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Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley

(1532—1588) courtier and magnate


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(c. 1532–88).

Son of John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, Dudley became one of Elizabeth I's most prominent courtiers. Until his death in 1588, he was master of the queen's horse and a privy counsellor. He was appointed general of the English forces in the Netherlands in 1585, where his conduct angered Elizabeth greatly.

Leicester was a controversial figure. He was involved in his father's plan to crown Lady Jane Grey and was sentenced to death in January 1554, but pardoned in October of that year. Any hopes he might have had of marrying Elizabeth were destroyed by the suspicious manner of the death of his first wife, Amy Robsart, in 1560. Later there were plans for a marriage to Mary, queen of Scots, and he was created earl in 1564 to make him a more acceptable husband. In the end, his second wife was Lettice Knollys, widow of the 1st earl of Essex (1578). He died in September 1588 soon after taking charge of the army at Tilbury against the Spanish Armada.


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