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friends in these words: “I am now passing into another world, and must leave you to your fortunes and to the Queen's grace and goodness; but beware of the Gypsie' (meaning Leicester), for he will be too hard for you all: you know not the beast so well as I do."
Leicester, continuing to advance in favour, was one of the peers appointed for the trial of the Duke of Norfolk; and four years afterwards, when Walter, Earl of Essex, died in Ireland by “no common death,” it was much suspected that he had a hand in it; which is the more probable, as from that time he forsook his wife, the Lady Douglas Sheffield, by whom he had a son, Robert, already mentioned, and promised her much money and other advantages in case she would be content therewith, and so married Lettice, daughter of Sir Francis Knolles, and widow of the Earl of Essex," to whom,” says Dugdale," he had privately borne much affection before.”
The death of Essex, "in the midst of incredible torments," was attributed to poison. Two of his own servants, Crumpton his cupbearer, and Llyod his secretary, are reported to have been confederates in the murder; and it is said that Mrs. Alice Dracot, a pious lady, whom the earl much valued, was accidentally poisoned at the same time and with the same cup, and died a few days before him. It is farther alleged that his lordship's page, who was accustomed to taste of his drink before he gave it to him, very hardly escaped with his life, and not without the loss of his hair, though he drank but a small quantity; and that the earl, in compassion to the boy, called for a cup of drink a little before his death, and drank to him in a friendly manner; and says he, “I drink to thee, my Robin; but ben't afraid, 'tis a better cup of drink than that thou tookest to taste when we both were poisoned.” (Secret Memoirs of the Earl of Leicester.) This report was formally contradicted by Sir Henry Sidney, the Lord Deputy of Ireland; but the suspicion of Leicester's being privy to the death of Essex was never removed; and the facts of his previous intimacy and subsequent marriage with the countess added no little strength to the charge.
When the marriage between the Queen and the Duke of Anjou was first suggested at Court, he opposed it with all his influence, public and private, and had the satisfaction of attending that prince on his hasty departure from the English Court. But on his return, the elevation at his success was not a little damped by the discovery that his marriage with the Lady Lettice had been communicated to the Queen by Simier, the French minister, in revenge of the defeated plans of the Duke of Anjou. Greatly incensed at this act of duplicity, and piqued with jealousy of the lady, Elizabeth caused the Earl to be shut up in the Castle of Greenwich, as a prelude to his being sent to the
ANECDOTES OF DUDLEY-VIEW FROM THE EAST.
Tower. Charging all these misfortunes to the conduct of Simier, he indulged the wildest passion for revenge; but the rigour of his confinement was soon moderated; the Queen relented; and the only results were greater honours, more unlimited confidence, which proved that Dudley held no secondary place in the heart of the Queen.
It was in his Castle of Kenilworth that Leicester first married Lady Essex privately; but her father, Sir Francis Knolles, being well acquainted with
his lordship’s inconstancy, refused to give any credit to it unless the marriage were solemnised in his own presence. In consequence of this resolution, the ceremony was again performed at Wanstead, in presence of the said Sir Francis, the Earl of Warwick, the Lord North, a public notary, and several other witnesses. On the publication of marriage, his former wife, the Lady Douglas, in order to secure her life from any future practices,” contracted a marriage with Sir Edward Stafford, a man of high character and reputation, and at that time her Majesty's ambassador in France. This step was peremptorily called for, as she laboured under constant apprehension of being made away with by Leicester; for it is certain, according to Dugdale, that she had already "some ill potions given to her,” so that, with the loss of her hair and nails, she narrowly escaped death.
Some time before the arrival of Simier with overtures from the Duke of Anjou, Leicester had engaged Astley, one of the Queen's bedchamber, to search out her disposition towards him, and had met with an unfavourable answer. For when he was covertly recommended to her Majesty for a husband, she replied in a passion—“Do you think that in choosing a husband I should be so regardless of my character, so unmindful of my royal dignity, as to prefer my servant whom myself have raised, to the greatest princes of Christendom?” These words being reported, were thunderbolts to the Earl 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, Mestissima 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 means. 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 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