Elizabeth having eye sex with Robert at her coronation.
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, liked salads, artichokes (from his own garden), and fish. Unlike King Philip II, who loved to go fishing,1 but did not eat fish. (He secured a papal dispensation to eat meat on Fridays). For Robert Dudley the only option to escape court or social life for a few hours was to go fishing. This is mirrored in his account books. The earl usually did not carry cash money on his own person; he only received it from his treasurer to go fishing, on rare occasions.
Elizabeth I by William Faithorne, 1690. National Trust Collection. Painted 87 years after her death.
Does your flirting fall a bit flat? Pick up some top tips from Elizabeth I and her favourite Robert Dudley at Kenilworth Castle.
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On 29 August 1588 the earl stayed at Rycote, Oxfordshire, the home of Sir Henry Norris and his wife, old friends of the queen and Robert Dudley. After a night in the bed that was reserved for the queen on her visits, Leicester composed what probably were the last lines he ever wrote. They were addressed to Elizabeth, reminiscent of the happy hours they had had at Rycote in the 1560s (above the word “poor” he made the sign which symbolized the queen’s nickname for him, “eyes”)
On this day in history…
17 August 1510: Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley are executed.
Empson and Dudley were two of Henry VII’s most influential counselors. Both men were associated with many of the first Tudor king’s more unpopular policies, particularly his rigorous system of taxation and debt collection. Their influence was also resented by the English peerage, for Empson was of common birth and Dudley was merely the son of a knight. With the king’s trust and protection, however, both men remained powerful and wealthy. When Henry VII died on 21 April 1509, however, that protection ended. The young Henry VIII was popular and beloved by the English people, especially because, in many ways, he presented himself as the opposite of his miserly father. As a result, both Empson and Dudley were immediately arrested for treason. They were executed over a year later, on 17 August 1510, on Tower Hill. Henry VIII’s reign is famous for its number of high-profile executions, and Empson and Dudley were the king’s first victims. Edmund Dudley’s family survived his downfall, however, and his son (John Dudley, later Duke of Northumberland) and grandson (Robert Dudley, later Earl of Leicester) would become important political figures of the late Tudor period.
Pictured above: The famous portrait of Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley whispering in the ear of King Henry VII.
I think it’s interesting that Elizabeth probably never even said “I will have here but one mistress and no master”, but it’s one of the most well known and quoted lines?
It seems to have gone down in history as proof that Robert wanted her crown and wanted to be her “master” and that it was necessary to put him in his place.
I don’t really mind this line being used in fiction (it’s a pretty good line!), but I feel it’s important that people know this was not mentioned by any of her contemporaries and that it was attributed to her decades after her death. Also around this time, people were out to portray Robert as the evil courtier.
Due to their tempestuous relationship, I don’t think it’s incredibly far off to say she might have said something like that, but, again, it’s important to keep in perspective that it’s not factually accurate to say she definitely said this.