8th September 1560 – Death of Amy Robsart

Posted By claire on September 8, 2010

The Death of Amy Robsart by William Frederick Yeames

The Death of Amy Robsart by William Frederick Yeames

On this day in history, 8th September, 1560, Amy Dudley (née Robsart), wife of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, died at her home, Cumnor Place in Oxfordshire. Her servants found her body at the bottom of the stairs when they returned from “Our Lady’s Fair” at Abingdon, it appeared that she had fallen down the stairs.

At the inquest into Amy’s death, the coroner ruled that Amy’s death was the result of “misfortune”, an accident, but there is still controversy today over Amy’s death – was it suicide, murder or an accident? You can read more about Amy’s death in the following articles:-


12 Responses to “8th September 1560 – Death of Amy Robsart”

  1. Christine says:

    One must see that, according to the coroner’s report, Amy was alone in her chamber (with adjacent stairs), it was not that the entire house was abandoned. There lived other people there with their servants etc. She had only sent away her own entourage that day. The putative murder scene stairs came down from the gallery at the other side of the building complex, but that’s clearly not what the coroner’s report is saying: It says she fell down the stairs by her room “down to the very bottom” (these stairs cannot be reconstructed), breaking her neck and sustaining two head injuries, the locations of which are not given. So, either one takes the report seriously or not.

    That the murder faction among historians need to make use of that piece of religious hatred called “Leicester’s Commonwealth”, combined with a collection of street gossip by a former client of the Duke of Somerset who hated the Dudley family, tells it all. If you start picking your history from Leicester’s Commonwealth you can go on as well picking it from the Protocols of the Sages of Zion.

    I sometimes think that’s typical of England: They are obsessed with murder; everywhere is Midsomer it seems! The coroner’s report is absolutely compatible with an accident (or suicide), though. Compare http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20141554, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18471221 (there is much more) . The sad thing is that historians are mostly naive and prejudiced regarding medical things. There are also several recent cases of modern British coroner’s inquests which feature fatal stair falls as accidents.

  2. Claire says:

    Oh, I do love Midsomer Murders! I know exactly what you mean though, Christine, we do have a tendency to turn everything into a conspiracy! I think Amy was weak and in pain and she simply fell. As she was dying anyway, there was no reason for Dudley to bump her off and William Cecil, however much he wanted to stop Elizabeth’s relationship with Dudley, would not have harmed his beloved Queen by getting Amy murdered and causing scandal. Accident in my opinion, a tragic accident.

  3. Christine says:

    Thanks, Claire! I am addicted to Midsomer Murders! I am always preordering the newest DVDs and can’t wait … I just think that accident is a real possibility that has too often been overlooked. The strangest things do happen in one’s own home; it’s statistically one of the most dangerous places regarding accidents.

  4. Claire says:

    The Midsomer Murders are brilliant. I do love John Nettles, ever since he was Bergerac! Yes, it could well have been an accident, particularly if Amy was having dizzy spells or was tired and not able to concentrate. Also one theory was that her bones may have been fragile due to her cancer. I do enjoy a good conspiracy theory but I think this was a simple accident.

  5. Fiz says:

    I agree with Claire, and neither do I think Dudley was that stupid!

  6. Carol says:

    I also think that Amy’s death was a tragic accident. Robert Dudley was far too intelligent, he would have known that he would have been the first person to have been thought guilty if foul play had been suspected. William Cecil had more of a motive, but he was also devoted to Elizabeth and I don’t think that he would have risked her reputation being tarnished.

  7. lisaannejane says:

    I think people forget how easy it is to slip on steps. At my mom’s former townhouse, I managed to trip on the top step and slid all the way down – my back was sore for days. I also tripped on two stairs at work and ended up with a badly sprained foot – I did go into work feeling sick that day and was so tired that I just lost my balance. Poor Amy, I have no doubt that she could have had a fatal accident if she was already in poor health.

  8. Impish_Impulse says:

    lisaannejane, as someone who is ‘balance-challenged’, I can totally believe it was simply an accident. I think that poor woman was ill, in pain, and simply fell. It’s the simplest explanation that fits the known facts.

    I DO understand how people want to make it this big mystery or conspiracy, though. It’s more interesting.

  9. Catharine says:

    I don’t think Dudley did it either. He was too smart and would know that he would be the primary suspect if he were to bump her off. Although I wonder, if the staircase was a short as it is in the painting, would she really be hurt enough to kill her? There’s like five steps! Meh. If she was ill then I guess her bones would be weakened right?

  10. Fareshteh Aslam says:

    I agree with everything said above about Dudley not being as stupid and Cecil not that cruel. It could have been an accident – or it could have been suicide. Amy was dying, she was sick at heart too, knowing Robert was always with Elizabeth and she couldn’t hold a candle to the Glorious Gloriana. A more scheming woman may have thrown herself down out of revenge. However from what we know of Amy Robsart – gentle, sweet, placid, a misfit at Court, left alone in the country for long periods of time – I can’t help feeling she could have taken her own life out of sheer despair. It sealed Dudley’s fate and gave the Queen a perfect reason to never alter her marital status. How fascinating were those times!!!

  11. Fiz says:

    I have a real problem with the idea of Amy committing suicide. It was regarded as a terrible sin to do such a thing. We have gone a long way from the idea that such a thing is wrong. It was not really until recently that suicide lost its stigma.

  12. Christine says:

    She died on my birthday exactly 400 years before, yes I too believe it was just a tragic accident she was ill and probably just stumbled, the long gowns they wore must have hampered her steps it’s easy done, people have to have a murder tho to spice up life, make it more interesting, she had been resting in her bedroom and so was probably feeling sleepy that added to her illness made her vulnerable, it was very very sad, Dudley nor Elizabeth would have killed an innocent woman I’m sure of it, they wernt stupid as there was gossip about them anyway, for his wife to die suddenly like that would have pointed the finger right at them had they married soon after and no way would Elizabeth endanger her position, Dudley gave her a magnificent funeral I heard and must have mourned her however much he was involved with the Queen.

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