Sir Robert Dudley, explorer

Robert_Dudley,_styled_Earl_of_WarwickRobert, the child of Robert Dudley and Douglas Sheffield, was born in August 1574. His father appears to have been fond of him and oversaw his education.  He went to Christchurch, Oxford and from there was apprenticed to a naval architect.

Somewhat surprisingly Elizabeth I didn’t appear to hold a grudge against Douglas Sheffield for her liaison with Robert Dudley – she even gave her a dress when she was pregnant with Robert and accounts suggest that the queen had a soft spot for the illegitimate son of her favourite.

When the Earl of Leicester died Robert who was the last remaining child inherited Dudley’s property including Kenilworth Castle but not the title – on account of his illegitimacy.  When Ambrose Dudley died, Robert inherited land from his uncle as well.

In 1591 Robert was contracted to Margaret Vavasour with the approval of Elizabeth I but the bride wasn’t so keen on the match so married someone else and got herself banished from court. Dudley consoled himself by marriage to Margaret Cavendish in 1592 .  Margaret Cavendish was part of the Suffolk family who were the senior line to the dukes of Devonshire. Margaret received two ships as a wedding gift from her father –who was an explorer as was her brother Charles Cavendish or other sources say that Dudley inherited two ships on the death of Charles.  On Margaret’s death in 1593 Dudley married  for a second time to Alicia Leigh in 1596, by whom he had four/fiveFerdinand II daughters.

In 1597 Robert was part of the raid on Cadiz with his step brother Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex.  Unfortunately he followed Essex a step too closely when he joined the earl in his rebellion.  He was briefly imprisoned.

After the death of Elizabeth, Robert made a bid for legitimacy by claiming that his parents had been married in secret. The case was eventually heard by the Star Chamber but as his mother, who wrote a deposition, couldn’t remember the name of the cleric who married her and identified ten very dead witnesses it wasn’t a case that particularly held water. Essentially Robert who inherited land under the term of his father’s will wanted to claim the title as well.

Inevitably there’s more to the tale.  In 1605 he went to Italy  which would have been fine apart from the fact that he was accompanied by Elizabeth Southwell, the daughter of Sir Robert Southwell -she was Robert’s cousin.  She was disguised as a page and there was the small matter of Robert’s wife and family to take into consideration.  When Robert refused to return home his property was confiscated. Undeterred Robert promptly turned Catholic and married Elizabeth Southwell in Lyons.  From there he went into the service of Cosimo II., grand-duke of Tuscany.  He became a map maker and an engineer. In 1620 the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II recognised his title not only to Warwick which his uncle Ambrose had held but also to  Northumberland – remember his grandfather, the Duke of Northumberland had been executed.  The Duca di Nortombria died near Florence on the 6th of September 1649, leaving a large family.

 

Charles I raises royal standard and declares war.

Charles_I_in_Three_Positions_1635-36On August 22nd1642 King Charles I raised his standard at Nottingham Castle.  Whilst times had been increasingly discordant this act effectively marked the start of the First English Civil War which lasted until 1646.

 

On August 12th 1642, Charles issued a proclamation to all his subjects living on the north side of the Trent and within twenty miles south of the river, to assemble at Nottingham on the 22nd of August, “where we intend to erect our Standard Royal, in our just and necessary defence, and whence we resolve to advance forward for the suppression of the said Rebellion, and the protection of our good subjects among them, from the burthen of the slavery and insolence under which they cannot hut groan until they be relieved by us.”

The banner that was raised bore the legend ” Religio Protestans Leges Angliae Libertas Parliamenti,” – Many of Charles’ subjects had doubts about his religious affiliations having taken exception to his attempts to impose conformity on Laudian principles with their emphasis on ritual and ceremony – that smacked strongly to Puritans of popery. English law and a free Parliament were also something that many observers might have questioned given Charles’ strategy of levying taxes by drawing upon ancient feudal dues and having ruled for the better part of twelve years without his parliament.

Charles’ call for all men to support him did not meet with the popular out pouring of loyalty that he hoped.  Parliament took the opportunity to announce that until such time as he retracted his proclamation then he couldn’t be trusted.

 

mad madgeMeanwhile in Colchester the house of ‘Mad Madge’ Cavendish’s parents’ was sacked by Puritans on the 22nd August 1642. Mad Madge had not yet acquired that name nor had she yet entered the service of Queen Henrietta Maria or married the royalist Duke of Newcastle.  She was still the youngest of eight children sired by Sir John Lucas. Madge’s father was a prominent royalist in the area.  The relationship between him and the citizens of Colchester had deteriorated over the years.  It probably didn’t help that East Anglia had strong Puritan sympathies and Lucas was suspected of being a Papist.  This event was not a one off though.  The Stour valley had become increasingly restless during 1642.  Unemployment was high.  Rumours became wilder and anti-popery became more rife.  The Countess of Rivers, for instance, found herself under siege by the people of Melford.  Melford Hall was partially destroyed as a consequence.  Parliament did not condone the harassment of the widowed countess – though how they may have felt when she spent her wealth on supporting the Crown is another matter entirely.  She would eventually find herself in a debtor’s prison as a consequence of her loyalty.

 

The first battle of the English Civil War would not take place until September 25that Powick Bridge near Worcester.

 

 

 

Sir William Brooke, royal favourite and duelling victim

Lord Cobham.jpgSir William Brooke (1565-1597) was the son of William Brooke, 10th Lord Cobham Warden of the Kent Cinque Ports (1527 to 1597) pictured at the start of this post. He was of a similar vintage to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex and Elizabeth’s replacement for Dudley in the royal favourite stakes after his death in 1588. Like other Elizabethan gentlemen he did a stint in the continental religious wars being knighted by Essex in 1591 at Dieppe.  He was, in short, one of the new breed of men in Elizabeth’s court.

Having done his time abroad he was then returned to Parliament as MP for Rochester at the behest of his father.  Lord Cobham was not terribly amused that of the two MPS for Kent it was Sir Robert Sidney (brother of Sir Philip Sidney, nephew of Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester) who was returned as the senior parliamentarian.  Elizabeth noted that it wasn’t very helpful that  both men were abroad at the time. The fact that Brooke was also outlawed was also an issue. Elizabeth had decreed that members could not take their place until they had settled with their creditors. The matter must ultimately have been settled to Elizabeth’s satisfaction because he is described by Margaret Cavendish as one of her favourites.  Certainly, in June 1597 William had been made Keeper of Eltham Great Park though whether it was because he was a royal favourite or because his family was an important one is something that probably bears further consideration.

 

The family links with Elizabeth are in themselves interesting. Clearly being a Kent family the Boleyn equation  and Kent gentry affinity comes into play. Anne Boleyn sent George Brooke 9th Lord Cobham (1497-1558) a letter telling him about the birth of Elizabeth in September 1533 but he was also one of the judges that tried the queen just three years later. The following year at the christening of young Prince Edward it was Lord Cobham – our William’s grandfather- who carried consecrated wafers for both the illegitimised Tudor princesses.

 

George’s story continued to be tied to that of Henry VIII’s children and it is evident that he was of the reforming persuasion in his beliefs and the way in which he had chosen to have his children educated. The reign of Mary Tudor was made difficult not only by his faith but by the fact that he was related to Sir Thomas Wyatt through marriage. Wyatt even wrote to him demonstrating the belief that Cobham would side with him against Mary to put Elizabeth on the throne. He and his sons were arrested and there can be no doubt that Thomas Brooke had sided with Wyatt until the end. After that Lord Cobham who spent some time in the Tower kept his head down. He entertained Cardinal Pole and he made enquiries about heritics.. He died just before Mary so never saw Elizabeth ascend to the throne but the new Lord Cobham, William who had also been imprisoned in the Tower for his suspected part in Wyatt’s rebellion was on hand to play his allotted part in Elizabeth’s court and the administration of Kent as well as the Cinque Ports.

Clearly our Brooke was a bit of an Elizabethan wild boy and this led to his untimely end when he insulted Elizabeth Leighton the slightly pregnant lover of Sir Thomas Lucas of Colchester. Lucas called him out and he was mortally wounded one cold December morning in Mile End at a rapier’s end.  He was carried home where friends and family visited him as he lay dying.

Brooke had made his will in June having gone on a sea voyage but on the morning of his death he had added an undated codicil to the will which left everything to his brother George:

‘Your jest and my haste would not suffer me to acquaint you with what I am gone about this morning, what hath called me out so early. I send you enclosed within these what I shall leave behind me. My will and meaning is you should have all lands, leases and prisoners which I desire you may as quietly enjoy as I sincerely mean…Wishing you the best fortune, your loving brother William Brooke

The will was proved on the 25 December 1597. For those of you who like to know these things, George Brooke was executed for plotting against James I in 1603.

One letter described William Brooke as “misfortunate.”  Two arrest warrants were issued for Lucas by the privy council – on on the 24th of December and a second on the 30th. This was was very unfortunate for Elizabeth Leighton who bore an illegitimate child also called Thomas who would not meet his father until he was six years old when James I pardoned Lucas and he was able to return home. He and Elizabeth went on to have seven more children of whom the youngest, Margaret would go on to serve Queen Henrietta Maria and marry the Marquis of Newcastle going down in history as Mad Madge.  She would also write her biography, just because she felt like it even though society disapproved of the idea of women writing books for publication and tell the story of her father’s duel.

Henry_Brooke,_11th_Baron_Cobham,_by_circle_of_Paul_van_Somer.jpgIt is perhaps not surprising that Lucas found himself at the wrong end of an arrest warrant, William Brooke’s father the 10th Lord Cobham (who had died on March 6 1597)  was a man with clout. Brooke’s sister Elizabeth was the wife of Sir Robert Cecil – the most important man in the kingdom. She had also died at the beginning of 1597 but there were still family and political ties that were wielded by the new Lord Cobham – Henry Brooke – pictured left. He had been invested as Warden of the Cinque Ports on the same month that his father died.

In addition to which Whitaker makes the salient point that Elizabeth was already tetchy with the Lucas family because Sir Thomas’s sister Anne had gone to court to serve as a lady in waiting but then married for love against the queen’s wishes.  Anne had defied the queen to marry Arthur Throckmorton who was the younger brother of Bess Throckmorton who, of course, irritated Elizabeth monumentally by marrying Sir Walter Raleigh demonstrating once again that everyone in the Tudor court is related somehow or another!

 

And who would have thought that in reading around the topic of Margaret Cavendish as part of the Stuarts in Derbyshire course I am currently delivering that I should encounter a tale of Tudor passion that correlates to Elizabeth I and her various favourites which happens to be  part of another course that I am currently teaching.

Whitaker, Katie. (2003) Mad Madge. London: Chatto and Windus

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1558-1603/member/brooke-alias-cobham-william-1565-97

http://www.kentarchaeology.org.uk/Research/Pub/ArchCant/Vol.012%20-%201878/012-08.pdf