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Elizabeth I's Secret Lover (Hardback)

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

Colour Books P&S History > British History > Tudors & Stuarts P&S History > By Century > 16th Century P&S History > Royal History

By Robert Stedall
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 341
Illustrations: 8 page colour plate section
ISBN: 9781526761484
Published: 18th March 2020


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Star review

'This fascinating non-fiction study provides a holistic account of Elizabeth's greatest favourite. Despite the racy title, it is a serious work, the strength of which lies in its approach of examining various aspects of Dudley's career, from his military ventures to his courtly positions to his private life – all in Stedall's lucid prose and objective style.' (~Professor Steve Veerapen, Strathclyde University)


• Chosen as one of Aspects of History's Books of the Year 2020.


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In many respects Dudley was the most significant figure of his age. As a great impresario, he showed Elizabeth off to her people to glittering effect and became the forerunner of Shakespearian theatre, combining classicism with ribaldry. He attracted the financing of Drake’s circumnavigation. He was the supporter of academic endeavour, of poetry, and of Puritan scholarship. By employing a network of his own agents, he provided information of crucial importance to Government. He built some of the finest houses and gardens of the age. As Master of the Horse, he developed English bloodstock to provide horses for Royal and military requirements. He saw to it that England’s navy and army was properly prepared to meet Continental aggression when needed.

Lord Robert Dudley has faced criticism from historians by competing with William Cecil to gain the ear of Elizabeth I and thwarting his efforts to arrange a political marriage for her to protect against Continental Catholic aggression. There can be no doubt that Elizabeth wanted to marry him. He was devastatingly attractive, athletic and loyal. The text provides compelling evidence that the ‘virgin queen’ spent time in bed with him.

An influential and important character of the Elizabethan age, this biography places Robert Dudley within the context of the time and how he navigated court as the favourite of the infamous Elizabeth I.

This book offers a complex and detailed story of how Robert Dudley came to prominence at Elizabeth's court. His background, family and whereabouts are traced with great care, and his relationship with Elizabeth is discussed as well. The book starts with Robert's father, John Dudley, who was executed for his involvement in placing Lady Jane Grey on the throne in 1553. Robert's private and political lives are outlined in this book, and I've learned a great deal about the man. There's also a comprehensive list of references and a bibliography.
If you're interested in Dudley, this is the book for you!

Read the full review here

GoodReads, Constant Reader

I recommend this book for all true lovers of the virgin queen.

NetGalley, Willy Marz

Article: 'Sussex author sets out to unravel Elizabethan spin and propaganda

Chichester Observer, 1st June 2020 - words by Phil Hewitt

A well researched and written book about Robert Dudley arguably the most important person in Queen Elizabeth I life.I recommend for any Tudor history lover.

NetGalley, Shelly Myers

Stedall has an engaging no-nonsense writing style, leavened with a wry humor. His commitment is to the facts, and it can be challenging to follow the alliances and misalliances, as Spain, France and England vie with each other for control of Europe. But all in all, this story practically tells itself. It offers confirmation, if we needed it, that the story of England’s Tudors will never, ever grow old."

Minneapolis Star-Tribune, July 2020

Although I have read many books about the Tudor period I knew little of Robert Dudley's life. In those books focusing on the reign of Elizabeth I, Dudley is often made out as a playboy, swanning around court, safe in the knowledge he was the Queen's favourite. This book gives a detailed overview of his life including his success as Master of the Horse, his patronage of the arts as well as his life in the military. We will never know if he and Elizabeth I were lovers but Robert Dudley certainly played an important part in her life.

NetGalley, Jen Lynch

A colorful and engaging biography!

Robert Dudley was a very enigmatic figure and one that knew how to circulate and navigate the sticky rules of the court. Through his friendship and supposed love affair with Queen Elizabeth I, he rose to greater heights. This was surprising to many, as his family had the taint of traitors, his father having been put into the Tower for treason.

Robert Dudley was more than just a plaything for the queen. He was an intellectual, he was a thinker who would go to any lengths to get where he wanted to be, and what he wanted.
Although part of the book deals with Elizabeth I, the rest deals with Robert himself, and the full life that he lived. Although the taint of murder still lingers over his head, with the death of his wife, there are so many other aspects to Robert.

For a great biography on Robert Dudley, then you need to grab this book! Perfect and full! Robert Stedall has written the ultimate book, which will go down as one of the best books on Dudley in the future.

NetGalley, Rebecca Hill

A time of huge characters and dark deeds captured to perfection in Robert's text.

Books Monthly

I was semi-familiar with most of this because of Anne Somerset's biography on Elizabeth I. I had just never read events from Robert's perspective or knew as much about Robert since, in that, the focus is obviously Elizabeth. He's a very interesting man and his history is just interesting in and of itself without her. The man had an eventful life, to say the least. I definitely want this one for my Tudor shelf so I can review it slower at my leisure!

NetGalley, Caidyn Young

Robert Stedall has a really interesting writing style, I enjoy it. It's informative and I always enjoy his books!

Watch the full video review here

Lil's Vintage World

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I love the Tudor era and will read everything and anything given the opportunity so was thrilled to be able to read this

I absolutely LOVED this - well researched and written in an absorbing and accessible way - I learned so much

A privilege to have been able to read this - cant rate highly enough

NetGalley, Maria Martignetti

I really enjoyed this book. I appreciate how it looks more at Robert Dudley than most books about that time period, which usually focus on Elizabeth 1.

NetGalley, Jenny Reynolds

This non-fiction is much, much more than just a tale of the love affair between the Queen and her Robin. It's quite lengthy, with detailed panorama of the political world and its niceties during the reign of Elizabeth I. I knew a lot of details concerning Rober Dudley, however, it turned out that I was unaware of how strong his political ambitions were. The book delivers everything you might want to learn about Robert.

NetGalley, Beata B. Reviewer

Although I was aware Robert Dudley was a favourite of Elizabeth I and had read about the mystery surrounding his wife Amy Robsart's death I was unaware of much else regarding Dudley.

Stedall gives a detailed overview of his life including his youth which was very intriguing. Through reading this I've learnt about Dudley' s accomplishments as a military man and his patronage of the arts.

I'd previously thought Dudley a somewhat social butterfly of Elizabeth's court I've now learnt how much of an important role he played in advising Elizabeth and providing balance to her other advisors like Cecil.

It also highlights how Elizabeth often used their relationship to demoralise Dudley and use him to her advantage.

The book is clearly the result of a lot of research produced in a well written manner.

NetGalley, Amy McElroy

Lord Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, loved by Elizabeth I but seemingly hated by many others. Even the Cate Blanchett film 'Elizabeth' paints him as ultimately traitorous to the Queen, but what was Leicester really like? Did he kill his first wife so he could marry Elizabeth? Was he Machiavellian or misunderstood?

This book goes a long to help rehabilitate Leicester's reputation and it seems he was no worse than many others of the era including his longtime enemy Cecil/Burleigh. In fact he was a patron of the arts, a competent military man, and was in many ways indispensable to the Queen. He made many mistakes and was not perfect, but then again neither was Elizabeth who could be mercurial to say the least. It is likely that (as in the title), Leicester was Elizabeth's lover at one point, but as we know, she could never quite bring herself to marry him. The author also gives the reader plenty of background history which helps to explain why things happened as they did. It's an interesting read which doesn't become too bogged down with historical dates and extraneous detail, and I recommend this if you are a fan of Tudor history.

NetGalley, Gayle Noble

Whether or not Dudley was liked by contemporaries other than Elizabeth, or whether anyone else has written his life since 1974, the fact is that Stedall has now taken up the challenge with a terrific book which I have very much enjoyed. I can well believe that it did require fortitude and much research and in the process it contributes to the de-mystification which Paul Johnson saw the need for. What is pleasing about it is that it does justice not just to an amazing person in Robert, but also to a touching relationship between two of the most extraordinary people in our history at the height of their powers, and on the right side of history also.

Alan Ground, Customer Review

I’m pretty sure this was Joseph Fiennes’ role in the first Elizabeth movie with Cate Blanchett? ... yep, that's the guy! Stedall gives the full scoop on Dudley, him being bevied by a career as a soldier, semi-amateur architect and designer; married three times (including the mysterious death of his second wife falling down stairs, weakened bones with breast cancer); entering Elizabeth I's favor, gifts of land, rank, being an interlocutor between her and people seeking her favor, arranging dances and dinners, spending time together hunting and riding; the co-occurrence of a lot of regional/mainland European warfare, later in the Netherlands and Spain; how it would have been like if Elizabeth I and Dudley had married; and converting from Catholic to Puritan.

NetGalley, Kristine Fisher

The majority of historical novels paint Robert Dudley as a pretty boy who is always scheming to be King of England. Little is said about his court duties and exploits at war. This author documents how necessary Robert Dudley was to balance out the advice Elizabeth I got from so many advisors. Robert stepped on many toes while in this advisory position but Elizabeth always knew she could count on him, even when she disagreed with him. It was disappointing to find that Elizabeth was so changeable and moody . She could not be counted on to finance the many ventures she began yet she always had beautiful clothing, fine jewels and so many court favorites with their hands out. I liked this Robert, Elizabeth I, not so much.

NetGalley, Donna Pingry

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book provides an interesting and well informed account of Robert Dudley, a character I previously knew very little about. I liked how well supported the 'facts' of this book were, as so much of the history of this time can be supposition. However, I really felt the author knew what he was talking about here and clearly he has a great passion for his topic - thank you Robert, I learned a lot.

NetGalley, Amelia Louise

About Robert Stedall

Throughout his adult life Robert Stedall has been fascinated by genealogy. He is the curator of the popular www.maryqueenofscots.net and author of The Challenge to the Crown and The Survival of the Crown, a ground-breaking two-volume history of Mary Queen of Scots and her son, James VI of Scotland. He has written Mary Queen of Scots’ DownfallThe Roots of Ireland’s Troubles and Elizabeth I’s Secret Lover for Pen and Sword.

Perfect Partner

Elizabeth I's Final Years Her Favourites and Her Fighting Men (Hardback)

Elizabeth I's Final Years outlines the interwoven relationships and rivalries between politicians and courtiers surrounding England’s omnipotent queen in the years following the death in 1588 of the Earl of Leicester. Elizabeth now surrounded herself with magnetically attractive younger men with the courtly graces to provide her with what Alison Weir has called ‘an eroticised political relationship’. With these ‘favourites’ holding sway at court, they saw personal bravery in the tiltyard or on military exploits as their means to political authority. They failed to appreciate that the…

By Robert Stedall

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