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Epitaph on the Erle of Leister.
Who never drew a sword;
Who never kept his word;
Who govern'd the estates,
“KENILWORTH,” Vol. ii. 397.
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 following 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
KENII WORTA.) 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 ancestors. 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 fortbwith, 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.
SIR ROBERT DUDLEY-LUNN'S TOWER
of England had so “ delighted to honour," it was readily surmised that some signora, with the old Etruscan blood in her veins, had made a conquest of the English knight: and yet the name of the lady was a profound secret, which puzzled as much the learned cognoscenti as it did the simple contadini, whom the rumour of “ English espousals" had drawn to the square in ront of the church. But the mystery was speedily solved; for the procession was already under the porch of the sacred temple, and on kneeling at the altar it was no difficult matter to recognize in the lovely bride, the peerless features of Blanche Southwell—the faithful page of the exiled Robert Dudley.
Having now fixed his residence on the banks of the Arno, and become master of that rank and consideration which had been denied him at home, Dudley's active mind, forgetting the splendour of Kenilworth Castle, soon began to exert its energies in an enterprise of great public utility. This was in concerting plans for the drainage of the fens and marshes in the neighbourhood of Leghorn, adjoining the Maremma; and with so much success did he prosecute his undertaking, that he raised that town from an inconsiderable fishing village, to the rank and importance of one of the most frequented seaports in Italy. Thus, out of seeming evil, disgrace, destitution, expatriation, much ultimate good was educed, not only to the country which had extended to him the rights of hospitality, but to himself and his successors. The Duke settled a handsome pension upon him. The reputation of his accomplishments, coupled with the history of his misfortunes, secured for him the highest consideration in Italy; while the Emperor of Germany, Ferdinand the Second, conferred upon him, by letters-patent, dated Vienna, March, 1620, the title of Duke; in consequence of which he resumed that of his grandfather, the attainted Duke of Northumberland, whose tragical end we have already mentioned in the earlier portion of this work. Thus elevated to the highest rank in the state, Dudley erected a magnificent palace in the city of Florence, and there spent his days in works of public utility and private beneficence. His daughters by the lady, whose romantic story we have just recorded, were all married to princes of the Empire; and at his own demisewhen he was succeeded in the same title by his eldest son Charles—a grant was obtained from King Charles the First, under the great seal of England, that his widow, the Lady Alice, should enjoy the title of Duchess for her natural life, and that her daughters should take rank and precedence accordingly.
This Sir Robert Dudley, according to Dugdale, was a man of heroic stature, “comely in feature, strong, valiant, famous at the exercise of tilting; singularly skilled in all mathematick learning, but chiefly in navigation and architecture; a rare chymist, and of great knowledge in physick, as his learned works do sufficiently manifest—especially that 'De Arcanis Maris,' printed at Florence in 1646, and afterwards at Venice in folio, adorned with sculpture: also that of physic called 'Catholicon,' of no small esteem with the most skilful in that profession. Nor is his memory a little famous as the inventor of that powder called Cornachine-powder; touching the virtue whereof, the learned Marcus Cornachinus, of Pisa, hath written, and endeavoured to show that all corporeal diseases may be safely and suddenly cured thereby.
“Nor is it less remarkable that his merits were so highly esteemed by the grand Duke of Tuscany (Cosmo the Second), as that he allowed him an yearly stipend of little less than a thousand pounds sterling. ... Moreover, he died at a palace of the Dukes of Florence, two or three Italian miles distant from that city, in or about the year 1650. And his bodye resteth in the monastery of the nuns at Boldrone, except it be removed to the church of St. Pancras in Florence, where he raised a noble monument for his wife, with purpose to be there interred himself. Likewise he left to his sons divers curious mathematical instruments, chiefly of his own invention, of which they, making little use, have disposed of to the great Duke of Tuscany.”—Dugd. Baron, Art. Leicest. vol, ii. p. 225.
Classical Associations.-The narrative of the popular romance of Kenilworth hinges upon the sad fortunes of Amy Robsart, which form "a painful tissue of unvaried disappointments, distresses, and privations, closed by an unmerited and horrible death."
We have already observed that the first wife of Leicester was Amy, the daughter of Sir John Robsart, of Sheen, in Surrey; a match effected, like most of the marriages between the offspring of the great in that age, “when the parties,” says Warner, “ were very young, and resulting from plans and adjustments of their parents, rather than from their own predilection for each other.” The connexion was sanctioned by the young king, Edward the Sixth, who honoured the ceremony with his presence, and speedily advanced the bridegroom to considerable offices at court. For a few years Leicester and his wife appear to have lived together on what are called decent, if not on affectionate, terms; and though the rays of royal favour, which daily shone upon him with increasing warmth, gradually produced and embittered his regret at having matched himself with sọ humble a partner for life as Amy Robsart, yet he does not seem to have conceived any notion of ridding himself of this domestic burthen by violent means, till the prospect