Baron of Denbigh.
Take your pick; Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, answered to all of them - but the last three were spoken only by the woman who loved him best.
The famous favorite of Elizabeth I, Robert Dudley was born 24 June, 1532.
The fifth son
|Fifth? FIFTH? Everyone knows if you're not the FIRST son, life's gonna SUCK.|
Robert Dudley grew up to be a horse-lover, a ferocious tennis player, a terrific dancer and all-around sportsman.
A childhood acquaintance of Elizabeth I, Robert Dudley was tutored by some of the same academics who taught the queen when she was a youngster.
She told him when she was eight years old that she would never marry; and who could blame her for that attitude?
By the time she'd have been a third grader, Elizabeth's own mother was executed, her stepmother Jane Seymour died horribly within days of the birth of Elizabeth's half-brother, Edward (who would become Edward VI,) her father's fifth wife, Catherine Howard had (also!!) been executed - no wonder Elizabeth had a jaded attitude toward marriage from a young age!
Robert Dudley had no such problems around the idea of marriage; on 4 June, 1550, he wed Amy Robsart, his first wife - and theirs was described as a 'love match.'
The couple had a few years of normal married life - the stork, however, never did show up with a little bundle from Heaven.
Word got out that the teen king named Lady Jane Grey's mother's not-yet-conceived sons as next in line.
That was good enough for Dudley's father, John, who had unrealistic hopes of getting thisclose to the throne.
As a preemptive strike, John Dudley shoe-horned his fourth son, Guildford,
|Ill-fated Guildford Dudley, pre-beheading.|
John Dudley's whole plan blew up spectacularly.
|"What? You didn't have a Plan B?"|
|Beat it, Cousin Jane. I got this.|
Robert Dudley, his father, and his brothers were arrested and chucked into the Tower of London.
John Dudley and Guildford Dudley were beheaded for their treasonous, excessive ambition.
|"Step back, folks, this one's gonna go a gusher!"|
Everything worth anything was confiscated.
The family money became the monarch's money.
The family houses became the monarch's houses.
That's how every branch on the Dudley family tree lost everything.
|Dudley family - broke as a joke.|
The remaining Dudley boys were eventually sprung from the Tower.
She had no children of her own.
She left it all to Elizabeth: throne, crown, palaces, government, jewels, the whole shebang.
The Great Seal was surrendered to Elizabeth on her second day as queen, and Robert Dudley was with her at Hatfield to witness it.
|The Old Palace at Hatfield House|
|"Make sure AppleJack and Fluttershy are groomed and saddled . . . "|
Dudley jumped right into his new job; he oversaw the ins and outs of the coronation of England's new queen.
|Drawing of Coronation of Elizabeth I - "We are most pleased to be here!"|
Elizabeth crunched titles and properties and jobs until she'd come up with a way to elevate Dudley and supply him with some scrilla - remember, his family was left with nothing after the Lady Jane Grey/Bill of Attainder incident.
|Robert Dudley, rocking the robes of Knight of the Garter. Nice flat cap, dude. No, I mean it. :-)|
|Quartered Arms of Robert Dudley|
|"Wait - is that Dudley? They'll let ANYBODY in this club, won't they?"|
Elizabeth hated hated hated hearing about her, thinking about her, knowing she existed.
For the most part, Amy stayed away from court;
she was not a healthy woman.
(All the better to insist she remain home in the country to recuperate - and to discourage her from realizing the scope of the relationship between her husband and the queen.)
By 1560, things had grown so torchy between Elizabeth and Dudley that tongues were wagging.
|Is that a scepter in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?|
At that point, the gossip turned from idle chat to accusations leveled against both Dudley and the queen.
Elizabeth immediately distanced herself from him; he demanded a full and impartial investigation to clear himself of any suspicion, there was a huge ordeal, but in the end, it all came to nothing.
Dudley's wife's death was officially labeled an accident, but like Jerry Lee "The Killer" Lewis,
|Nicknames - a fun part of every relationship!|
After that, the queen and Dudley continued to live side-by-side in apartments ever so close to one another, but they certainly dialed back their PDA.
|Dial it back, folks. People have been noticing.|
In 1562, Elizabeth came down with smallpox and it very nearly killed her.
While the fever was doing its best to boil her brain right in her head, her councilors asked her who she wanted to succeed her.
Their worry was no doubt not helped when she named Robert Dudley to be Protector of the Realm in case she didn't pull through.
Elizabeth did pull through.
She was tougher than the males of her line who dropped dead at an alarmingly frequent rate once they'd hit their mid-teens.
Edward VI died 15 yrs. old - the potential of this kid is written all over his face - a very fine, if immature, mind. . . a cruel twist to a developing story.
|Henry Fitzroy died 17 yrs old - and, dude? So so sorry that |
|"No, your Majesty, it's not that bad. Honest."|
Google it if you don't believe me, but don't say I didn't warn you.
It was a ridiculously lucky break that her scars were cover-able by makeup and flattering lighting; Robert Dudley fell like your iPhone on a marble floor for a pretty face.
(Many pretty faces, actually. Elizabeth was annoyingly proud of the whole VIRGIN Queen thing she'd made up - but even a true-blue boy got anxious after awhile, kwim?)
With Elizabeth recovered, England's people barely finished with their collective sighs of relief when Elizabeth's younger cousin-in-an-'I-hate-that-brat-she-thinks-she's-so-pretty-which-sucks-'cuz-she-*actually*-IS-goddamit-SO-UNFAIR" sort of way,Mary Queen of Scots, decided she needed some attention - because she always had been the pretty one, the special one, the one who became a queen (no, really) when she was six days old - and it felt, oddly, that the world's full attention was no longer on her.
Around 1563, the Scottish queen
Elizabeth threw a bunch of ideas at a wall to see what stuck in her attempt to nail down a plan to keep her dangerously charming cousin (also a bit of a horndog) distracted from pursuit of Elizabeth's throne.
Who knows what perverse game of one-upmanship, or 'prove you looooovvvveee me' kind of game the queen was playing when she came up with her masochistic plan for Dudley to be offered in a marriage contract for consideration with the Queen of Scots.
Dudley, to his credit, was never ever down with that idea - even though Mary Queen of Scots was a total babe.
|"Yes. This is exactly how beautiful I am - and this is my freaking death mask. So, yeah, I'm prettier dead than you'll ever be alive."|
Alleged death mask of Mary Queen of Scots
Eventually, Robert Dudley had a long-term affair with Douglas Sheffield.
|Hmm - what's that name again?|
She just had a dude's name.
Robert and Douglas had a son
in 1574 - first-born son -
and Dudley gave the little bastard his name; Robert Dudley (Jr.).
Shows that Dudley wasn't one to cut and run; he had inherent decency as one of his ingredients.
To Elizabeth's extreme aggravation, Douglas Sheffield was one of a string of . . .well, more than one, for sure, side projects.
Lettice Knollys, one of Elizabeth's cousins (and, if a rumor about Henry VIII and the children of Mary Boleyn is true, Lettice would be a double cousin - meaning related to Elizabeth on both her mother's and her father's side) caught the eye of Dudley.
Was it because she and Elizabeth looked a lot alike, if you squinted your eyes and tilted your head to the side a little?
A younger, fully sexual, riper version of Elizabeth?
That's speculation, of course.
No one human being can tell another human being just what fires up their heart, or what substitute they'll choose instead of you.
|"Elizabeth, if he liked it, he would've put a ring on it."|
Lettice was married to the 1st Earl of Essex - and that led to Dudley and the 1st Earl of Essex having many angry, awkward moments at odds with one another.
Tudor-era noblemen looked the other way if their wife and their king were doing it nasty and often; no choice, really, mates - but sharing her with just another noble Joe Shmoe made for hurt feelings.
With remarkable speed, the 1st Earl of Essex suddenly went from a healthy guy to a dead guy, leaving Lettice free as a bird )but also facing rumors about poisoning her husband.)
On 21 September, 1578 Leicester married Lettice.
For nine months after, nobody mentioned the happy news to Elizabeth.
Then the penny dropped, someone said something about Leicester's marriage, and a jealous, betrayed Elizabeth flipped the fuck out.
The queen kept her red-hot rage focused on Leicester's wife for the rest of her life.
The new Mrs. Dudley was shit under Elizabeth's heel, and the queen never stopped grinding, and grinding, and grinding her into the ground.
She never let up.
When Leicester was sent out of the country (now, who do you suppose did that?) and his wife tried to join him, Elizabeth forbade it.
When a queen sets out to ruin you, it's a safe bet your life is going to suck from then on.
Lettice was banned from doing anything that Elizabeth could ban her from doing.
Give it all to me.
Tough shit - and by the way, Lettice you backstabbing beyotch, nice-looking adult son from your first marriage there - think I'll favor him so he'll diss you in favor of ME.
Robert Dudley did Lettice Knollys no favors by marrying her; once she said 'I do' her life was trashed in every way that mattered - except for that little gold ring on her finger.
|And . . . once again. Some jokes never get old.|
Elizabeth again freaked the fuck out; heavy guilt and having to face her Maker one day having ordered the execution of one of His anointed queens made her blow her stack.
Dudley was in England during the kerfluffle.
Supportive, steady, there for Elizabeth during her crisis.
When the Spanish Armada ate shit on the waters just off the southern coast of England, Dudley was, again, supportive, steady and there for Elizabeth during her crisis - and subsequent delirious celebration.
That was all the poor guy had in him, though.
Riddled with stomach cancer? a bleeding ulcer? some other deadly gut ailment? he died on 4 September, 1588.
Flattened by the death of her one true lifelong love, Elizabeth withdrew from everything
until after months had passed, she mustered up enough fortitude to rejoin the living and to continue her reign for just over a decade.
But for her, nothing was ever the same; life had lost its zing.
She continued to punish Lettice, however - taking out all her grief and anger by dunning Lettice for every single ha'penny owed by Dudley and generally making life hellish for the Widow Dudley.
"The Widow Dudley" - Elizabeth probably craved that title more than anybody knew.