The Tudor Society

The marriage of Robert Dudley and Lettice Devereux

robert-dudley-and-letticeOn the morning of Sunday 21st September 1578, between seven and eight o'clock, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, married Lettice Devereux (née Knollys), widow of Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex, at his house in Wanstead, Essex.

Leicester's chaplain, Humphrey Tindall officiated, and the guests at this secret and private ceremony included Sir Francis Knollys, father of the bride; Richard Knollys, the bride's brother; Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick and brother of Leicester; and Leicester's friends, the Earl of Pembroke and Lord North. Tindall described Lettice as wearing a “loose gown”, which has led to people thinking that the marriage was a shot-gun wedding, but there is no evidence that Lettice was pregnant. She did not give birth to their first and only child, Robert, Lord Denbigh, until June 1581. The marriage was low-key because Leicester had not told Elizabeth I of his relationship with Lettice, whom Elizabeth dubbed “the she-wolf”. Elizabeth never forgave Lettice.

The couple remained married until Leicester's death on 4th September 1588. Leicester was buried in the Beauchamp Chapel of the Collegiate Church of St Mary in Warwick, the same place as his and Lettice's son. Lettice joined her husband in the chapel when she was buried in 1634.

You can click here to read more about Lettice Knollys and you can click here to read more articles on Robert Dudley.

Part of this article is an extract from On This Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway.

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The marriage of Robert Dudley and Lettice Devereux