Devereux was the eldest son of Sir Richard Devereux and Dorothy Hastings, and the father of Elizabeth I's favourite Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex.
Here are a few facts about Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex:
- The Devereux family were descended from Robert D'Evreux, a companion of William the Conqueror.
- On 17th September 1558, Walter's grandfather, Walter Devereux, 1st Viscount Hereford, died and Walter inherited the title as his father was already dead.
- In 1561, Walter married Lettice Knollys, daughter of Sir Francis Knollys and Catherine Carey, and granddaughter of Mary Boleyn. The couple settled at Chartley Hall. They had five children together: Penelope, who married Robert Rich, 3rd Baron Rich, and then Charles Blount, 1st Earl of Devonshire; Dorothy, who married Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland; Robert, 2nd Earl of Essex; Walter; and Francis, who died in infancy.
- In 1569, Walter had to assure William Cecil, Elizabeth I's chief advisor, that he had nothing against the queen's favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, after John Leslie, an envoy to Mary, Queen of Scots, did some stirring at court and claimed that Walter was slandering Leicester.
- In 1569, Walter raised troops for the queen against the rebel earls of the Rising of the North and served as high marshal of the field.
- In 1571, he became Viscount Bourchier and in 1572, he was elected to the Order of the Garter and made Earl of Essex.
- In 1573, he set sail for Ireland as part of an expedition aiming to colonise Ulster. Walter had disagreements with William Fitzwilliam, the Lord Deputy, and committed what can only be described as atrocities in Ireland. The Ulster expedition failed, costing Queen Elizabeth I heavily.
- Walter returned to England in 1575 but was appointed Earl Marshal of Ireland in March 1576. He arrived there in July 1576.
- On 22 September 1576 at the age of just thirty-seven, Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, died of dysentery in Dublin. He was buried in Carmarthen in November 1576. His son, Robert, inherited the earldom.
- There were rumours that Walter was poisoned on the orders of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, but a postmortem ruled that Walter died a natural death. His wife, Lettice, went on to marry Leicester in 1578.
- Walter's son, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, was executed in 1601 after a failed rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I and her government.
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Image: A portrait of Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, by an unknown artist, NPG.