On 28th August 1588, an ill Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, wrote his final letter to his queen and childhood friend, Elizabeth I. He wrote it from the home of Lady Norreys at Rycote, where he was staying on his way to Buxton, to take the waters there. It read:
"I most humbly beseech your Majesty to pardon your poor old servant to be thus bold in sending to know how my gracious lady doth, and what ease of her late pains she finds, being the chiefest thing in this world I do pray for, for her to have good health and long life. For my own poor case, I continue still your medicine and find that (it) amends much better than with any other thing that hath been given me. Thus hoping to find perfect cure at the bath, with the continuance of my wonted prayer for your Majesty's most happy preservation, I humbly kiss your foot. From your old lodging at Rycote, this Thursday morning, ready to take on my Journey, by your Majesty's most faithful and obedient servant,
He added a postscript:
"Even as I had writ thus much, I received Your Majesty's token by Young Tracey."
Leicester died at his lodge at Cornbury, near Woodstock in Oxfordshire, while still on his way to Buxton on 4th September 1588.
At her own death in 1603, this letter was found in the special treasure or keepsake box Elizabeth kept at her bedside. It had been marked by Elizabeth "His Last Letter".
Tudor Society members can find out more about Elizabeth I's reaction to Leicester's death in my video Robert Dudley: His Last Letter.
- Letter from the Earl of Leicester to Elizabeth I, 29th August 1588, SP 12/215 f.114, National Archives - A photo of the original letter can be seen at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/elizabeth-monarchy/earl-of-leicester-to-elizabeth/