Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex

On this day in history, 10th November 1565, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex and favourite of Elizabeth I was born (some say 19th November 1566) at Netherwood, Herefordshire, to his parents, Lettice Knollys, granddaughter of Mary Boleyn, and Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex.

I have written before about the life and death of Robert Devereux – see The Execution of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex.

By the way, why do you think Elizabeth I was so fond of Devereux? Did he remind her of Dudley? Was her relationship with him an attempt to hold on to or recapture her youth? Was she really attracted to him?

Please do share your thoughts in the comments section below.

3 thoughts on “Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex

  1. I think her feelings for Essex were quite complex. I think after losing Dudley, there was a huge void in her life and, because Essex was connected to him, she would have been fond of him. I think there was sexual tension on her part–she was attracted to him as a man but also I think there were very tender maternal feelings as well. After all, she was past menopause and her libido was probably somewhat diminished. She had never had a son and he was close to that–she forgave him so many of his screw-ups as a mother would, not a lover. And I think she may have enjoyed taking the time of another of the She Wolf’s men, getting attentions away from Lettyce Knollys. She was facing old age, losing her looks–a young man’s attentions would have been most welcome.

  2. I guess Essex’s ability to manage her legacy was the spark between them. In the end, he defied her and the succession of Mary Stewart’s son was left to Cecil. Not quite the rosy end she hoped for.

  3. It is interesting to speculate that Robert Devereux “Earl of Essex” was both the son of Elizabeth’s 2nd cousin Lettice Knolly, and step son to (…possibly even the actual son of) her true lifetime love and favorite Robert Dudley ~ hence Elizabeth’s surrogate “son”, the one she never could truly have had with Dudley. Elizabeth maintained a lifetime anger and jealousy toward Lettice who had once been one of her ladies of the privy Council, but had an affair as early as 1565 with Dudley (exactly the time frame within which Devereux was conceived) and who later Dudley Secretly married. Lettice had all of Elizabeth’s former (pre-small pox) beauty and also the Boleyn family resemblance inherited through her Grandmother Mary Boleyn (Elizabeth’s maternal aunt). Robert Devereux remained her favorite though he vexed her thoroughly and frequently during his life. That she continued to wear his ring till her death speaks to a enduring attachment; as Lettice was for Robert Dudley the “Elizabeth” he could never marry, so also (perhaps) was Devereux the “son” and heir by Dudley she most desperately would have had of him…

    It seems inconceivable that Devereux was ever a romantic interest of the Queen’s … let’s remember that Elizabeth was 55 by the time of the Armada, and Dudley’s death, when “Essex” was barely 20. She was nearly 68 at the time of his rebellion and execution. This is much more of a maternal preference towards Dudley’s son or step son.

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