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NEW, COMPLETE, AND GENUINE
LIVES AND WRITINGS
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EVERY AGE AND NATION.
UDLEY (ROBERT), baron of Denbigh, and earl of Leicefter, fon to John, duke of Northumberland, and brother to Ambrofe, earl of Warwick, before mentioned, was born about 1532; and coming early into the fervice and favour of king Edward, was knighted in his youth. June 1550, he espoused Amy, daughter of Sir John Robfart, at Sheen in Surrey, the king honouring their nuptials with his prefence; and was immediately advanced to confiderable offices at court. In the first year of Mary, he fell into the fame misfortunes with the reft of his family; was imprifoned, tried, and condemned; but pardoned for life, and fet at liberty in October 1554. He was afterwards restored in blood, as we have observed in the last article of our fourth volume. On the acceffion of Elizabeth, he was immediately entertained at court as a principal favourite: he was made mafter of the horfe, inftalled knight of the garter, and fworn of the privy-council, in a very fhort time. He obtained moreover prodigious grants, one after another, from the crown: and all things gave way to his ambition, influence, and policy. In his attendance upon the queen to Cambridge, the highest reverence was paid him he was lodged in Trinity-College, confulted in all things, requests made to the queen through him; and, August 10, 1564, he on his knees entreated the queen to fpeak to the univerfity in Latin, which fhe accordingly did. At court, however, Thomas, earl of Suffex, fhewed himself averfe to his counfels, and strongly promoted the overture of a marriage between the queen and the archduke Charles, of Auftria; as much more worthy of fuch a princefs, than any fubject of her own, let his qualities be what they would. This was refented by Dudley, who infinuated, VOL. V. A
that foreign alliances were always fatal; that her fifter Mary never knew an eafy minute after her marriage with Philip; that her majefty ought to confider, fhe was herself defcended of fuch a marriage as by thofe lofty notions was decried: so that she could not contemn an alliance with the nobility of England, but must at the fame time reflect on her father's choice, and her mother's family. This difpute occafioned a violent rupture between the two lords, which the queen took into her hands, and compofed; but without the leaft diminution of Dudley's afcendancy, who still continued to folicit and obtain new grants and offices for himself and his dependants, who were fo numerous, and made fo great a figure, that he was ftyled by the common people "The Heart of the Court."
To give fome colour to these marks of royal indulgence, the queen propofed him as a fuitor to Mary, queen of Scots; promifing to that princefs all the advantages the could expect or defire, either for herself or her fubjects, in cafe fhe confented to the match. The fincerity of this was fufpected at the time, when the deepest politicians believed that, if the queen of Scotland had complied, it would have ferved only to countenance the preferring him to his fovereign's bed. The queen of Scots rejected the propofal in a manner that, fome have thought, proved as fatal to her, as it had done to his own lady, who was fuppofed to be facrificed to his ambition of marrying a queen. The death of this unfortunate perfon happened September 8, 1560, at a very unlucky juncture for his reputation; because the world at that time conceived it might be much for his conveniency to be without a wife, this ifland having then two queens, young, and without hufbands. The manner too of this poor lady's death, which, was by a fall from a high place, filled the world with great confternation.
Sept. 1564, the queen created him baron of Denbigh, and, the day after, earl of Leicefter, with all the pomp and ceremony imaginable; and, before the clofe of the year, he was made chancellor of Oxford, as he had been fome time before high-fteward of Cambridge. His great influence in the court of England was not only known at home, but abroad, which induced the French king, Charles IX. to fend him the order of St. Michael, then the most honourable in France; and he was inftalled with great folemnity in 1565. About 1572, it is fuppofed that the earl married Douglas, baronefs dowager of Sheffield: which however was managed with fuch privacy, that it did not come to the queen's ears, though a great deal of fecret hiftory was published, even in thofe days, concerning the adventures of this unfortunate lady. We call her unfortunate, because, though the carl had actually married her, and there were legal proofs of it, yet he never would own her as his wife. Some of the wits in queen Elizabeth's court, after the carl's public marriage with the countefs dowager of Effex, ftyled
thefe two ladies, Leicester's two Teftaments; calling lady Douglas the Old, and lady Effex the New Teftament. The earl, in order to ftifle this affair, propofed every thing he could think of to lady Douglas Sheffield, to make her defift from her pretenfions: but, finding her obftinate, and refolved not to comply with his propofals, he attempted to take her off by poifon. It is however beyond all doubt, that the earl had by her a fon, Sir Robert Dudley, of whom we shall speak hereafter, and to whom, by the name of his BASE SON, he left the bulk of his fortune; and also a daughter.
In 1576 happened the death of Walter, earl of Effex, which drew upon lord Leicester many suspicions, especially after his marriage with the countess of Effex was declared; as it was two years after. For, in 1578, when the duke of Anjou preffed the match that had been propofed between himself and the queen, his agent, believing lord Leicester to be the greatest bar to the duke's pretenfions, informed the queen of his marriage with lady Effex; upon which her majesty was fo enraged, that, as Camden relates, fhe commanded him not to ftir from the caftle of Greenwich, and would have committed him to the Tower, if she had not been diffuaded from it by the earl of Suffex. Lord Leicefter being now in the very height of power and influence, many attempts were made upon his character, in order to take him down: and, in 1584, came out a moft virulent book against him, commonly called "Leicefter's Commonwealth." The drift of it was to fhew, that the English conftitution was fubverted, and a new form imperceptibly introduced, to which no name could be fo properly given, as that of a "Leiceftrian Commonwealth." To make this pass the better, the earl was represented as an atheist in point of religion, a secret traitor to the queen, an oppreffor of her people, an inveterate enemy to the nobility, a complete monfter with regard to ambition, cruelty, and luft; and not only fo, but as having thrown all offices of truft into the hands of his creatures, and ufurped all the power of the kingdom. The queen, however, did not fail to countenance and protect her favourite: and, to remove as much as poffible the impreffion this bitter performance was fure to make upon the vulgar, caufed letters to be iffued from the privy-council, in which all the facts contained therein were declared to be abfolutely falfe, not only to the knowledge of thofe who figned them, but alfo of the queen herfelf. Nevertheless, this book was univerfally read, and the contents of it generally received for true: and the great fecrecy with which it was wrote, printed, and published, induced a fufpicion, that fome very able heads were concerned either in drawing it up, or at leaft in furnithing the materials. It is not well known what the original title of it was, but fuppofed to be " A Dialogue between a fcholar, a gentleman, and a lawyer;" though it was afterwards called " Leicefter's ComA 2
monwealth." It has been feveral times reprinted, particularly in 1600, 8vo. in 1631, 8vo. the running-title being "A Letter of flate to a scholar of Cambridge;" in 1641, 4to. and 8vo. with the addition of "Leicefter's Ghoft;" and again in 1706, 8vo. under the title of "Secret Memoirs of Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester," with a preface by Dr. Drake, who pretended it to be printed from an old manufcript. The defign of reprinting it in 1641, was, to give an ill impreffion of the government of Charles I. and the like was fuppofed to be the defign of Dr. Drake in his publication. Indeed, it may be confidered as a ftanding libel upon all overgrown minifters, and governments by faction.
Dec. 1585, lord Leicester embarked for the Proteftant LowCountries, whither he arrived in quality of governor. At this time the affairs of thofe countries were in a perplexed fituation; and the ftates thought that nothing could contribute fo much to their recovery, as prevailing upon queen Elizabeth to send over fome perfon of great diftinction, whom they might fet at the head of their concerns, civil and military which propofition, fays Camden, fo much flattered the ambition of this potent earl, that he willingly confented to pafs the feas upon this occafion, as being well aflured of most ample powers. Before his departure, the queen admonished him to have a fpecial regard to her honour, and to attempt nothing inconfiftent with the great employment to which he was advanced: nevertheless, he was fo difpleased with fome proceedings of his and the States, that the year after she sent over very fevere letters to them, which drew explanations from the former, and deep fubmiffions from the latter. He returned to England Nov. 1585; and, notwithstanding what was paft, was well received by the queen. What contributed to make her majefty forget his offence in the Low-Countries, was the pleasure of having him near her, when he wanted his counfel extremely: for now the affair of Mary queen of Scots was upon the carpet, and the point was, how to have her taken off with the leaft difcredit to the queen. The earl thought it beft to have her poisoned; but that scheme was not found practicable, fo that they were obliged to have recourfe to violence. The earl fet out for the Low-Countries in June 1587; but, great difcontents arifing on all fides, was recalled in November. Camden relates, that on his return, finding an accufation preparing against him for mal-administration there, and that he was fummoned to appear before the council, he privately implored the queen's protection, and befought her "not to receive him with difgrace upon his return, whom at his firft departure the had fent out with honour; nor bring down alive to the grave, whom her former goodnefs had raifed from the duft." Which expreflions of humility and forrow wrought fo far upon her, that he was admitted into her former grace and favour.