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Elizabeth I's Secret Lover (Hardback)

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

British History P&S History Colour Books Tudors & Stuarts 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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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.

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

Robert Stedall has made a specialist study of Tudor history and is the curator of the popular www.maryqueenofscots.net. He has also written Men of Substance, on the London Livery Companies’ reluctant part in the Plantation of Ulster. Following Mary Queen of Scots’ Downfall, a biography of Lord Darnley, and Ireland’s Troubles this will be his third book for Pen and Sword.

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In the early hours of 10 February 1567 a large explosion ripped through the Old Provost’s lodgings at Kirk o’ Field, Edinburgh, where Mary Queen of Scotland’s consort, Henry Lord Darnley, was staying. Darnley’s body was found with that of his valet in a neighbouring garden the next morning. The Queen’s husband had been suffocated and the ramifications for Mary and Scottish history would be far-reaching. Lord Darnley cuts an infamous figure in Scottish and Tudor history. In life he proved a controversial character, and his murder at Kirk o’ Field in 1567 remains one of British history’s…

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