Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Elizabeth I and her care for Robert Dudley

Elizabeth and Robert

The close relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester was a constant and fixed feature throughout her reign until Robert's death. The relationship was often viewed as a romantic one despite Elizabeth declaring herself to be a 'Virgin Queen'. It is probable that Elizabeth did consider marriage with Dudley as from her proposition in 1563 for him to be the husband to Mary, Queen of Scots we can understand that she considered him good enough to marry a queen. However, the suspicious death of his first wife Amy Robsart meant that his reputation was tarnished enough for him to be unacceptable as the husband to England's monarch. In their personal relationship, to put it simply, Elizabeth and Robert loved each other. Elizabeth needed him by her side and he acted as an unofficial consort, often not allowed to leave court. When Robert died in 1588, Elizabeth shut herself away in her apartments for days until the door was broken down. They had been friends since childhood and Elizabeth was now to live another fifteen years without him.
Countess Bess
Robert Dudley was to be hosted by the Shrewsburys, Countess Bess and Earl George, in June 1577 at Buxton and Chatsworth, as he was visiting Buxton to treat a boil on the calf of his leg. The Shrewsburys were important people at this time as they were the hosts of the captive Mary, Queen of Scots. As well as Bess' daughter Elizabeth having married Charles Stuart, the queen's cousin and member of the royal family, and having had a daughter, Arbella. They enjoyed a friendly and close relationship with both Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley. Robert Dudley helped to further the marriage arrangements of the Shrewsbury children, Charles and Elizabeth. Also, when the Shrewsbury's marriage fell apart in 1580, the queen became involved in trying to reconcile the couple.
The revised version of this letter which was sent to the Countess, was incredibly different to this draft as all considerations concerning Robert Dudley had been removed. In this draft Queen Elizabeth writes about the well being of Robert, concerning how much food and drink he is allowed to have, showing Elizabeth to be explicitly concerned with his health. This draft was written on the 4th June, and the revised version was not written until the 25th of June 1577. 

4 Iunii. 1577 memorandum of her majestes lettre to the Erle and Countesse of Shrewsbury. of thankes for the good vsage of my Lord of Leicester

Ryght Trvsty &ct. being geven to vnderstande from owre cosyn of Leycester howe honorably he was lately receyved and vsed by you owre cosyn the Cowntesse at Chatswoorth and howe his dyet is by you bothe dyscharged at Bvxtons we shoolde doe him great wronge howlding him in yt place of owre favor we doe in case we shoold not let you vnderstande in how thankefoll sorte we accept the same at bothe your handes which we doe not acknowled to be don vnto him but to owre selfes and therfor doe mean to take vppon vs the debt and to acknowledge you bothe as credytors so you can be content to accept vs for debter wherin is the daynger vnles you cvt of some parte of the large allowavnce of dyet you geve him. lest otherwyse the debt herby may growe to be so great as we shall not be able to dyscharge the same and so become banke rowte and therfor we thinke yt meet for the saving of owre credyt to proscrybe vnto you a proportyon of dyet which we mean in no case you shall exceed: and that is to allowe him, by the daye for his meate two ownces of fleshe referring the qualytye to your selves so you exceed not the quantytye and for his drynke the ... parte of a parte of a pynte of wyne to comphorte his stomocke and as myche of St Ames sacred water as he lvstethe to drynke On festyvall dayes as is fyt for a man of his qualytye we can be content you shall enlarge his dyet by allowng vnto him for his dyner the showlder of a wren and for his svpper a leg of the same besydes his ordenary ownces. the lyke proportyon we ... you shall allowe vnto owr brother of warwycke saving yt we thinke yt ... in respekt that his boddye is more replete then his brothers yt the wrens legg allowed at svpper on festyvall dayes be abated for that lyght svppers agreeth best with rvles of physyke. This order owre meanyng is you shall inviolably observe and so may you ryght well assvre your selfes of a most thankfull debter to so well deservng credytors.

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