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of Leicester; who now perceived that, should he interpose in the affair of the French match, his opposition would be construed to proceed from interested motives, and might be a means to promote rather than prevent it. He therefore chose to withdraw himself from public view, to counterfeit sickness and retire to his chamber; and there, under pretence of taking physic, he became a voluntary prisoner.
In 1585, he was made Justice-eyre of all the Forests south of Trent. He received a commission for levying five hundred men to be sent into Holland; and three weeks afterwards, he was constituted Lieutenant and Captain-General of the whole army designed for the service of the United Provinces against the Spaniards, and the same year took the command in person. In little more than a year, however, many grave charges were brought against him by the States for having abused his authority, and neglected the due performance of the high trusts reposed in him. Greatly mortified at these complaints, which, besides wounding his vanity, had a tendency to weaken his influence at Court, he affected disgust at the injustice inflicted upon him, and made his last will and testament at Middleburg, as a preparation for his retiring altogether from the public service. The contents of this will, dated the 1st of August, 1587, have been already mentioned.
On his return to England, he found that the complaints lodged against him by the Dutch had so moved the Queen's displeasure, that “ he was constrained to humble himself to his royal mistress, and with tears to beg of her, that, having sent him thither with power, she would not receive him back with disgrace; that whom she had raised from the dust, she would not bury alive !" The Queen was moved by this strain of courtly pleading, and the influence of the favourite became greater than ever. The last public service in which Leicester was engaged was with the army at Tilbury, when the Spanish Armada was expected to make a landing, and when the Queen, in addressing the troops, did him honour in these terms: “In the meantime, my Lieutenant-General shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble or worthy subject; not doubting but by your obedience to my General, by your concord in the camp, and by your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over the enemies of my God, of my kingdoms, and of my people.” But, notwithstanding her Majesty's commendation, there was no opportunity for his lordship to exert his abilities; for the Spanish army never landed on the English shore—the elements performed all the service which was to have devolved on Leicester.
Having thus concluded his public career, he designed to spend the remainder of his days in his Castle of Kenilworth, on which he had continued to expend all the resources of art; but, taken suddenly ill of a fever at
LEICESTER'S DEATH-EPITAPH— PORTRAIT.
Cornbury Park, in Oxfordshire, he there closed his earthly account, on the 4th of September. From Cornbury Park his remains were conveyed with much pomp to Warwick, and there interred, in our Lady's Chapel, adjoining the choir of the Collegiate Church, where a very noble monument was erected to his memory, with the following inscription :
DEO VIVENTIUM S.
Spe Certa Resurgendi In Christo Hic Situs Est Illustrissimus Robertus Dudleyus, Johannis Ducis Northumbriæ, Comitis Warwicki, Vice-Comitis Insulæ, &c., Filius Quintus, Comes Leicestriæ, Baro Denbighiæ, Ordinis Tum S. Georgii Cum S. Michaelis Eques Auratus, Reginæ Elizabethæ (Apud Quam Singulari Gratia Florebat) Hippocomus Regiæ Aulæ, Subinde Seneschallus, Ab Intimis Conciliis; Forestarum, Parcorum, Chacearum, &c. Citra Trentam Summus Justificarius; Exercitus Anglici A Dicta Regina Elizabetha Missi In Belgio, Ab Anno MDLXXXV. Ad Annum MDLXXXVII. Locum Tenens Et Capitaneus Generalis; Provinciarum Confederatarum Ibidem Gubernator Generalis Et Præfectus, Regnique Angliæ Locum Tenens Contra Philippum II. Hispanum, Numerosa Classe Et Exercitu Angliam Anno MDLXXXVIII. Invadentem. Animam Deo Servatori Reddidit, Anno Salutis MDLXXXVIII., Die Quarto Septembris. Optimo Et Charissimo Marito, Mæstissima Uxor Leticia, Francisci Knolles Ordinis S. Georgii Equitis Aurati, Et Regiæ Thesaurarii, Filia, Amoris Et Conjugalis Fidei Ergo Posuit.
It is said that the Earl died much in the Queen's debt, and that her Majesty caused his goods to be sold at a public sale, that payment might be made ; for “ however favourable,” says ber biographer, “she might have been in all other respects, the Queen is observed never to have remitted the debts that were owing to her treasury.”
The generally received account is, that his death was occasioned by his having swallowed a draught of poison, which had been designed by him for another person: a just stroke of retribution for the lives which—as there were strong grounds to suspect—had been cut short by his employment of the like
In a curious manuscript copy of the information given by Ben Jonson to Drummond of Hawthornden, as abridged by Sir Robert Sibbald, Leicester's death is ascribed to poison administered as a cordial by his Countess, to whom he had given it, representing it to be a restorative in any faintness, in the hope that she herself might be cut off by using it. It may be here added, that the following satirical epitaph on Leicester occurs in Drummond's Collections, but is “evidently," says Scott, “not of his composition :”—
Epitaph on the Erle of Leister.
Who never drew a sword;
Who never kept his word;
Who govern'd the estates,
“KENILWORTH," Vol. ii. 307.
The character of Leicester is thus summed up by Camden in his Annals of Elizabeth :-“ He was esteemed a most accomplished courtier, free and bountiful to soldiers and scholars; a cunning time-server and respecter of his own advantages; of a disposition ready and apt to please; crafty and subtle towards his adversaries; much given formerly to women, and in his latter days doating extremely upon marriage. But, whilst he preferred power and greatness, which are subject to be envied before solid virtue, his detracting emulators found large matter to speak reproachfully of him, and, even when he was in his most flourishing condition, spared not disgracefully to defame him by libels, not without a mixture of some untruths.” But, “ to take him in the observation of his letters," says Sir Robert Naunton, “I never saw a style or phrase more seeming religious and fuller of the strains of devotion, had they been sincere !”—Dugd. Bar.; Camden's Annals; Secret Mem. of Robert Dudley.
The following particulars of Sir Robert Dudley, who was so unjustly deprived of his rightful inheritance, may be new to some of our readers. His life is a striking instance of the vicissitudes to which every condition of society, and more particularly that of the patrician order, was exposed, during the period in question. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, and is said to have been a profound mathematician, and master of other acquirements, which he had afterwards an opportunity of turning to good purpose abroad. His earliest service was in 1595, when he had the command of three small ships, with which he took and destroyed nine Spanish traders freighted with wine. The fullowing year he served under the Earl of Essex in the expedition to Cadız, where he displayed so much characteristic gallantry and prudence, that he received from her Majesty the honour of knighthood; and was justly esteemed among his companions in arms, as a soldier who possessed in no ordinary degree the virtues of wisdom and prowess.
Soon after this, in a voyage to the West Indies, he called an island in the mouth of the river Orinoco, after his own name, Dudleyana. In the will of his father, the “ favourite Dudley,” he is pronounced illegitimate—“my base
or KENII WORTH.)
SIR ROBERT DUDLEY--VIEW FROM THE TILT-YARD.
son;" but notwithstanding this paternal stigma, there is every ground to believe that he was born in wedlock: for it appeared by depositions afterwards taken on oath in the Star Chamber, that the Earl of Leicester had been lawfully married to his mother, the Lady Douglas Sheffield, by a clergyman, according to the form prescribed by the Church of England. But by the interest of the Lady Letitia, widow to the Earl of Essex, whom Leicester had married some time before his death, these depositions were ordered to be sealed up by the Clerk of the Court, and never more to be seen or published; whilst at the same time a censure was passed upon the deponents as having entered into a conspiracy to defame the Dowager Lady Leicester, and unjustly to entitle Sir Robert Dudley to the honours which had been enjoyed by his
The unfairness, the palpable injustice of such proceedings, filled his mind with such disgust, that he determined, as already mentioned, to abandon the country of his birth; and having obtained the King's permission to travel for three years, proceeded to Italy, where he took up his residence in the Tuscan capital with “the style of Earl of Warwick.” But having left several enemies at home, who watched every opportunity to wrest from him his princely inheritance of Kenilworth, his absence was construed into dis
affection; and a special Privy Seal being obtained for that purpose, he was commanded to return home forthwith, But fully aware of the motive
which actuated the King's advisers, and of the annoyance and mortification which awaited him, he evaded the summons, and resolved to continue in exile beyond the Alps. Advantage was immediately taken of his contumacy, and by the “statute of fugitives,” his lands were seized in the manner already described in the survey, and the mesne profits of them applied to the King's use.
There is a romantic story told of this Sir Robert—the last of the Dudleys of Kenilworth—which mentions, that on quitting England he carried off with him the beautiful daughter of Sir Robert Southwell, in the habit of a Page.* The lady had long been the object of his admiration; but as the legal proceedings instituted against him were calculated, however unjustly, to strip him of his inheritance and degrade him in his station, the family of the lady were naturally averse to the alliance, and took all necessary precautions to break off the intimacy which had hitherto existed between the parties. Driven to the necessity of expedients, where the open and honourable profession of his attachment had been rejected with coldness or even disdain, the knight employed stratagem; and having arranged a stolen interview with the lady, had no great difficulty in persuading her to quit an ungrateful country, and with him to seek refuge in that southern land where he was sure of a welcome, and where, at least, they would be far beyond the reach of both kingly and paternal despotism. How these arguments were received by the lady may be readily understood by the fact, that, within a few days after this interview, Sir Robert Dudley, accompanied by a beautiful page, had embarked for Italy.
It is not our province to detail the adventures which befell this “ Lara” of his time, and his gentle page by the way; but on their reaching the Tuscan Athens, the page had suddenly disappeared, no person of his small retinue knew how. In the venerable church of the Santa Croce, however, preparations were observed as if for some religious solemnity; and in the evening of the feast of St. George, Dudley communicated to his immediate friends and attendants, that he should that evening lead a bride to the altar, and invited them to partake of the supper which had been prepared at his quarters in the Piazza della Trinità. The mere announcement of his marriage excited no particular surprise; for inheriting the manly figure, the courtly manners, and elegant accomplishments of his father, whom the maiden Queen
* The romance of this story is certainly not improved by the fact, that the gallant knight had left behind him one who justly claimed him as her husband, namely, the Lady Alice Leigh. “But," says the author of the Baronage, "to countenance his marriage with Mistress Southwell, he did allege his marriage with the said Lady Alice Leigh to be by the
canon law illegal, inasmuch as, &c.," and obtaining a papal dispensation for that purpose, espoused ( Biog.] the said Blanche Southwell at Florence, who, as well as other members of her family, was not aware,” according to the MS., "of the Knight's previous engagement."--ED.