The Tudor Society
  • Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (1565-1601)

    Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, after Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger

    Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, after Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger

    Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, was born on this day in history, 10th November 1565, at Netherwood, Herefordshire. To commemorate the birth of this man, one of Elizabeth I's favourites, I thought I'd share this mini biography of him, along with a few videos I did.

    Devereux was the eldest son of Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, and Lettice Knollys, granddaughter of Mary Boleyn, and was a favourite of Elizabeth I. After his father's death in 1576, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, was made his guardian, and in 1578 his mother married his godfather, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

    Essex first caught the Queen's attention in 1584 when his stepfather, Leicester, brought him to court, and he was appointed Master of the Horse on his return to court after successful military service in the Netherlands with his stepfather. He was just twenty-one, and the Queen was fifty-three.

    Although Robert Devereux is often described as "the darling of Elizabeth's old age", having replaced his stepfather in Elizabeth's affections after Dudley's death in 1588, Alison Plowden says that "it would probably be more accurate to describe him as one of its greatest headaches". Although Essex was dashing and charming, he was rash, ambitious, arrogant, headstrong and used to getting his own way. Unlike Dudley, Essex did not know Elizabeth as only a childhood friend or sweetheart can, and he constantly underestimated her and attempted to bully her into submission.

    After a successful raid on Cadiz in 1596 during the war with Spain, Essex returned to England as a hero. His return to court caused the forming of two factions: the Devereux faction, who were seeking military profit and glory, and the opposing faction headed by Lord Burghley and his son, Robert Cecil, who were on the side of peace. Although Elizabeth loved flirting with the handsome Essex and doted on him, she sought to keep a balance between the factions, and would not always give her favourite what he wanted. This led to Essex sulking like a spoiled child, and to stormy rows between him and the Queen. Essex ignored the advice of friends like Francis Bacon, who warned him not to offend Elizabeth by seeking to be overly powerful, because he did not want to settle for 'just' being a servant like his stepfather. He wanted more. Wise counsel fell on deaf ears, and Elizabeth's attempts to tame wild-child Essex failed.

    Ultimately, it was his pride and his need for recognition and power that led to his undoing. In 1599, Essex became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, but his campaign against the Irish was unsuccessful. Essex constantly ignored the Queen's orders, acted contrary to her wishes and constantly worried about what the Cecil faction were getting up to back at court. His obsession with power led to him giving up on the Irish situation, making a truce with the Irish rebel leader (against the Queen's wishes) and returning to England without the Queen's permission. This amounted to desertion and disobedience, something which Elizabeth could not and would not tolerate. The situation was made worse on the 28th September 1599, by Essex striding into Elizabeth's bedchamber unannounced and seeing the Queen without her makeup or wig, without her "mask of youth". You can read more about this event in my article here.

    On the 29th September, Essex was interrogated before the Queen's Council for around 5 hours, and the Council concluded that his truce with the Irish rebels was indefensible, and that his return to England was a desertion of duty. Essex was then put under house arrest. In June 1600, Essex appeared before a special court and was punished by being deprived of his public office and being confined to his home. However, in August, he was granted his freedom, although his sweet wines monopoly, his one source of income, was not renewed.
    He may well have wormed his way back into the Queen's affections if he had apologised and appealed to the Queen for mercy - after all, she had a soft spot for him and was used to his impulsive behaviour - but Essex made the fatal mistake of trying to enlist the support of the Scottish king, James VI, against Cecil's faction at court, and planning a coup for March 1601 to force Elizabeth to summon Parliament and deal with Cecil and his faction. When, on the 7th February, Essex received a message from the Queen that he was to present himself before Council, he decided to move things forward and summoned three hundred followers, telling them that Cecil and Ralegh were planning to assassinate him, and that the rising should therefore take place the next day, instead of in March.

    Robert Devereux by Isaac Oliver

    Robert Devereux by Isaac Oliver

    On the 8th February 1601, Essex, his supporters and two hundred soldiers gathered at Essex House. Essex then marched into the city crying "For the Queen! For the Queen! The crown of England is sold to the Spaniard! A plot is laid for my life!" but London's citizens remained indoors instead of joining him on his march. As his supporters deserted him, Essex was forced to give up and return home, where he surrendered after Lord Admiral Nottingham threatened to blow up his house if he did not give himself up.

    On the 9th February, Elizabeth I told the French ambassador that the "shameless ingrate, had at last revealed what had long been in his mind". Her patience had been stretched beyond breaking point and she could no longer excuse her past favourite's behaviour. On the 13th February the full details of the coup planned by Essex were made public, and on the 17th February indictments were laid against Essex and his key supporters, including Henry Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton. Two days later, on the 19th February, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, and his friend, Southampton, were tried at Westminster Hall by a jury of their peers. Both men were accused of high treason, found guilty and sentenced to death. Elizabeth I, in her mercy, commuted Southampton's sentence to life in prison and Essex's sentence of a traitor's death to death by beheading. On the 20th February, the Queen signed his death warrant.

    Essex was executed on Tower Green on the 25th February 1601.

    Taken from On this Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway.

  • 10 November – Cats, pigeons and lions

    On this day in Tudor history, 10th November 1536 (some sources say 1537), Sir Henry Wyatt of Allington Castle, politician, courtier, Privy Councillor and father of poet Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder, died.

    Sir Heny Wyatt was an important man, but rather than tell you about his career, Claire Ridgway, author of “On This Day in Tudor History”, thought she’d share with you two interesting stories concerning this Tudor man and cats, pigeons and a lion.

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  • Plots and rebellions in Elizabeth I’s reign Crossword Puzzle

    As yesterday was the anniversary of the beginning of the 1569 uprising against Elizabeth I, I thought I’d test your knowledge of plots and rebellions, and those involved, in Elizabeth I’s reign.

    Simply click on the link or image below to open the crossword puzzle and print out. Good luck!

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  • 9 November – A stillborn daughter for Queen Catherine of Aragon

    On this day in Tudor history, 9th November 1518, Queen Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s wife of nine years, gave birth prematurely to a stillborn daughter at Greenwich Palace.

    This was to be Catherine’s sixth and final pregnancy. She had tried her very best to give King Henry VIII what he wanted, a surviving son and heir, a Prince of Wales.

    In today’s talk, I explain what happened on this day in 1518 and what we know about Queen Catherine of Aragon’s pregnancies.

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  • 8 November – King Henry VIII praises one wife while trying to marry another!

    On this day in Tudor history, 8th November 1528, at Bridewell Palace, King Henry VIII made a rather strange public oration to “the nobility, judges and councillors and divers other persons” to explain his troubled conscience regarding the lawfulness of his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

    In today’s talk, I share an extract from the king’s speech, in which he praises Catherine of Aragon to the hilt even though he’d proposed to another woman, Anne Boleyn. Find out all about this strange situation!

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  • Telling the time in Tudor times

    Thank you to my village's clock tower bells for inspiring this week's Claire Chats talk!

    The full scene isn't available now (grrr!), but in it, Elizabeth puts on the watch and then spills her wine when she turns her wrist to look at the time. She was not amused!

    Further reading

  • The Anne Boleyn Collection III available for pre-order

    Claire here! As you have probably noticed, Anne Boleyn is my very favourite historical character. Now, I know that she doesn’t interest you all, but the latest in my collection of articles, The Anne Boleyn Collection III, which is available for pre-order right now, also covers some other historical topics.

    Here’s the blurb:

    Claire Ridgway, best-selling author and creator of the Anne Boleyn Files website, celebrates the 10th anniversary of her site with this collection of articles on Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII, and Tudor history.

    Written in Claire’s easy-going style, but with an emphasis on good history and sound research, The Anne Boleyn Collection III is perfect reading for Tudor history lovers everywhere. Myths, popular misconceptions and inaccuracies, are all challenged by Claire using contemporary evidence.

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  • Richard III and his supporters are attainted – 7 November 1485

    On this day in 1485, just over two months after King Henry VII’s forces had defeated those of King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, Henry VII’s first parliament attainted Richard and his supporters.

    Here is an account from Rapahel Holinshed’s chronicle. I have altered the spelling to make it easier to read:

    “For the establishing of all things, as well touching the preservation of his own estate, as the commendable administration of justice and preferment of the common wealth of his realme, he called his high court of parliament at Westminster the seventh day of November, wherein was attainted Richard late duke of Gloucester, calling and naming himself by usurpation, king Richard the third.

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  • 7 November – Queen Catherine Howard confesses

    On this day in Tudor history, Monday 7th November 1541, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, visited Catherine Howard, fifth wife of King Henry VIII, in her chambers at Hampton Court Palace.

    Catherine had been confined to her chambers and Archbishop Cranmer’s job was to get the now hysterical queen to talk, to confess. He visited her a few times over a period of 24 hours and finally got a confession from her. But what did Catherine have to say?

    Find out all about Catherine Howard’s confessions, and there were several, in today’s talk.

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  • 6 November – Henry VIII abandons Catherine Howard

    On this day in Tudor history, Sunday 6th November 1541, Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, was abandoned by her husband the king at Hampton Court Palace. She would never see him again.

    On the same day, Queen Catherine was visited by a delegation of king’s council members and informed of allegations made against her.

    What exactly happened on this day in 1541 and what has this to do with Hampton Court Palace’s ‘Haunted Gallery’? Find out in today’s talk.

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  • 5 November – Mary Tudor is crowned Queen of France

    On this day in Tudor history, Sunday 5th November 1514, eighteen-year-old Mary Tudor, sister of King Henry VIII and daughter of the late King Henry VII, was crowned Queen of France at Saint-Denis.

    Mary had become Queen of France on her marriage to King Louis XII on 9th October 1514.

    In today’s talk, I share what we know of Mary Tudor’s coronation from the contemporary sources.

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  • November’s live chats – 9 and 29 November 2019

    We have two live chats in the Tudor Society chatroom this month, as usual. The first is our informal live chat on Tudor scandals, which will take place on Saturday 9th November, and the second is our expert live chat with Gayle Hulme on Mary, Queen of Scots, which will take place on Friday 29th November.

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  • Live chat transcript – Lauren Johnson – Henry VI

    Thank you so much to everyone who attended our October expert live chat with historian Lauren Johnson, and a big thank you to Lauren for being so giving of her time. It was a wonderful hour.

    If you missed it, you can catch up with this transcript:

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  • 4 November – The arrest of Cardinal Wolsey

    On this day in Tudor history, 4th November 1530, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Henry VIII’s former Lord Chancellor, was arrested at his home of Cawood Castle in Yorkshire.

    Wolsey was accused of high treason, but why? And what happened when his former servant, Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, arrived with orders to arrest him?

    I explain all in today’s talk, including how Wolsey ‘cheated’ the axeman.

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  • 3 November – Sir John Perrot, Henry VIII’s illegitimate son?

    On this day in Tudor history, 3rd November 1592, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, privy councillor and former Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir John Perrot, died at the Tower of London. He’d been imprisoned there since March 1591.

    Perrot is a fascinating Tudor man who survived being a Protestant and protecting ‘heretics’ in Mary I’s reign, and who was saved six times from serious punishment by Queen Elizabeth I’s intercession. Some people believe that this favour, and a few other factors, point to him being King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son.

    Find out more about Sir John Perrot, his life and the arguments for and against him being Henry VIII’s son in today’s talk.

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  • The Princes in the Tower Quiz

    As it’s been the anniversary of the birth of King Edward V, one of the Princes in the Tower, this week, I thought we’d mark the occasion with a quiz on the Princes in the Tower.

    So, grab your favourite snack and beverage, make yourself comfortable, and let’s begin! Good luck!

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  • 2 November – The beginning of the end for Catherine Howard

    On this day in Tudor history, 2nd November 1541, All Souls’ Day, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer gave King Henry VIII a letter that would spark off the beginning of the end for Queen Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife.

    Catherine Howard’s past, her romances with Henry Manox and Francis Dereham, were about to come back to haunt her, and her present relationship with Thomas Culpeper would soon be uncovered.

    In today’s talk, I explain exactly what was in Archbishop Cranmer’s letter and what happened next.

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  • 1 November – The end of Edmund Tudor

    On this day in Tudor history, 1 November 1456, Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond, died from the plague at Carmarthen Castle in Wales.

    Edmund Tudor was, of course, husband of Lady Margaret Beaufort and father of King Henry VII, the first of the Tudor monarchs, but who was he and how did he end up dying of the plague at Carmarthen? Find out more about Edmund in today’s talk.

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  • The Places of Mary, Queen of Scots – Gayle Hulme – Expert Talk

    This month’s expert talk is by Gayle Hulme, taking us to some of the important places in the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. Gayle has travelled the length of the UK to give us this informative talk, including:
    Linlithgow Palace, Stirling Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh Castle, Kirk o’field, and even Westminster Abbey.

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  • Rushton Triangular Lodge – Roving Reporter

    Philippa Lacey Brewell, our roving reporter has gone to a fascinating Elizabethan building this month, one which is packed with secret messages, puzzles and clues – but what does it all mean? Philippa explains all!

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