8 September 1560 – The Death of Amy Dudley, wife of Robert Dudley

Unknown lady by Levina Teerlinc, some say it is Amy Robsart
Unknown lady by Levina Teerlinc, some say it is Amy Robsart

On Sunday 8th September 1560, Amy Dudley (nee Robsart) died at Cumnor Place near Abingdon, her rented accommodation.

Her death is rather a mystery. Her body was found at the foot of the stairs when her servants returned from their day out at the Abingdon Fair and although the coroner ruled that Amy, “being alone in a certain chamber… accidentally fell precipitously down”, there were rumours and mutterings that her husband, Robert Dudley, and even Queen Elizabeth I, had been poisoning Amy and had arranged her death.

You can read more about her death in my article 8 September 1560 – The Mysterious Death of Amy Robsart

3 thoughts on “8 September 1560 – The Death of Amy Dudley, wife of Robert Dudley

  1. In September 2007 Dr David Starkey published an article in the Telegraph stating that in his opinion he was 95% certain this was a portrait of Lady Jane Grey. He had been researching in the British Library and come across an Grey family inventory which appears to describe the jewels this young woman is wearing. One of the tokens on her bodice is a ‘gilly’ flower, which is thought to be a symbol of the shortened form of her husband’s name, Guildford. Lady Jane was, of course, married to Guildford Dudley.

    The age of the sitter is shown as XVIII i.e. eighteen years of age.

    It has also been suggested that this miniature (in the Yale University collection) is of Elizabeth I as a princess. This does not follow the face pattern of either the Teerlinc Coronation portrait Elizabeth, or later portraits of her by Nicholas Hilliard.

    Starkey further suggests that the artist was Levina Teerlinc, but I do not agree and in my correspondence with Dr Starkey, I suggested it was, in fact, by Susannah Horenbout because Teerlinc was known to be beloved of Mary I. This evidence is contained in the creation of the lifetime annuity granted to Teerlinc in 1559 by Elizabeth (UK National Archives)

    I am currently working on the sequel to my novel, The Truth of the Line (www.thetruthoftheline.co,uk) which will tell more about the life and work of Levina Teerlinc and her relationship with four of the Tudor monarchs. If you want to know more about Hilliard and his work, why not read my novel, published by MadeGlobal publishing and if you visit TheAnneBoleynfiles.com website, you can just click on the image.

  2. I have always been saddened by the death of Amy Robsart. Robert Dudley it seems to me had more to lose by arranging his wife’s death than he did by her having an accident or dying naturally. He was high in favour at court, the queen fancied him, although I don’t believe that Elizabeth I would have married him anyway, but all this would have made that impossible. Elizabeth could not afford such a scandal as murder would bring. Yes monarchs did arrange the odd assassination of rivals but I think that would be a great rival, a really dangerous threat. Poor Amy, neglected by her husband of ten years or so, a young woman living in a friend’s house in the country was hardly any threat to Elizabeth or anyone else. Now for sure, Elizabeth could be nasty at times, but the ordering of the death of a housewife is not her style.

    The information in the recent investigation in 2010 onwards while fascinating did not prove anything. I found the two letters and the gloves and her ordering a new dress very touching, but it did not reveal anything new to conclude that Amy was murdered. Elizabeth I risked being isolated and condemned by contemporaries if she allowed Dudley, her lover to kill his wife. Dudley risked being denounced by the queen and even tried and executed for murder or conspiracy or some other crime, although he could have fixed the autopsy. However, his own letters show that he was very upset and anxious to get to the truth. Amy could have committed suicide, she was ill and depressed, she acted oddly by sending all the servants and her companions away for the day. You never stayed alone in the house in her class in this time. The argument against this is that suicide was a mortal sin, but her possible depression could have overcome this belief. No, sadly I think what I did before the book by Chris Skidmore or the documentary in 2010, that Amy was ill, it is believed that she had cancer, for some reason feeling exhausted went to bed after the servants went to the fair and having gotten up, needed something, forgot that she was alone and in an attempt to get say pain tablets or refreshments came down the stairs but was too ill and weak to do anything and fell. She banged her head and died, probably instantly. The two dents are too small to be from a weapon. I just hope that the poor lady died quickly, wth no pain.

    The information that we have did not give us enough evidence to make any firm conclusion. We don’t know if she died of illness, an accident or some more violent cause, but it was a sad end to a lady who deserved better.

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