Tag Archives: Queen Elizabeth I

The Earl of Essex

essex3.jpgRobert Devereux was the son of the Queen Elizabeth’s favourite – the dashing one that managed to get himself executed for treason in 1601.  Grandpapa on his mother’s side was Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s spymaster.  Obviously having been attainted for treason the entire Devereux family, including young Robert who was ten at the time of his father’s misdeeds, were tainted as being of bad blood and all property returned to the Crown.

Things changed in 1604 when James I restored titles and lands to Robert and arranged his marriage to a wealthy Howard heiress. Perhaps this was because young Robert was close to the ill-fated Prince of Wales, Henry Stuart.  Unfortunately young Robert wasn’t old enough to actually marry his bride, Frances, so was sent abroad on his own version of Frances-Howard.jpgthe grand tour.  Whilst he was securing a gentleman’s education Frances Howard took up with the king’s favourite  Robert Carr and married him instead having divorced Robert for impotency in 1613 (and I should imagine that no 20 year-old wants that particular label)- France’s marriage would end in murder, a visit to the Tower and a Jacobean scandal that historians are still writing about but that’s beside the point.  The marriage ended amidst much hilarity and popular balladry.  Robert insisted that even if he was impotent so far as Frances was concerned he was more than capable with other ladies of his acquaintance.  To add insult to injury, Frances who had been carrying on with Robert Carr, was declared to be a maiden – the mirth this enjoindered can only be imagined.

Robert, the third earl, undertook a military career in continental Europe perhaps to escape the ribaldry.  The thirty years war was well under way by this time. He served in the Low Countries and or the Palatinate of which James’ daughter Elizabeth was the queen. In 1625 he was part of the Duke of Buckingham’s disastrous Cadiz Campaign.

It would have to be said that his relationship with Charles was not good.  He absolutely refused to pay Charles’ forced loans.  And things can’t have been much worse when in 1639 having been appointed as second in command of the the king’s armies in Scotland in the run up to the First Bishop’s War he was demoted so that the role could be given to one of the queen’s favourites.  Charles then became a bit sniffy about the fact that the Scots approached the earl to try and prevent the english army from marching north.  There was nothing machiavellian in the earl of Essex’s actions that warranted the king’s distrust as evidenced by the fact that Essex handed the letters he’d received from the Scots to Charles unopened.  In 1640 he wasn’t offered any role at all in the Second Bishop’s War which must have galled.

In 1640 when the king finally ran out of money and the Long Parliament sat Essex emerged as the principal speaker for the opposition to the king in the House of Lords.  He and John Pym worked together to prosecute the Earl of Strafford.  Charles, perhaps realising that insulting the earl of Essex in terms of military leadership hadn’t been one of his better ideas offered him a place on the Privy Council in 1641 and by July he was in control of the king’s army south of the River Trent and Lord Chamberlain.

It was Essex who received the news from his cousin Lady Carlisle in January 1641 that Charles intended to arrest five members of the House of Commons and one peer. After that Charles left London for Hampton Court, then Windsor.  From there he went north to York.  Once in York he ordered the earl to join him but Essex refused and was promptly removed from the post of Lord Chamberlain.  Parliament had come to regard him as a potential leader for some time and Charles as evidenced above had never really trusted him.  Essex was a bit prickly about his honour having had his father executed for treason so its perhaps not surprising that he chose to side with Parliament rather than the king.

In 1642 Essex was appointed to the Parliamentary Committee of Safety.  He also became one of Parliament’s key military figures during the early years of the English Civil War.  He wanted to negotiate a peace but from a position of military superiority – his was the middle way if you wish when Parliament was increasingly split between the War Party and the Peace Party.

He commanded the parliamentary forces at Edgehill and as with his continental campaigns he shared the experiences of his ordinary soldiers to the extent that he was actually seen at push of pike.  Edgehill was technically a draw but since Essex failed in his objective to prevent the king from marching on London it is usually deemed that he lost the battle.  But it was Essex who petitioned Londoners to send as many men as they could to Chiswick on 13 November at Turnham Green and thus ensured that the king withdrew from London rather than be responsible for untold bloodshed.

In 1643 Essex captured Reading but was unable to advance and capture Oxford where the king’s court was based.  He became embittered by his armies lack of pay whilst Parliament grew testy about his lack of success.  Despite this he raised the siege on Gloucester and won a victory at Newbury.

The king was not alone in mistrusting Essex’s military capacities.  When John Pym died in 1643 he was replaced by Sir Henry Vane who was not one of Essex’s fans. A point which seems to have been proved when, in 1644, Essex lost the Parliamentary army in Cornwall and had to escape in a fishing boat. Lostwithiel was the end of Essex’s military career. In addition to the Cornish disaster he had been militarily overshadowed by men like Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell.  He resigned his commission in 1645. Whilst he wasn’t a hugely successful military figure on account of his lack of imagination and flair he was respected by his men because ehe shared their hardships.

The earl of Essex wasn’t hugely successful as a husband either.  Having been divorced by Frances Howard he went on to marry Elizabeth Paulet in 1630 having returned from his soldiering in Europe to take up his other career as a politician – and an earl needs a wife.  The marriage lasted a year, after that it was a marriage in name only.  Six years after they married Elizabeth gave birth to an illegitimate baby which Robert accepted as his own after some hesitation, mainly because he didn’t need the embarrassment of a second errant wife and he did need an heir.  The child, a boy named Robert, died when it was little over a moth old and the earl was left without an heir.

walterdevereux.jpgThere are three earls of Essex during the Tudor/Stuart period – the title was not used after the third earl’s death in 1646 until the Restoration. The First Earl of Essex was Walter Devereux – he is associated with Tudor rule in Ireland and is more famously Lettice Knollys’ husband.  Lettice was the daughter of Catherine Carey – making her the grand-daughter of Mary Boleyn.  Historians speculate whether Catherine was the daughter of Henry VIII  – Lettice certainly looked rather a lot like her cousin Queen Elizabeth I.  In fact Lettice managed to get into rather a lot of trouble with her cousin after the first earl of Essex’s death when she secretly married Elizabeth’s long time squeeze, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

2nd earl of essex.jpgThe second Earl of Essex was Robert Devereux.  He was Walter and Lettice’s fifth child and after Robert Dudley’s death became a favourite with the aging Elizabeth I.  Like his father he was associated with Ireland.  His campaign was not a rip-roaring success from Elizabeth’s point of view.  Handsome but petulant the earl rebelled in 1600 having already sailed pretty close to the wind when he returned from Ireland and burst in on Elizabeth having been expressly forbidden from crossing the Irish Sea and winning no friends when he saw the queen without all her finery.  He was executed for treason on 25th February 1601 – leaving a young son, also called Robert, who would eventually become the third earl.

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On the trail of Amy Robsart

amy-robsart-by-t-f-dicksee.jpg!Large.jpegThis is episode two of my three part look at Amy Robsart’s life and death – as with any other historical death involving persons of political significance where there isn’t a clear cause there are always conspiracy theories – not that Amy was of political significance but her husband was.  So, this episode looks at what history does know without making any attempt to identify the probable cause of Lady Dudley’s demise – aside of course from her being found at the bottom of a staircase…and even the size and shape stairs are a matter of conjecture as we shall discover next time.

In the Summer of 1558 Amy and Robert settled into Norfolk. Amy had inherited money from her father and the pair began searching for a suitable home of their own. Remember at this stage of the story Robert was part of the Norfolk gentry thanks to his father-in-law’s links in the area. Elizabeth was still effectively a prisoner of her increasingly unwell sister Queen Mary.  Amy was not able to move into her childhood home because her half-brother inherited Stanfield Hall.

Everything changed for Robert, and thus for Amy, on the 17th November 1558 when Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth at Hatfield.  Dudley was by Elizabeth’s side the following day when the Great Seal was handed over to her.  One of her first acts was to make him her Master of Horse, in addition to a salary and four horses the post also gave him rooms at court and the right to touch the queen, helping her on and off her horse – no other man in England had that honour.  Cecil tried to dissuade Elizabeth by suggesting that Dudley could perhaps be a special ambassador to Spain but the queen overruled Cecil.   Dudley was now in constant attendance on the queen, helping with the preparations for the coronation and going hunting with her.  The following year he would accompany the queen on what would become an annual progress around part of her realm.

For Amy a time of homelessness followed.  She seems to have lived in the homes of men who owed their allegiance to her husband.  At first she stayed at Throcking in Hertfordshire.  This was the home of William Hyde.

By spring of the following year it was being reported by the Spanish ambassador as well as the Holy Roman ambassador that Amy Robsart was unwell and that Robert was waiting for her to die so that he could marry Elizabeth.  The queen did not disguise the fact that she disliked the idea of Amy’s existence or Robert being close to her in any way but in April 1590 Robert went to Throcking in Hertfordshire whilst parliament was in recess to spend Easter with his wife. His accounts reveal that he played cards with his host William Hyde and lost.

It may have been an uncomfortable visit.  Amy was unwell. She believed that she was being poisoned. William Hyde described Leicester as “My singular good Lord.” He even had one of his daughters baptised “Dudley.”  None the less, no one wants to be accused of poisoning their lord’s wife. It probably didn’t help that at a later date Amy was described as “sore troubled” at this time – and given the rumours about her spouse carrying on with the queen it is perhaps not surprising.  For some historians this is evidence of illness, an unsound mind or that Amy was being poisoned either with or without the knowledge of her husband.  So far as I am concerned from the point of view of this post it explains why Amy moved on from Throcking.

 

Robert Dudley’s account books reveal that he visited Amy in 1558 and 1559 when she stayed in Denchworth near Wantage.  It is also clear form his accounts and her correspondence that income from the land that she’d inherited was being paid directly to her and that she was writing to the steward of Syderstone – Mr John Flowerdew- about the sale of wool.

 

It seems that in May 1559 Amy made a brief visit to London by then Elizabeth had made Dudley a Knight of the Garter and the Venetian ambassador was noting the fact that Dudley was in “great favour.”  Amy saw a doctor, was described as eating well and feeling better.  It was the last time that she and Robert would meet one another before her death. From London she travelled to Suffolk whilst in London the gossips started to report that the queen was pregnant and that the father was Sir Robert Dudley.

During the early part of the Autumn Amy spent a few weeks at Compton Verney in Warwickshire.  Compton Verney was the home of another of Dudley’s followers.  Sir Richard Verney would be painted by Sir Walter Scott as Amy Robsart’s murderer in his novel entitled Kennilworth. He doesn’t come out of the story very well, for that matter, in Philippa Gregory’s novel entitled The Virgin’s Lover.

In November the Spanish Ambassador, Bishop de la Quadra wrote that there was a rumour that Robert Dudley was trying to kill his wife so that he could marry the queen.  The Holy Roman ambassador was sending similar information to his master Ferdinand I. Yet the French, with whom Dudley was closely associated at this time make no mention of it at all.

In December 1559 Amy was at Cumnor Place, some three miles from Oxford. It was the home of another member of Dudley’s affinity – Sir Anthony Forster and his wife.  He’d leased Cumnor Place from Dr George Owen, one of the physicians responsible for the care of Henry VIII.  The household included some of his relations – Mrs Owen is a key witness to Amy’s death (or rather key non-witness).  Amy’s room was the best chamber accessed from a staircase to the south of the great hall.  In addition to Amy, Cumnor Place was also home to her retinue of ten servants.  One of them a man named Bowes would carry news of her death and another, her maid, Mrs Picto would testify that Amy was in low spirits on the day of her death.  In August a gift arrived at Cumnor from Robert Dudley – his account books reveal he sent her gifts that ranged from horses to spices- and Amy ordered a new dress.

On Sunday September 8 1560 Amy ordered that all her household should go to the Fair of Our Lady at Abingdon which was about five miles from Cumnor.  Mrs Oddingsells, who may have been Sir Anthony Forster’s sister-in-law or possibly an impoverished member of the Hyde family cared for by Dudley, was shocked by the suggestion and later said that Sunday was a day reserved for servants and common folk to go to the fair and that she would have rather gone on a different day.  She also said that she didn’t want to leave Amy on her own.  Amy responded that Mrs Owen would join her for dinner – which she did.

Mrs Oddingsells did not go to the fair.  She and Mrs Owens played cards that afternoon.  Both women recalled hearing a crash but continued to play their game.

Later that day Amy was found at the foot of a pair of  steps or a shallow stair depending upon the source you read.  Her neck was broken and her head dress – according to the later anti-Leicester text entitled Leicester’s Commonwealth stated that her headdress was barely out of place. She was only 28 years old.

Amy’s man Bowes set off to give the news to Dudley but en route he encountered Dudley’s man Sir Richard Verney who happened to be in the area (let’s leave the co-incidence to one side for the time being).

News of Amy’s death reached Dudley on the 9th September at Windsor where he was staying with the queen. Dudley charged another of his men, his steward, – Thomas Blount- referred to as “Cousin Blount” in Dudley’s letters to investigate and to keep Amy’s half brother John Appleyard (from Amy’s mother’s first marriage) informed of his findings. Blount needed to find to whether death was by “chance or villainy.”

Robert arranged for Amy’s body to be buried at St Mary’s in Oxford – the bill for the funeral came to an astonishing £2,000 but he did not attend – custom said that he should not.  Instead he retired to his home at Kew and wore black for six months. Elizabeth ordered her court into mourning for a month or more.  Gristwood makes the point that Elizabeth probably ordered his withdrawal from the court in the hope that the scandal of  Amy’s tragic death would die down, except of course it didn’t and Dudley lost his chance to marry a queen …assuming that Elizabeth really would have married him.

Amy-Robsart-Unknown_lady_by_Levina_Teerlinc_c1550_Yale_University.jpg

There is no certain contemporary portrait of Amy Robsart although there is a miniature of an anonymous lady- shown above- which might be Amy in happier times.  The picture at the start of this post is by the Victorian artist Thomas Francis Dicksee.  Yeames depicted her in 1877 at the bottom of the staircase at Cumnor – he has left room as to whether the shadowy figures on the stairs are hurrying to her aid or are quietly departing having assassinated Mrs Dudley, which is of course what part three of this little series is going to be about.

amy robsart.jpg

 

Adams, Simon.ed. (1996) Household Accounts and Disbursement Books of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester:

Gristwood. Sarah (2007) Elizabeth and Leicester. London:Bantom Books

Skidmore. Christopher. (2010) Death and the Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson

 

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Elizabeth I’s rainbow dress

Elizabeth-1-Rainbow-Portrait.jpgTudor fashion for noble women such as Elizabeth I was complicated it involved the basic smock or shift that was changed every day. Over this were layered and laced a body and a kirtle; then came the farthing gale with its stiffened hoops which gave the silhouette; then petticoats.  The top petticoat would be embroidered. Over the underskirts came the gown which was composed of a skirt and bodice.  If that weren’t enough sometimes an overgrown might also be worn especially if it was very cold in which case it would probably be lined with fur.  As if that weren’t enough there was also a stomacher to conceal all the joins and just in case you wanted a different colour combo the sleeves of the bodice were interchangeable so they would need lacing into place as well. Then just for good measure there was the ruff.  Needless to say getting into the royal get up took substantial amounts of time.  It has been calculated that getting dressed each morning took Elizabeth I two hours.

Clothes, once they’d served their purpose, were handed down to servants or poorer members of your extended family.  If they were too far gone to be handed down any further they might be “ripped” – that is to say they were cut up and used to make other things – hangings, cushion covers and altar clothes for example – and that brings me to today’s post via Bacton Church in Herefordshire, the Radio 4 news this morning and a quick trawl of the Internet.

It turns out, according to The Telegraph that Eleri Lynn a curator of historic dress at Hampton Court spotted something significant in Bacton. The beautiful sixteenth century altar cloth made from cloth of silver with its embroidered flowers is part of Elizabeth I’s frock, possibly the one she wore for the Rainbow Portrait.  So how did it get to Bacton and how did Ms Lynn spot it.

The story of its discovery took someone with expert knowledge of England’s sumptuary laws.  Or put another way what we could and couldn’t wear without getting into trouble in the past.  Henry VIII passed rather a lot of sumptuary laws including the one that anyone below the rank of knight was forbidden to wear a pleated shirt! Another law was that only members of the royal family could wear cloth of silver.The altar cloth at Bacton was made from cloth of silver.

A bit of digging around reveals that Blanche Parry was born at Bacton and that there’s a memorial to her there.  She was one of Elizabeth I’s ladies-in-waiting. Well, actually, she was the keeper of her jewels and chief of the ladies after  Ashley died.William Cecil was Blanche’s cousin (I keep telling you that they’re all related). It’s been tricky finding anything out about her even though there’s a website dedicated to her. She began her career as a royal nursery maid and progressed to the role of friend and trustee.  She accrued wealth without marrying and maintained an interest in her home at Bacton throughout her life.  It’s not unreasonable to suppose that the dress was given to Parry and that she in turn handed it or the completed cloth over to the church at Bacton. The Telegraph has an interesting article which may be accessed here.

Ironically the dress’s disappearance from the royal wardrobe is probably what saved it from complete destruction.  Jewels and pearls would have been removed once Elizabeth had finished with the dress and then the garment stored by the Wardrobe which was not a small wooden cupboard but a department hence the capitalisation. Oliver Cromwell came along and sold the lot off in the aftermath of the English Civil War.

On a personal note, and I may just be getting old and grumpy so feel free to ignore this bit, whilst the cloth has been preserved by professionals and whilst it is important historically speaking it has been in Bacton for the last five hundred years. Whoever cared for it managed to preserve it from moths, roundheads and all the other fates that could have befallen it. Consequentially,  I fail to see why it has to be kept at Hampton Court from now on- couldn’t it stay in Herefordshire? As I understand it History has very occasionally occurred beyond the confines of the M25. There are even some of us who rather enjoy looking at the aforementioned History in situ ( or as clause as possible)  as well as exploring the countryside rather than traipsing to London to be charged an arm and a leg for the privilege. Hey ho – rant over.

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George Clifford, Queen’s Champion

george clifford.jpgGeorge Clifford was born on August 8, 1558 in Brougham Castle. In 1570 he became the third Earl of Cumberland and also the last of the direct line of Robert de Clifford’s descendants. He willed his title and estates to his younger brother (breaking an entail dating from the reign of Edward II and ensuring a legal battle which lasted most of his daughter’s life).

George was eleven-years-old when he became the earl, so orphaned as he was , the monarch held his wardship. Elizabeth could have kept young George at horse, at Court or sold the wardship either to George’s family or to the highest bidder. She chose to do the latter. Francis Russell, the puritan Earl of Bedford purchased young George’s wardship and in due course, 1577, married him off to his own youngest daughter Margaret. George spent the remainder of his childhood and adolescence in the south of England and in Cambridge where he studied mathematics and geography.

 

When he grew up George was bitten by the seafaring bug. He used the revenue from his estates to fund voyages of exploration. He also had a bit of a gambling habit. In short he was a stereotypical Elizabethan roistering seafarer/courtier with an interest in mathematics and a link to Mary Queen of Scots (he was on the jury during her trial). His first voyage was in 1586 and he sailed alongside two other vessels sponsored by Sir Walter Raleigh. Clifford found himself a very long way from Skipton. He sailed to Brazil where he took a share of a Portuguese prize vessel. It was a slaver – so George’s loot on this occasion came from slavery.

 

George’s son was born in 1584. He was called Francis but died five years later just before his youngest sibling was born. Francis’s brother Robert also died young. This left only one child born in 1590 – a girl called Anne. It is from her diaries that we learn much about George’s spending habits, his lady friend and the hostility that came to exist between himself and his wife. He may have made money from his voyages but he lost it betting on horses and the outcome of jousts. When he died it took the next sixty years to return the estate to some sort of financial order.

 

DSCN0099.jpgIn 1588 George commanded the Elizabeth Bonaventure against the Spanish Armada and two years later became the Queen’s champion jouster wearing her glove pinned to his hat. Clifford’s tournament armour can be seen today in the Metropolitan Museum in New York (apologies for the photograph I’ve become much better at indoor shots since I took this one but it might be a while until I get the opportunity to take another.) In 1592 he was made a Knight of the Garter. By 1600 George was a founder member of the East India Company and in 1603 he became the Lord Warden of the West Marches – so based in Carlisle.   As this paragraph reveals George was a busy man and was often away from home either at court or seeing to his various nautical adventures. It was expedient for the family to live in London where George’s interests lay but as time passed he and Margaret went their separate ways.

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth, which Lady Anne Clifford described in her diaries, George went north to greet the man whose mother he’d helped to condemn.  It was said that George’s retinue looked rather more splendid than the new king’s did.

 

Countess Margaret was not amused by her husband’s debts or affair with a ‘lady of quality’. Nor was she amused that their daughter Anne had effectively been bypassed as Clifford’s heir when he made his will. He bequeathed her £15,000 making her a respectable heiress but ignoring what was hers by right of birth. He may have done this because he was aware of the burden of debt that lay on the estate.

George died on October 30 1605 in London but he is buried in Holy Trinity Church, Skipton.  These three pictures show detail from his tomb.IMG_3901

george clifford 3.jpg

 

Double click on the portrait of Clifford to open a new window and see what The Peerage has to say about George.

Mitchell WR (2002) The Fabulous Cliffords. Settle: Castleberg

Spence. Richard T. (1997) Lady Anne Clifford. Frome: Sutton Publishing

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