes mantle; and meane betweene the Childe and the Countesse of Kent went the Earle of Wilshire and tlie Earle of Darby on either side, supporting the said traine in the middest: over the Childe was borne a rich canapie, by the Lord Rochford, the Lord Hussey, the Lord William Howard, and the Lord Thomas Howard the elder. After the Childe, followed many Ladies and Gentlewomen.

 

Robert Cecil

00cecilR3Robert was born in 1563, the second son of William Cecil.  His mother was Mildred Cooke.  Robert had an elder half-brother called Thomas who would become the 1st Earl of Exeter but it was this younger, much more clever son, upon who William lavished his affection as well as training him to take over the reins of government.

When he arrived at court he initially seemed at a disadvantage when compared with the young and handsome Earl of Essex.  Robert was small and had a twisted back.  He had only is mind to recommend him and for a while the contest between the new young favourites cannot have been comfortable but in 1596 Elizabeth made Robert, who she called her “pygmy”, her Secretary of State.

In 1601 the Earl of Essex rebelled against the queen and suffered the ultimate penalty.   Robert had blamed his uprising upon the queen’s poor advisor’s of whom Cecil featured.  In the aftermath of the short-lived uprising Cecil counselled clemency but it did him no good in popular imagination.  People had rather liked the flamboyant Essex whereas Cecil was regarded with suspicion in part because of his physical disability – body reflecting godliness etc- there were ballads placing the blame for Essex’s death squarely on Robert’s head.

Interestingly when the conspirators of the Main  and Bye Plot were brought to trial – and bear in mind one of them was his brother-in-law Lord Cobham- it was Cecil who expressed some doubt over Raleigh’s guilt.  Modern historians tend to look at the transcript of the trial and wonder how anyone could have thought Raleigh guilty and are more inclined to consider the possibility that Cecil was helping a political opponent out of the picture.

Robert, like his father before him was a loyal servant to the queen but he opened a secret correspondence with James VI of Scotland.  The stability of the country was largely due to Cecil’s careful management of the transition between monarchs.   The reward for the ease with which James became king was an elevation to the peerage in 1605.  Cecil also became Lord Treasurer.

The Earl of Salisbury was at the root of James’ good governance in the years between 1603 and 1612.  It was he who negotiated the peace with Spain in 1604 – which although unpopular helped to stabilise the economy which was leaking money into the ongoing war. It was he who introduced a Book of rates in 1608 and it was he who attempted to negotiate the Great Contract between King and Parliament in 1610.  This particular venture didn’t come to fruition as neither side particularly trusted the other – and yes it will be a post very shortly.  Robert’s financial policy wasn’t helped by the king’s expenditure, his generous gifts to his favourites or the cost of maintaining a royal household that contained a king, his wife and their children.

Like his predecessor, James  had a predilection for nicknames – Cecil moved from “pygmy” or “elf” to “little beagle.”  The little beagle became increasingly over worked.  In addition to finances there was the matter of religion and the Gunpowder Plot. James also had a new favourite – the handsome but somewhat brainless Robert Carr. Cecil found his advice increasingly spurned in favour of that provided by Robert Carr – or more truthfully- Sir Thomas Overbury who advised Carr.  Francis Bacon’s political aspirations also made life difficult for Cecil who was increasingly adrift in the Stuart world.

And then there is the matter of the Gunpowder Plot – Cecil presents himself as the saviour of king and parliament but there are some doubts about exactly how much provoking Cecil might have done beforehand – he’d learned from that master of espionage Sir Francis Walsingham how to implicate suspects in a web of guilt.

He died in 1612 having swapped his father’s home at Theobalds in 1607 for the Royal Palace at Hatfield on account of the fact the king had taken a shine to Cecil’s house and garden. Cecil demolished the medieval palace and used the bricks to rebuild a new house.

 

The Millenary Petition and Hampton Court Conference.

king-james1I’ve posted a James I timeline before.  It can be opened here in a new window.  Many of James’ problems at home stemmed from the religious changes that were underway during this period.

He hadn’t even been crowned when he found himself being asked to change the way religion was viewed.  In the Spring of 1603 as he travelled south he was presented with the so-called Millenary Petition.  The Petition, signed by Puritan ministers, commented on the state of the Anglican Church (thy weren’t wildly enthusiastic) however, they had a fine line to walk as criticism of the Church implied criticism of the monarch.  For that reason the preamble made it very clear that the Puritans had no desire to move a way from the Anglican Church.  They did not wish to be regarded as separatists.

The fact was though that they didn’t think the Church had gone far enough with its reformation. Their objections were to do with the rites and rituals of the Church such as the wearing of the surplus and even the wearing of wedding rings. Currently there is no original copy of the Millenary Petition available which is odd because no one could cause Robert Cecil of being sloppy with his filing – but on the other hand during the opening months of James’ reign he was being petitioned about all manner of issue.

They went on to say that they would appreciate it if the king would discuss matters.  James got their hopes up by indicating that he was prepared to debate these things.  The only problem was that at this point no one was aware that James liked to show off his knowledge.  Thus when The Hampton Court Conference was convened in January 1604 Puritans, and rather surprisingly Catholics alike, were hopeful that there would be steps towards religious toleration.  The Puritans had been forced into secrecy at the end of Elizabeth’s reign whilst Catholics faced heavy recusancy fines depending which part of the country they lived in.

 

The conference opened its doors on the 14th of January 1604. Archbishop Whitgift of Canterbury was also there as were eight other leading clerics all dolled up in the ecclesiastical finery which irritated the Puritans so much.  The Puritans chose their representatives carefully.  They opted for moderate men.  The king was very pleased with himself – he felt that he was leading a discussion of learned men.  During the next three days he listened to what they had to say – or rather he told them what he thought of what they said.  He had no wish to live under presbyterianism, felt that standards of preaching needed to improve and agreed that clerics should be able to debate theological matters – Elizabeth had banned such discussions.

The Puritans must have had cause for hopefulness after all of that so it came as a bitter disappointment when the official outcome, announced by proclamation in July, was one of conformity and business as usual.  The only real outcome was the commissioning of the King James Bible.

Part of the problem was that despite his education as a protestant, James believed in the Devine Right of Kings.  The Puritans want the Church to govern itself and this in James’ mind detracted from the monarch’s special relationship with the Almighty.

On the other hand someone somewhere must have told James not to go poking sticks into ants’ nests because by the end of his reign only two puritan ministers had been turfed out of their livings for non-conformity and George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1611 to 1633 was known to protect Puritan ministers on account of his sympathy with many of their beliefs.

As for the Catholics – their hopes of toleration dashed- a number of men sought to blow up the Houses of Parliament and paid the ultimate penalty but in all only twenty Catholic Priests were executed during the period of James’ reign.  It doesn’t sound particularly kindly but in relation to Elizabeth’s tally of executed priests it looks positively tolerant!

 

Cavendish, Richard. (2004) “The Hampton Court Conference.” History Today. Vol 54, i

 

Robert Dudley’s last letter

Penelope Devereux will be following shortly – I’ve got rather engrossed in the reading!  In the meantime here’s Robert Dudley’s last letter to Elizabeth I.  On 28th August 1588, an ill Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, wrote his final letter to his queen and childhood friend, Elizabeth I. He wrote it from the home of Lady Norreys at Rycote, where he was staying on his way to Buxton, to take the waters there.   He died on the 4th September 1588.  He is thought to have died either from malaria or stomach cancer.

 

It read:

“I most humbly beseech your Majesty to pardon your poor old servant to be thus bold in sending to know how my gracious lady doth, and what ease of her late pains she finds, being the chiefest thing in this world I do pray for, for her to have good health and long life. For my own poor case, I continue still your medicine and find that (it) amends much better than with any other thing that hath been given me. Thus hoping to find perfect cure at the bath, with the continuance of my wonted prayer for your Majesty’s most happy preservation, I humbly kiss your foot. From your old lodging at Rycote, this Thursday morning, ready to take on my Journey, by your Majesty’s most faithful and obedient servant,

Leicester

 

Elizabeth kept the letter in a box beside her bed for the rest of her life.  She marked it in her own hand “His last letter.”  Their relationship had changed over the years but she never fully recovered from his death.  Although Robert’s step-son the Earl of Essex stepped into Dudley’s place the world in which Elizabeth I found herself was changing.  Not only that but it has been argued that she relied on having familiar faces around her to overcome the anxiety of temperament that had haunted her since the days of Thomas Seymour.

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/elizabeth-monarchy/earl-of-leicester-to-elizabeth/

Robert Dudley’s Last Letter

Dorothy Devereux – scandal, intrigue and a woman who knew her own mind.

Dorothy_penelope_devereauxLettice Knollys was the daughter of Catherine Carey – meaning that she was probably the granddaughter of Henry VIII as her grandmother was Mary Boleyn.  She was born on the 8th November 1543.  She married three times; first to Sir Walter Devereux who became the First Earl of Essex; second to Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester and thirdly to Sir Christopher Blount.

During the reign of Mary Tudor Lettice’s mother and father travelled to continental Europe because they were sincere protestants.  Elizabeth sent her cousin Catherine a letter signed “broken hearted” when she learned of her departure.  We do not know if Lettice travelled with her parents.  Two years after Elizabeth became queen Lettice married Walter Devereux, then Viscount Hereford.  They had five children:

Penelope was born in 1563 and Dorothy in 1564.  Lettice went on to have three sons: Robert, Walter and Francis.  Today’s post is about  Dorothy  and tomorrow I shall be posting about Penelope because of the portrait pictured at the start of the post which I love and is believed to be of Penelope and Dorothy.  It can be found at Longleat House.

Dorothy was married first, in 1583, to Sir Thomas Perrot – which makes it all a bit family orientated as Sir Thomas’s father John claimed to be one of Henry VIII’s illegitimate children (click on the link to open a pervious post about Sir John Perrot in a new window.)  Sir John was not one of Elizabeth I’s most favourite people even though he did claim close kinship with her.  He found himself in the Tower on charges of treason during her reign.  It is perhaps because of Sir John that Dorothy failed to ask Elizabeth I for permission to marry, which as one of her ladies-in-waiting she should have done and preferred, instead to elope with Penelope’s help.  Alternatively it might perhaps of been that Dorothy’s hand was being settled by  Robert Dudley who in 1582 had tried to arrange her marriage to his nephew Sir Philip Sidney.  Either way, Elizabeth was not amused and probably even less so when she learned of the circumstances of the wedding.

The marriage took place at Sir Henry Coke’s house in Broxbourne. Coke was one of Dorothy’s guardians.  He did not connive at the wedding.  For most of the service  Sir Henry’s servants were trying to break down the chapel door whilst the vicar was assaulted for arguing that the correct procedures had not been followed.  He was eventually told that John Alymer the Bishop of London had granted a licence.  This information would get him into trouble with Elizabeth.  The historian Robert Lacey places the blame for this highly irregular marriage on the inadequacies of Lettice’s and Walter’s marriage rather than Dorothy accepting her allotted role of chattel being sold to the most powerful bidder.

Dorothy was banished from court and Thomas found himself in the Fleet Prison.  There was also the small matter of William Cecil trying to have the marriage annulled.  However, despite the chapel door being battered there were six witnesses and a proper priest on hand.  In 1587 Dorothy’s brother Robert used his growing influence with the queen to try and return Dorothy to court during a visit by Elizabeth to one of Robert’s homes.  This was not particularly successful as the queen was unamused to find Dorothy in residence.  Dorothy had to stay in her room.  Unfortunately Sir Walter Raleigh, who was also a guest, became involved and there was rather a loud argument resulting in Dorothy leaving in the middle of the night.  It was only after Sir Thomas’s death that Dorothy was allowed back to court. By then she was the mother of four daughters: Penelope, Dorothy, Elizabeth and Ann

Dorothy then married the 9th Earl of Northumberland – Henry Percy- the so-called Wizard Earl.  This particular earl would find himself involved in the Gun Powder Plot in 1605.  He and his wife were not happily married despite the fact that Elizabeth I had approved of Dorothy’s second marriage.  The pair  separated in 1599. It is perhaps not totally surprising given that the earl had selected his wife based on her potential to have sons.  Dorothy did have sons with the earl but they both died young.   The couple had only one surviving child, a daughter called…Dorothy.

The separation was not permanent.  Realistically the earl needed an heir and Dorothy could not really afford more scandal.   Lucy Percy was born circa 1600 and the all important heir to the earldom of Northumberland followed in 1602.  A second son arrived in 1604.

In 1605 when Northumberland was implicated in the Gunpowder Plot and sentenced to life in the Tower, Dorothy showed herself to be a loyal wife.  She visited her spouse most days.  For Dorothy the years of the earl’s imprisonment meant that she was responsible for running the earldom whilst Percy was in charge in name only. Like her first cousin twice removed (I think I’m right given that Catherine Carey and Elizabeth I were officially cousins; Elizabeth and Lettice were first cousins once removed thus Dorothy must have been twice removed) Dorothy was a woman with a brain.  Unlike Elizabeth, Dorothy was not always able to act independently and much of her marital difficulty appears to have stemmed from this.

Dorothy died in 1619, two year’s before her husband’s eventual release from the Tower.  She is buried in the Percy family vault at Petworth.

Robert Dudley – lap dog.

elizabethpeace.jpgElizabeth 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.

Lady Douglas Howard – a footnote in the Earl of Leicester’s love life

robert dudley minature.pngIn popular history Douglas get barely a mention.  She might as well be invisible. Douglas’ son Robert, the illegitimate son of Robert Dudley, would claim that his mother was secretly married to his father in May 1603 – Elizabeth I being safely dead.  The case was heard in 1605 in the Court of the Star Chamber.  Unfortunately all the witnesses were dead and she couldn’t remember the name of the cleric who married them. Douglas made a deposition to the effect that they had been married until Leicester tired of her and turned his attentions to Lettice Knollys. But who was Douglas?

 

Her father was William Howard, 1st Baron Howard of Effingham, making her a cousin of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard.  He brother  She attended court during the first year of Elizabeth’s reign and then married John Sheffield.  He died in December 1568.  Inevitably accusations of poison were made.  In any event Douglas returned to court as a gentlewoman of the privy chamber – Elizabeth liked to have her mother’s family around her.

By May 1573 she was in deep competition with her own sister Frances for the attention of Robert Dudley.  Gilbert Talbot wrote about the pursuit and the falling out between the two sisters:

There are two sisters now in the court that are very far in love with him, as they have long been; my Lady Sheffield and Frances Howard. They (of like striving who shall love him better) are at great wars together and the queen thinketh not well of them, and not the better of him”

 

By then Leicester knew that he was unlikely to succeed in his attempt to win Elizabeth’s hand.  During their relationship Leicester wrote a long letter explaining how much he cared for Douglas but that if he married her that he would be ruined.  He actually urges her to marry one of her other suitors to ensure her respectability.  In August 1574 Douglas gave birth to her son Robert.  Leicester referred to him as his “base son” but cared for the boy taking him into his own care.

Leicester married Lettice in 1578.  The following year on 29th November 1579 Douglas married Sir Edward Stafford  of Grafton in Staffordshire- an unusual act for a woman who later claimed to be already married.  According to one source she became a bigamist in order to put a stop to Leicester’s threats to have her poisoned!  Stafford became ambassador to the French court and the pair lived in Paris from 1583  where Douglas became a friend of Catherine de Medici.  Douglas was sent home in 1588 due to the deteriorating political situation.  Stafford was not a fan of the Earl of Leicester.

 

Sir Edward Stafford died in 1605 having told the Star Court that he married Douglas having ascertained beforehand that she was not married to Leicester on the explicit orders of Elizabeth I. Douglas died in 1608.  She bore Stafford two sons but they died young.