Today in 1578 Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, married Lettice Knollys. Ever since the death of his wife, Amy Robsart, under suspicious circumstances a decade and a half earlier, Dudley had been trying to convince Queen Elizabeth to marry him. He even staged the two week long series of pageants and parties at Kenilworth in 1575 to try one last time to convince her. And though they were likely deeply in love with each other, she never did marry him.
Lettice likely started her involvement with Dudley after her husband went to Ireland in 1573. Lettice was a grandniece of Anne Boleyn, and had been close to Elizabeth since she was a child. She married Walter Devereux, Viscount Hereford when she was 17, and after he went to Ireland there was scandalous talk of her and Robert Dudley. Then her husband died in Ireland of dysentery in 1576, and in 1578 she and Robert Dudley married in a private ceremony.
When the Queen found out, she banished Lettice forever from court, and called her a she-wolf. She never forgave Lettice for taking what she was unable to. Still, the marriage was a happy one. They had one child, who died at the age of three. In 1589, six months after Dudley’s death, she unexpectedly married Sir Christopher Blount, who was much younger, and had been in her household. He was a Catholic secret agent, and had been involved in the Essex rebellion, being beheaded in the process.
Lettice Knollys kept on going, walking a mile a day until she was 90. She died in her chair on Christmas Day 1634, age 91.
That’s your Tudor Minute for today. Remember you can dive deeper into life in 16th century England through the Renaissance English History Podcast at englandcast.com.
Tudor Times on Robert Dudley
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