The Arthur Dudley Myth

Following on from the Bisley Boy legend and the myth that Elizabeth I was really genetically male, I just had to write about Arthur Dudley, a man who has been the subject of books and documentaries, a man who some say was the illegitimate son of Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley.

I decided to research the story after Jennifer commented on the Bisley Boy post saying that she had read of a man turning up at the Spanish Court and claiming he was Elizabeth and Dudley’s son. I love mysteries and conspiracy theories so I just had to know more and I actually found some great research material – a chapter in Sarah Gristwood’s “Elizabeth & Leicester” and an article on the Dudley Genealogy website. So, are you sitting comfortably? Then let me begin…

Arthur Dudley – Heir to the Throne or Impostor?

The Tudor era had seen many people claiming that they were heirs to the throne – Perkin Warbeck, the famous pretender who claimed to be Richard Duke of York, one of the Princes in the Tower; Lambert Simnel who pretended to be Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick, son of George, Duke of Clarence (Edward IV’s brother) ; and the madwoman Anne Burnell who claimed to be the daughter of Mary I and Philip of Spain – so there was really nothing new about Arthur Dudley and his story, particularly when there were already rumours circulating during Elizabeth’s reign that her summer progresses were cover-ups for her giving birth to illegitimate children! However, the fact that he turned up at King Philip of Spain’s court might have been worrying to Elizabeth, unless he was in fact an English spy.

Arthur’s Story

In the summer of 1587, a Spanish ship intercepted a boat off the coast of San Sebastian which was heading for France. One of the passengers aboard this boat was a young man in his 20s who claimed to be a Catholic who had undertaken a pilgrimage to a shrine at Montserrat. The Spanish officials arrested the man, suspecting that he was an English spy, and incarcerated him at San Sebastian. The man asked to Sir Francis Englefield, a Catholic who had once been an adviser to Mary I and who was now in exile at the Spanish Court, and it was then that he told his story.

The young man, claiming to be called Arthur Dudley, told of how he had been raised by Robert Southern, a man who had once been a servant of Kat Ashley, Elizabeth I’s governess and friend, in a village around 60 miles outside of London. On Southern’s deathbed, he had told Arthur that he was not his real father but refused to tell him any more. Arthur had stormed off but Smyth, a schoolmaster who was sent after Arthur by Southern, told Arthur the truth, that he was the son of Robert Dudley and the Queen.

Arthur went on to tell Englefield that Southern had been handed a baby after being summoned to Hampton Court and that he had been told to name him Arthur and raise him as his own. Southern had been told at first that the baby belonged to one of the Queen’s ladies, but, when Arthur ran away to sea as a teenager and was stopped by a letter from Elizabeth I’s privy councillors and ordered back to London with John Ashely, Kat Ashley’s husband, it became clear that he was someone important.

Arthur told Englefield of how he had taken flight abroad, fearing for his life, when it became known that Arthur knew the secret of his birth. He also told of how, at one point, he had been taken before Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, by officers named Blount and Fludd (who did exist), and that Dudley had shown him affection “by tears, words, and other demonstrations” and had said “You are like a ship under full sail at sea, pretty to look upon but dangerous to deal with”. Dudley had then ordered Arthur to be taken out of the country under the supervision of Sir Francis Walsingham. Arthur then told Englefield of how Walsingham’s manner had scared him so he escaped once again and joined a group of English soldiers who were on their way to serve in Flanders.

Arthur’s rather long and complicated story told of his many travels and his fear that he would be tracked down and murdered by Elizabeth’s agents to hush him up. It was a brilliantly told story and the fact that it contained plausible events and real people, like Fludd and Blount, must have made it seem slightly plausible but Englefield was suspicious. He sent a statement to King Philip and included a letter from Arthur with it. Arthur’s letter to the King said:-

“If God grants that his Majesty should take me under his protection, I think it will be necessary to spread a rumour that I have escaped, as everybody knows that I am here, and my residence in future can be kept secret. I could then write simply and sincerely to the Earl of Leicester all that has happened to me, in order to keep in his good graces; and I could also publish a book to any effect that might be considered desirable, in which I should show myself to be everybody’s friend and nobody’s enemy…”

Gristwood writes of how Englefield made further reports back to the King after he had questioned Arthur again and Sandy Sellers, in the article “Arthur Dudley”, writes of how Englefield tested Arthur on his education, his knowledge of the Queen’s household (because he claimed to have spent his summers at one of the Queen’s houses in Enfield) and his knowledge of the people he had mentioned in his elaborate story. Apparently, Arthur passed these tests but Englefield was convinced that he was a spy and wrote to the King:-

“I am of the opinion that he should not be allowed to get away, but should be kept very secure to prevent his escape.”

According to the Venetian ambassador in Madrid, Arthur Dudley was then sent to the castle of Lameda, proof that he was thought to be an English spy. Sellers writes of how Englefield believed that Elizabeth was planning to acknowledge Arthur as her son and nominate him as heir to the throne to obstruct the claims of James VI of Scotland and King Philip. In Englefield’s opinion, Arthur Dudley was both an English spy and a English tool:-

“I think it very probable that the revelations that this lad is making everywhere may originate in the queen of England and her Council, and possibly with an object that Arthur himself does not yet understand. Perhaps, if they have determined to do away with the Scottish throne, they may encourage the lad to profess Catholicism, and claim to be the queen’s son, in order to discover the minds of other princes as to his pretensions, and the queen thereupon acknowledge him, or give him such other position as to neighbouring princes may appear favourable. Of perhaps in some other way they may be making use of him for their iniquitous ends.”

Englefield also wrote:-

“It also manifests that he has had much conference with the Earl of Leicester, upon whom he mainly depends for the fulfillment of his hopes. This and other things convince me that the queen of England is not ignorant of his pretensions; although, perhaps, she would be unwilling that they should be thus published to the world.”

Robert Dudley by Nicholas Hilliard

Gristwood believes that Englefield thought that Arthur was a “stooge” of Elizabeth I and her government, and the Venetians thought him to be a spy. Historian Martin Hume wondered if Arthur had actually been on a secret mission to report back to the English government on Spain’s preparations for war and was forced to concoct his story as a cover when he was arrested.

Whoever we believe Arthur to be, historical evidence shows him to have definitely existed and we even know from a letter sent to William Cecil in May 1588 that Arthur was costing the King of Spain 6 crowns a day to keep imprisoned. In 1590 a report to England mentioned a man purporting to be Leicester’s son being imprisoned in Alcantara, but Arthur is never mentioned again.

Could his Story Have Been True?

Sarah Gristwood writes of how Arthur’s story has been given credence in “The Secret Life of Elizabeth I”, a book by Paul Doherty who is an historian and novelist, and in novelist Robin Maxwell’s “The Queen’s Bastard”. But could Elizabeth really have had an illegitimate son by the Earl of Leicester or anyone else?

The letter written to William Cecil in 1588 about Arthur Dudley described him as being 27 which would give him a date of birth in 1561, a year where, according to Gristwood, records of Elizabeth’s movements are somewhat scanty. Gristwood goes on to write of how there are reports from the summer of 1561 of how Elizabeth looked like she had come from her childbed and how, according to the Spanish ambassador, she was “swelling extraordinarily” and was “dropsical”. When you put this together with:-

  • The fact that Elizabeth would have conceived in the winter of 1560/61, when marriage to Robert Dudley would have been impossible because of the scandal surrounding his wife’s death.
  • The fact that the name Arthur was in both the Dudley and Tudor trees
  • The fact that in 1562, when she was gravely ill, Elizabeth wanted to appoint Dudley as Lord Protector.

then you may begin to wonder if this is more than a conspiracy theory or tall tale.

But how on earth could Elizabeth have hidden a pregnancy?

I for one cannot believe that she could have hidden her pregnancy or childbirth from her council. Her ladies would have certainly noticed her weight gain and swelling and such scandal would surely have got out somehow, however hushed up Elizabeth tried to keep it. As Sarah Gristwood says:

“Do we really believe that someone as closely watched, as incessantly accompanied, as Elizabeth could have carried a pregnancy to term and given birth with no one knowing? Do we really believe that her ladies and councillors, her chambermaids and doctors were in on the act? And that no one, ever, would have breathed a word about the most saleable secret of the century?”

A resounding no!

Even when we consider that there are often stories today of teenage girls giving birth in secret after hiding their pregnancy under baggy clothes or the fact that Anne Vavasour, one of Elizabeth’s ladies, was able to keep her condition secret, I just can’t see how someone who was always in the public eye and always the centre of scandal and rumour could have given birth to an illegitimate child without anyone knowing, or without the story getting out. Also, can we really believe that Spanish officials managed to capture Elizabeth I’s illegitimate son just by chance? As Gristwood concludes, ” In the end I feel like the White Queen in “Alice”, asked to believe too many impossible things before breakfast”!

So, who was Arthur Dudley?

We just don’t know.

Gristwood wonders if he was in fact an English agent. She points out that Walsingham made good use of “agents provocateurs”, sending them undercover to gather information on foreign enemies, and that this may explain why Arthur Dudley suddenly disappears from history, perhaps he escaped and resumed his own identity. Whoever he was, it is very unlikely that he was the son of Dudley and the Queen.

Gristwood concludes her examination of the story of Arther Dudley by saying that we actually don’t know that Elizabeth slept with anyone, never mind giving birth to an illegitimate child, and by saying:

“In the world of fact, not fiction, I still believe that the “Virgin Queen” as more than just mythology”

and I have to agree with her. For me, there is no reason to believe that Elizabeth was not the person she said she was. Why is it so difficult for us to believe that she was a virgin and why, if we do believe in her virginity, do we have to explain it by implying that there was something wrong with her? I think Elizabeth made a life choice and stuck to it – period, end of story. What do you think?

More Conspiracy Theories

While browsing on the internet, I found a press release about a book called “Oxford, Son of Queen Elizabeth I” by Paul Streitz which claims that the Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, (AKA William Shakespeare) was the illegitimate son of Elizabeth I. The press release goes on to say:

“”Oxford, Son of Queen Elizabeth I” is the result of seven years of painstaking, meticulous historical research. Mr. Streitz reveals that historians have omitted or ignored historical documents that throw doubt on the myth of the Virgin Queen. He further uses new historical documents that show John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford, was forced into
marriage to provide a foster home for the newborn. The result of this research is a remarkable story of royal scandal, sex, murder, betrayal and incest with all the hallmarks of a gripping Elizabethan drama.

The book reveals:

  • How Elizabeth gave birth to the first of several illegitimate children and how that first child came to be known as ‘William Shakespeare.’
  • How ‘Shake-speare’s Sonnets’ reveals the relationship between Oxford, the Queen and the Earl of Southampton.
  • How Oxford’s story is found in the character of Hamlet and in Shakespeare’s Sonnets.
  • How there is line of descendants from Queen Elizabeth and the rightful King of England should be a descendant of the Tudor line of monarchs and of William Shakespeare.”

Has anyone read this book? Sounds intriguing!


65 thoughts on “The Arthur Dudley Myth

  1. Wow! That was a lot of research! I really don’t think she could have hidden her pregancy-there was just too much gossip in court & no one could’ve kept a secret like that for very long. I love myths surrounding the royal family of this time period. I haven’t read the book about Oxford yet-but it does sound like an interesting read.

  2. Hi Claire,

    I did read Robert Maxwell’s book but found it a bit of a Mills and Boon thing. But somehwere in my house I do have other info. – just can’t find it.

    Well you have mentioned William Shakespeare whose works I adore. However, his marriage lines to Anne Hathaway plus a lot more documentation which I don’t know of about teh Shaespeare family can be found in the records offioce in Worcester, England. I was surprised about this, having being born in Worcester which is 26 miles from Stratford as the crow flies, but it seems that in those days Stratford belonged to the diocese of Worcester – Now it belongs to the dociese of Coventry.

    You have certainly got me hooked when I should be doing other things but plese keep uup the good work

  3. I’ve only read Robin Maxwell’s Anne Boleyn books and I did enjoy those, she’s much more sympathetic to Anne Boleyn than Philippa Gregory! I must try and get hold of “The Queen’s Bastard” as I have skipped that in her trilogy because I’m just about to start “Virgin”.
    I adore the Bard too. I grew up near Stratford-upon-Avon and was always being taken to the Royal Shakespeare theatre on school trips so I’ve always loved his works, especially Hamlet, Macbeth and As You Like It. You were born in Worcester? Do you know Studley, my home village, and Alcester, where I went to school?
    Sorry I’m keeping you from your work, what do you do here in Spain?

  4. Hi Claire,

    This is so wierd – You live in Granada but were born near where I was born and I live in Madrid, sharing very similar tastes. My Shakespeare rota is Macbeth, Richard II, Hamlet and others in that order – Of course I know Studley and Alcester although I haven’t beeen to either places for many years.

    Now to put another spanner in the works!!!! In the Tudor period “Arthur” was an extremely popular name for boys but what happened to Guinevere, or as teh Cornish said “Gwenherfar”? The original name from which Jennifer (although I prefer “Jenny” derives but it was George bernard Shaw in the early 20th centurty that revived the modern name of Jennifer (Obviously, some more reserach to be done on this one) . Was the name not allowed in Tudor times because of the stigma of G’s affair with Sir Lancelot?

    And as you are in Spain, you know the translation to be “Ginebra” which means Guinevere, Geneva (the city) and Gin – Strange combination.

    In fact I am a self employed travel agent speciallicising in Britain and the Fiords of Norway. I also am the Spanish repr4esentative for BRITRAIL, Svandinavia Rail and go as you please tours around teh Fjords of Norway. I also organise conferences from time to time – It’s all very interesting but my love of history, gossip and intrigue, reading does help my job as my clients love to know all the backgrounds to traditions.

  5. Very weird! I was born in Lancashire but moved to Studley when I was 3 or 4 and lived there until I went to Warwick University. Yes, it’s interesting about Guinevere, especially when the whole Arthur legend and the idea of chivalry were so important in Tudor times. I do love the name Guinevere. I wonder…
    So, do you work from home? Never been to the Fjords but would love to one day.

  6. Warwick – what a wonderfulk city and an extremely incredible castle which, by the way, was never destroyed because whichever earl of Warwick was around, he knew how to jump fences.However, I know that in the past 20 years (or less) it was sold to Madame Tussauds who have done a splendid job with it and is really worth a day out or a medieaval banquet!

    With regards to “Guinevere”, from what legends say, Merlin advised Arthur not to marry the lady and forecast doom – perhaps that’s why the Tudors kept the name back from their list as they were a very superstitious lot.

    No I don’t work from home – Home is “sanctuary” although I seem to spend more time in the office than at home but I am lucky to enjoy what I am doing.

    Regarding the Fjords of Norway I would highly recommend a visit but “a su aire” which I orhanise. HIOWEVER, whilst one can get cjeap flights from most places in Spain with Ryan Air to various airports in Oslo, the country is the most expensive in Europe but, the safest and the Fjordic scenery outstanding. BTW the fiorst Queen of modern Norway, Maud, was English!!! And, the famous Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square comes from Norway each year as a thank you to the Brits for helping the Norwegians against the Nazis.

  7. I took the family to Warwick Castle just before we moved to Spain 3 and a half years ago and the jousting show was excellent, although I did rather fancy the wicked black knight!! I also love Kenilworth Castle but I haven’t been back since they did the Elizabeth garden – must go when I’m next in the UK in the summer. Yes, perhaps naming a child Guinevere was just tempting bad luck.
    There are so many places I want to see and I will definitely make it to the Fjords one day.

  8. Actually “Arthurs” haven’t fared that well either – The official heir to Richard 1 was Arthur son of Duke of Brittany and it is said that wicked King John done him in, Henry VII’s Arthur only lasted 6 months into marriage with Katherine of Aragon – (BTW – there is a theory that HVII had him poisoned because he was weak and HVII knew he wouldn’t produce an heir – got that from Worcester Tourist Board) There have been other Arthurs in the British Rotal family and teh present prince of Wales id known as Charles Philip Arthur George but at the rate his mother is lasting , will he ever make the throne. Like you I think the name Guinievee is lovely but also Arthur, the original known as “the onece and future King” according to legend which is probably why it was a fashionable name in Tudor times. It was well known that Henry VII was determined on this name for his first son to herald in a new age which, in reality lasted 3 generations although Liz 1 (as I call her) did the works and whatever we dig up about her, she will remain probably the most famous Queen of England even before Victoria.

  9. I’ve never heard that Henry VII poisoned Arthur, where did Worcester Tourist Board come up with that one from? Interesting! Yes, I think that Arthur was popular because the name was associated with a time of chivalry and romance, Henry VIII definitely saw himself as a King Arthur!

  10. The idea of Elizabeth somehow concealing her pregnancy during the royal progresses has always sounded odd to me – if not downright absurd. During these periods, the queen was more visible and seen by more people than when at court. She attended dinners, theatricals, hunts and other sporting events. She moved from place to place and was seen on the way by thousands of her subjects. Hardly the kind of thing you would do if you were trying to conceal a pregnancy, and even more unlikely that you would arrange to give birth under such circumstances.
    Great article – and it is good to explore this instance of an attempted double agent of the Queen’s secret service being planted in Spain on the eve of the Armada. The Spanish were too clever, however, with the arch-enemy of Elizabeth and Dudley (Englefield) on the case.

  11. Hi Claire,

    I can find very little info. about the death of Prince Arthur Tudor but there is a little info. if you go into and put in Worcester Prince Arthur Committee.

  12. Knowing about Elizabethan costume, the styles in the 1560s do not allow for hiding any form of pregnancy.

    There are references to existing gowns being let out to accommodate a pregnancy, stiff, fitted bodices being laced looser. No-one could tighten themselves enough in a Tudor bodice (corsets weren’t invented yet) to conceal a pregnancy.

    The very later period when Anne Vavasour was pregnant could be argued that the fashions could hide a pregnancy but even then, the torso is still bound in a tight fitting bodice. The early forms of a “corset” are being seen then. And Elizabeth was, by the time those fashions came in, well past child bearing age.

    I agree with you – Elizabeth made a concious choice NOT to marry and that meant at the time that she would never become a mother. A very very difficult choice for her country in that no direct heir was available.

  13. BTW – In August 2007 there was a vote on the BBC on who people considered to be “top-dog” as Monarch over the centuries – It was shortlisted to 3 – Henry VIII, Victoria and Elizabeth 1. Henry was the first to go – Victoria came in No. 1 at 2nd vote but last vote was Elizabeth 1 – Have bits of old E mails to friends about this one as I was a Liz supporter but now cannot find (at the mo) all the gory details

  14. HI all. I’m the author of THE QUEEN’S BASTARD (1999) about Arthur Dudley mystery. I agree with you all that any pregnancy of Elizabeth’s would have been extremely difficult to hide, but the months that she would have been the biggest were those that are the least documented in her entire reign. It used to be whispered that Elizabeth never went on summer progress without giving birth to one of Robert Dudley’s bastards. Of course that’s an exaggeration, but with the “blackout” about her comings and goings after her visit to Ipswich in June of 1561, and before her return to the public eye that fall (looking like she was just out of childbed), it was too good an opportunity not to explore as historical fiction. I was impressed, particularly, with Francis Engelfield’s and King Phillip’s opinions that Arthur Dudley COULD have been who he claimed to be (and the need to incarcerate him because of it). Both of these men personally knew the queen and her horsemaster, and after seeing Arthur in person they didn’t rule out the possibility. If the subject interests you, give THE QUEEN’S BASTARD a read. Of course it’s conjecture, but it’s based on extensive research, and it’s great fun in any case.

    Claire, this is a great blog, and your analysis of the Arthur Dudley mystery is terrific!

    Warm regards,
    Robin Maxwell

  15. Hi Robin,
    Thanks so much for your comment. These myths and legends do give wonderfully rich material for writers and I agree that stories like these are just too good not to write about. I readily admit to being a fan of conspiracy theories, puzzles and codes, and I’m definitely going to get hold of the “Queen’s Bastard”, I’d like to see how you handle this story. I’ve got “Virgin” sitting next to me now so Im ready to delve into the world of Thomas Seymour!
    Thanks so much for your comment and your support of the site.

  16. Even if it seems impossible, women in history managed to hide their pregnancies , no matter the dresses they wore. A lady in waiting of Catherine de Medicis, who she used as a whore/spie in the Civil War in France, went into labor during a state occasion, and gave birth to a healthy child in the next room, after “having soiled the floor under her”. And Louise de la Vallière, Louis XIV first Maitresse en Titre, rode and danced court ballet until her delivery, and she appeared ” very tired and changed” at the mass a few hours later. But you can object that they were not queens. But Elizabeth’s secret pregnancy and motherood is good material for historical novels.
    I have started to read The Secret DIary of Anne Boleyn and I’m loving it ( mostly the representation of Anne and her “relationship” with her daughter, which evolve during the book). So I’m going to read the other books, and, please Robin, can you write more of this excellent books?

  17. Hi Lexy,

    Your comments about historical women hiding pregnancy are very interesting and right on the mark. Women also hid their sex altogether in ways that seem unimaginable. Many of them went into military service or became sailors, and their true identities were never discovered till their deaths. I write about a cross-dressing woman in SIGNORA DA VINCI, and if you go to my website,, and then to the SIGNORA DA VINCI page, you’ll find “Passport to the 15th Century,” and one of the 6 articles is about some of these amazing cross-dressers. You’ll also be able to read the first novel ever written about Romeo and Juliet in February, when O, JULIET is published.

    All best,

  18. Well it seems that in the past my home town of Worcester supplied various bits of juicy gossip such as the case of Hannah Snell who was convinced her husband was pressganged (18th century) and after she lost her baby joined up, and did the rounds before finding out that her husband deserted her so went back to being a woman and became a stage celebrity ion London , ran a tavern married twice more became insane and died at the age of 69 – A lot to pack into a life!

  19. Hi Everyone,

    In the few months since I discovered this site (which I have to say has been the best thing to happen to me when I get bored, which is very easy), I have seen a number of authors mentioned, but no-one has mentioned Jean Plaidy. Many people might poo-poo the idea of this lady, but I have to say in my childhood (I am 58) there was very little on the market to make any history interesting – I was lucky to learn to read from a very early age and as I mentioned before the delight in ereading a book about a red-haired queen who was to become super.-famous (and I have red hair) certainly helped my shy nature of the time. Jean Plaidy did not have to hand the info. we have now, and obviously she embroidered on what “facts” she had – but interesting to look up her life and see where she came from and where she went. I have to say that I was also fortunate to have excellent History teachers who helped make the past come alive. Not only myself, but a number of friends of my generation have said their interest in history started with the Jean Plaidy Books they read as children and obviously later researched what they needed to know. Whether I agree or disagree with any of the authors who have been mentioned, I applaud you all – I couldn’t write a book to save my life – I am good at short, sharp articles, creating atmospheres for selling purposes, but writing ab book???? I admire you all even if I sometimes don’t agree

  20. Hi Jenny,
    No, I haven’t mentioned Jean Plaidy here but I did choose her book “Murder Most Royal” as Book of the Month in September over at the Anne Boleyn Files – see What I loved about Murder Most Royal was how she made Anne so alive and how she explained the souring of Henry’s love for Anne. I know it’s fiction but she did a wonderful job at portraying Anne and Henry and also their relationship.
    Which other books of hers would you recommend? Feel free to write a review and I’ll publish it on the site.
    Thanks, Jenny, it’s always good to hear from you x

  21. I would love to get and read this book on the so-called illigitimate son and heir born to Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley.There is no doubt that Elizabeth and Dudley were friends and had been since childhood but to say she gave birth to a child born out of wedlock by Robert Dudley is I think a myth.When Elizabeth was a small child she had vowed to her friend Robert that she would never marry and as she grew up and when she became queen elizabeth had answered a famous question put to her by one of her ladies.The Queen was asked if she would marry and whether there would one day be a future king of England and her response to this was “I am married namely to the kingdom of England,I take here one maid but no master for everyone of you are children of mine”. So what does that tell you.? No doubt she liked the opposite sex and flirted with certain men at her court and had her “favourites” as they were called.Well we all know that actions speak louder than words but she had kept her promise on her word of never marrying so why wouldn’t she keep her promise on not having a child or children? Well anything is or could be probable but to me this sounds a bit farfetched to me. I know why the name Arthur was mentioned because Arthur had been a popular famous medeival name hence the ledgend Prince Arthur and the knights of the round table,guinevere and sir lancelot and above all Arthur had been Elizabeth’s uncle.During 1561 Elizabeth had became ill with dropsy which is swelling of the body which had her confined to her chamber.The spanish ambassodor had reported that her abdomen had swelled causing concern for speculation that she was or may have been pregnant with an illigitimate heir.Then in 1562 she had fallen ill for the second time with smallpox which caused a scare for those around her aswell as herself but she survived while she was ill she had told one of her closest advisors to pay Robert Dudley a sum of £20.000 for the year and also she requested that Dudley’s servant John Tamworth be paid £500.When she recovered and was back in high spirits later that year she had written some prayers but theese prayers stood out from her usual written ones.Theese prayer seemed to revolve a sin that she had commitied at sometime during her life.The prayer goes as follows “For my secret sins cleanse me,for the sins of others spare your handmaiden.”Many sins have been forgiven her because she hath loved to much.” This can only mean one thing that she was indeed pregnant and had abandone her child to spain and was being cared for and brought up in spain.Arthur Dudley lived at the court of King Phillip II of spain.The prayer is said to revolve around her abandonment of her child and after all what else could her written words of prayer mean? What else could she or did she have to feel guilty of? To me this does imply a guilty concience over something she did or that happened.The stories and myths that surround certain aspects of certain times in history especially those that involve the Tudor era have always fascinated me and still do.

    Elizabeth when princess had suffered smallpox whilst staying at Hatfield house then it was to return four years into her reign as queen. I call her “The second time lucky,the lady Elizabeth” whearas the majority of people would have died the first time the desease had been contracted especially in days when disease and germs where rife and there was no treatment or cure as such and the treatments that ere availible did not work.

    One thing that has intrigued me though is if she did concieve an illigitimate son and child why not try and get him legitimized through parliment like her father tried to do before her with Henry Fitzroy?

  22. On foing a “Spring clean” at the beginning of Winter, I discovered a book that I must have pocked up about 10 years ago called “Unicorn’s Blood” by Patricia Finney. In her forward she states” This is a novel, not a history book. I have used history as akeleton and scafoolding, but I have freely jumped off into fantasy whenever I felt like it, turned speculation into fact and rank conjecture insot assumpton – although I have tried to keep within the boundaries of what might just be possible, gevn the evidence”

    The book is set in the period when Elizabeth is being co-oerced into signing the warrant for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots – and Davison, seems to have some hold over the Queen by mentioning a “unicorn Book” which is supposed to be recommendations to teh state of Virginity. This particular copy was supposed to belong to the young and teenaged Princes Elizabeth, who according to the plot, did become progenant by Sir Thomas Seymour, performed her own abortion with a Knitting needle and co-oerced a witch (ex -nun) to patch her up! Prior to that howver, thinking that she as about to die, wrote her last will and testament on the last pages of the book, naming the father and willing the throne (if it ever came her way) to he cousin Mary Queen of Scots.! The “witch” sees the book when Elizbeth feints and steals it hoping that it will come in handy in the future to acquire a dowry for either her grandchild or greatgranchild (as it turns out to be) so as to avoid her becoming a whore. It’s a novel, very funny, very sad and very poignant in places – worth a which is what I did this weekend

  23. I agree, Tudorrose, it is a very far-fetched story. I think this kind of rumour always surrounded her because people could not accept that she was what she said she was, the Virgin Queen. There were rumours of a pregnancy from an affair with Thomas Seymour too so the Arthur Dudley story was not anything new really. It is interesting the point you make about the prayers she wrote but I wonder if you can read lots of different things into these prayers. Very interesting! I wonder what Elizabeth thought of all these rumours. I wonder if she just had a good laugh about them or whether they hurt her.

  24. I’ve never heard of that book, I’ll have to see if it’s on Amazon as it sounds rather good. Thanks for the recommendation. Hope you enjoyed your cleaning!

  25. HI Claire,

    Have never enjoyed cleaning – Can’t organise myself either but very good at organising others! The one thing that really gob-smacked me when I first read the book was a number of things. I have read over the years a number of books about the Tudors but it was this novel (and much later the ones by S J Sansom) that hit me on how society completely charnged under Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell. We alll know that some of the religious establishments were completely corrupt, but there were others that did help the poor . By closing these places down, not only did the original poor sufer, but nuns and monnks were thrown out on the street to survive. Some had the fortune to have families to go back to, or jobs to go to, but most were out on the road to seek their own fortunes. A number of monks became thieves and a number of nuns, prostitutes – To survive!!! This particular story speaks about a nun who was quite high up in her nunnery but was thrown out on the streets and had to survive – basically through, begging prostitution (whereby she had children who followed that profession) and a “Witch” i.e. a wise woman who could help people with various ailments. She also hots the bottle big time to try to forget wht has happened but seeing her granddaughter die of veneral dicease, in her sober moments, she is determined to get the cash to enable her small granddaughter to have enough money to ensure a dowry and marry a man who would protect her. Unfoprtunately the booze has set in and she often falls by the wayside. Davison is aware that this “hidden witch” has the documents”, tells the queen that he knows what is in them, so has Elizabeth on tenterhooks. After chasing the “wicth” and seing her drown, he fionallly catches up with teh young 4 or 6 year old grandaughtr “Penticost” whom he tries to bully. You have youbg kids so you will appreciate this one.He has alreqdy told her that her beloved grandmother has gone to Hell (which she doesn’t understand) so he tells her that if she lies to him she will follow her loved one- Pentincost is quite happey about that and she lies through her teeth and they both know they are lying.

    My wonderful moments in that book is wjhe he askes her if she ever goes you church to which she replies no, the reason being that “Mr. Crhsit” is there . He was her gradamn’s husband once but he left her , banadoned her to starve which in Pentecost’s eyes was noty a very good thing. Try to find the book. It is a good novel and to be taken as a novel although there is some background taking into consoderation we don’t have TV, etc. – Woudl have liked to have been a Doctor Who and gone back to see the reality of things.

  26. I know this is a kind of old post, but I had to comment on the “Oxford” book by Paul Streitz. I was also intrigued and bought this book off of amazon a few years ago. It was so bizarre and hard to believe. The book states, among other things:

    1. Elizabeth was the mother of the Earl of Oxford.
    2. The Earl of Oxford was Shakespeare.
    3. Elizabeth then had an incestuous relationship with the Earl of Oxford.
    4. That relationship produced the Earl of Southampton.
    5. She also had four children by Robert Dudley, including the Earl of Essex.
    6. Mary Seymour (daughter of Catherine Parr) actually survived and had a relationship with the Earl of Oxford.

    I’m really not kidding here. It’s all in the book. I really wouldn’t waste your money on it. It doesn’t even work as fiction.

    As for Arthur Dudley, that story is a bit more believable, but I still question whether Elizabeth could’ve concealed a pregnancy. Then again, there are other royal women in history who did so successfully. Catherine the Great, and Princess Thyra of Denmark are the first ones that come to mind. I also think one of George III’s daughters had a child secretly, but that wouldn’t be comparable considering how isolated those girls were for most of their lives.

    In the Victorian era some women wore their corsets during pregnancy to shorten the amount of time their pregnancy would show. I don’t think that would be healthy for mother or child, but it has been done.

    But Arthur Dudley saying he was Elizabeth’s son certainly doesn’t make it true. Pretenders were common then, and they still exist even today. I recently read about a man who claimed to be Princess Margaret’s son by Peter Townsend because he wanted in on her will. Obviously DNA testing has not been done and if it was I’m sure it would prove him a liar or maybe just insane.

    I suppose I really don’t know what to think about that story. It’s certainly possible but probably not true.


  27. Thanks for the rundown on the book, Tatiana, and perhaps I won’t bother with it! It does sounds like it’s just spreading rumour and scandal about Elizabeth for nothing. I don’t believe any of these rumours and myths, they just don’t make sense and Elizabeth was very image conscious and knew how reputations could be easily tarnished. I don’t think she would have risked pregnancy.

  28. I have read the messages on this site with great interest – especially those dealing with “Arthur Dudley”. The idea that Elizabeth I gave birth to a son by Robert Dudley is not totally impossible, but highly unlikely. All of Henry VIII’s children were highly educated and intelligent in varying degrees and all ‘enjoyed’ childhoods which were, to say the least, unusual. As an adolescent, Mary Tudor suffered demotion from the status of princess to that of incestuous bastard almost overnight. She was deprived of her household, her friends and the love and company of her mother. Her father refused to see her and, through his ministers, bullied and threatened her. It is virtually certain that he contemplated having her executed (he admitted as much in public when his third wife, Jane Seymour, succeeded in having her received at Court again). The effects on Mary’s physical and mental health were permanent.

    Elizabeth, two years old when her mother Anne Boleyn was executed, was similarly demoted and bastardised by Act of Parliament. Even at that tender age she understood and commented on her loss of status. In the coming years she saw the death after childbirth of Jane Seymour, the annulment of Anne of Cleves’ marrage to Henry VIII and the execution of Katherine Howard, his fifth wife. If, at the age of eight, Elizabeth truly did declare that she would never marry, it can hardly come as a surprise. Then there was her experience in the household of Thomas Seymour and his wife Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s last queen and thus her stepmother. Elizabeth was then fourteen years old. Seymour’s behaviour towards her was coarse, very much over-familiar and – for the first time – exposed her to widespread rumour and suspicion. The active participation of Katherine Parr – on at least one celebrated occasion – in this behaviour is very strange indeed. At all events, Seymour was subsequently executed for this and other outrageous indiscretions.

    Throughout the reigns of Edward VI, Jane Grey and finally Mary I, Elizabeth relied on the loyalty and advice of a small group of devoted supporters. Nevertheless, she endured house arrest and a period of imprisonment in the Tower of London (where her mother had been executed and was buried). She was lucky indeed to survive until she herself came to the Throne at the age of twenty-five.

    Robert Dudley, the son and grandson of men who had been beheaded for treason, had known her from childhood and had shared her imprisonment in the Tower. He showed great loyalty to her, apparently provided her with much-needed funds when her revenues were restricted by Mary I and was almost immediately given the high appointment as her Master of The Horse. There can be little doubt that Eizabeth was, in her own way, in love with him. She may have actually toyed with the idea of eventually marrying him – although this became impossible after the very mysterious death of Dudley’s wife in September 1560.

    Precisely what took place of a physical nature between Elizabeth and Robert Dudley between her accession and the death of Robert’s wife has been a matter of speculation for the last four centuries. Certainly she threw caution to the winds, granted him sleeping quarters adjoining her own appartments and behaved towards him in such a manner that it created enormous scandal in England and Europe. After the death of Dudley’s wife, it is known that she suffered from “dropsy”, an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen which caused her stomach to swell – an illness which had contributed to the death of her sister Mary I. Diagnoses of ancient illnesses are notoriously difficult and Elizabeth’s 1561 swollen stomach could indeed have been of dropsical origin. On the other hand it could have been a phantom pregnancy (also suffered by her sister) or, indeed, a real one. Whether or not Arthur Dudley was truly the result of this illness can never now be known – unless his remains are ever found and subjected to DNA analysis. Such an examination would also entail the exhumation of Elizabeth I herself and permission for this to take place is extremely unlikely to be granted.

    My own feelng is that Arthur Dudley was either a spy employed by Walsingham to discover as much as he could about Spanish Armada preparations or was a very plausible adventurer who concocted his story to evade the Inquisition or simply to provide a comfortable exile for himself.

    Luckily for those of us who love good mysteries, there are many others to occupy the long winter evenings which lie ahead : exactly who fathered the son of Princess Sophia, daughter of George III ? What really happened to “The Princes In The Tower” ? Did Queen Victoria have illegitimate brothers and sisters ? For that matter, did Queen Victoria herself marry her servant John Brown after the death of Prince Albert ?

    Good sleuthing !!!!

  29. The contention that Edward DeVere, Earl of Oxford was Elizabeth’s son by Thomas Seymour is laughable becasue it is impossible. Yes, Seymour had his eyes on her for political reasons of self promotion, and may well have been sexually attracted to her, but In the end it was these motives which led to his arrest and execution. In August 1548, Seymour recommenced his attempts to lure Elizabeth to him. She was interrogated following Symours arrest on 16th January 1549 and was found innocent of accusations of improper behaviour. Evidently, she wasn’t pregnant at the time because her inqisitors tested her on the matter.

    Seymour was charged with treason on 22nd February and executed on 20th March 1549.

    Edward DeVere was born on 12th April 1550.

    Are we expected to believe in a thirteen month pregnancy? Don’t fall for it…there are people who make a good living from selling books and will ignore the obvious in support of cock eyed theories. If final proof is needed, consider that in 1549 Elizabeth was 17. She had powerful enemies and was living in fear. In 1553 Dudley was imprisoned at the Tower and Elizabeth was there too. He was released around October 1554. Now I ask you, how likely is that if he too was thought to have knocked up the Princess Elizabeth.

    If there is an illigitimate child, Elizabeth could only have survived and protected the secret AFTER she became queen in 1558, with her ‘smallpox’ (which she vehemnetly denied) illness in 1562 being the most likely date for a convenient cover up….enter Arthur Dudley?

  30. There really is some sloppy reseacrh here….Quoted from above “Even when we consider that there are often stories today of teenage girls giving birth in secret after hiding their pregnancy under baggy clothes or the fact that Anne Vavasour, one of Elizabeth’s ladies, was able to keep her condition secret”….This is only partly true becasue she may have concealed her condition but what happened to her was common knowledge. Here is an extract from a letter from the Thynne Family Papers held at Longleat House:

    “A great mischeaunce at court yeasterdaye beinge tewsdaye that one of the mayds of Honor called Mris Wauisire was delyvered of a goodly boy begotten by my L. of Oxford”: 23 March, 1580″.

    Elizabeth sent Oxford to the Tower for several months and he was banished from court until June 1583. If we are to beleive that Oxford was Elizabeth’s illigitimate son, she had a funny way of looking after the interests of her son and grandson!

  31. Hi Mike,
    I didn’t say that Vavasour kept the birth secret, I said that she was able to keep her condition secret, so much so that she actually gave birth in the maidens’ chamber and only the cries of the baby gave her away and that is when the Queen found out.

    Like you, I don’t believe that Oxford was Elizabeth’s illegitimate son, it just does not make sense in any way whatsoever. I don’t believe that Elizabeth had any illegitimate children and I believe she was a virgin.

  32. I completely agree, Mike. I haven’t read Streitz’s book but I assume that he comes up with a different date of birth for de Vere because, as you say, an April 1550 birthdate does not tally with Seymour being his father and certainly does not tie in with Elizabeth’s banishment from Catherine Parr’s home, which happened in 1548.

  33. Arthur Dudley and the Mysterious Sir Arundel Talbot: Evidence of a Unique Individual?

    I hadn’t been aware of Arthur Dudley until quite recently and it intrigues me that after the Englefield Papers he seems to vanish from history. What happened to him?

    The full record of the Spanish Calendar of State Papers details that Arthur had been in France, Germany, Holland and Spain. He had been with Dudley; he had access to the elector in Cologne and also claimed to have written to the Pope. He knew and named several influential court figures in England and abroad. He even detailed the name of the Doctor who had been asked to help his dying ‘father’ Robert Southern. Dr. Hector Nunez. I checked the National Archive and can confirm that Dr Nunez was indeed a real person attending the Court. It’s the small details like this that add to the conviction that Arthur Dudley was able to draw on the resources of the Court. Not something a ‘nobody’ could possibly have done.

    Reading the full Englefield Papers makes it clear that Arthur Dudley was a very intelligent, resourceful and well connected man. He obviously confused Englefield and King Philip because it’s apparent they want to believe they have living proof of ER’s sinful misdeeds, but suspect a plot. The records show that the King (in his own hand) endorsed that Arthur be kept safe and should not be allowed to escape whilst they figured out what to do with him. And then….Nothing. He simply is never mentioned again.

    Isn’t this extraordinary? The Armada was defeated a year later and Spain’s power and national pride is severely damaged. Even if they didn’t believe Arthur, it would make perfect sense for them to have used or even abused him in revenge for their defeat. But nothing happened. Why?

    The lack of any evidence of his existence in Spain after the summer of 1587 may be taken as an indication that he was no longer a prisoner. Arthur was obviously known about and identifiable in the courts of Europe. At every court there were representatives from other courts, even enemies retained diplomatic discourse. The English network was the best in Europe so I make the reasonable claim that his whereabouts would have been known, giving him a sort of insurance that no harm would be done to him without the story becoming a cause celebre. In fact Arthur writes that his whereabouts are indeed known. Spain murdering Elizabeth’s catholic sympathiser love child would make no sense at all.

    I think the most likely explanation is that Arthur was released. If the Spanish had detained him and made some use of him, there would have been a record. One cannot say for sure, but logic suggests the silence indicates a secret. Given what we know of Arthur he must have represented an asset of some significance to Spain. It would be more useful to have him potentially undermining the English crown by him being at large. Perhaps they thought that he had value as a double agent (being a catholic) who might well succeed in becoming a powerful figure in England in the right circumstances?

    Allowing my conjecture, I need to offer an opinion as to what happened next.

    I believe Arthur was indeed the son to Elizabeth and Dudley. I think that following his trail into the arms of his real father it is inconceivable that Elizabeth would have been unaware of this. Given Arthur was known to senior Court figures in England and had let the cat out of the bag I am equally sure that Walsingham would have known or discovered who he was. Arthur states that he went to see Walsingham twice and that his father, the Earl of Leicester went with him. But this is where the dissembling begins. Arthur says he was frightened by Willingham’s close questioning of him. But can this be taken as the truth. Walsingham was not an Earl and neither was he the Queens lifelong friend. How could it be that Arthur felt under some threat when his father had him under his wing? In this aspect of Arthur’s testimony to Englefield I think I detect a lie.

    I think Arthur was the illegitimate and unacknowledged son of ER. I also think he was an adventurer and an agent who easily and cynically changed his game plan according to circumstance and opportunity.
    Arthur evidently had access to Elizabeth’s Court and to the Privy Council through his father. Following the line of conjecture that he was an opportunist and adventurer, after his release by the Spanish what would he have done?

    Spain had been defeated and the political map of Europe was changed. Arthur had been in Spain the year before the English victory, and possibly during 1588. What could be more natural than for him to return to England saying he had twisted the Spaniards tail and wrought confusion in their political strategy? Maybe that was the name of the game all along?

    If you will permit further conjecture, I believe he did return to England and became an important (If unrecognised) man who served his self interest by undertaking a variety of aliases.

    There is a miniature portrait of Sir Arundel Talbot in the V&A. It was painted by Oliver in Venice in 1596 and is (unusually) inscribed that the subject is a Gilded Knight. The odd thing is that no such person existed! If you’d like to see it scroll down to the bottom of the page on this site:

    Who was he? There is absolutely no reference to him in any of the National Archive papers. He is unknown in the peerage listings and genealogies of the Talbot families, is never mentioned in any contemporary histories or letters. But, I do know he existed and was in Venice because I have seen a document that is about ciphers used by the English in Venice “endorsed by Mr Talbot in his own hand”.

    Who is this known but unknown individual? What rank of man could afford to have his portrait painted by a well known and respected artist? With the exception of Sir William Standen, who was the James Bond of Elizabethan spies, no other agent was ever elevated. It’s obvious that Sir Arundel Talbot is an alias and it is (I think) equally obvious that whoever he was, he had the confidence and authority to create himself a Knight.

    On the same web site you can also see the miniature by Hilliard 1588 of an unknown man clasping a hand from the clouds. I have often puzzled over this picture. Leslie Hotson (Shakespearian Scholar) claims it is Mr. W.H. of the Sonnets. Others, including Robert Nield believe it is Elizabeth’s son clasping his mother’s hand. The Latin inscription translated reads Athenian therefore Love and is thought to indicate a connection to and with the ‘gods’.

    Who is this man painted at Court in 1588? There are only a few people who could possibly have afforded it, and perhaps only one who would associate themselves directly and physically connected to a ‘goddess’ and get away with it.

    The likeness and age difference depicted in these two portraits makes me think they are one and the same person. Somebody of rank whose identity is deliberately obscured, yet somebody who has the means and motive to tell us he existed but cannot be identified except through the double bluff that says ‘look at me…I cannot tell you who I am, but by this artifice you will know me”.

    It’s pure speculation of course. But I think we’re looking at Arthur Dudley.

  34. I published a book in 2007 titled: “Breaking the Shakespeare Codes” which provides a significant amount of new evidence, mainly in the form of special anagrams by the real author and his contemporaries, which very strongly indicates that “William Hastings”, the illegitimate son of Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, was the secret author of the Shakespeare canon. Since 2007 I have found a great deal more evidence – including about 2000 anagrams – that this conclusion is indeed correct. Clearly, Elizabeth could not hide her late pregnancy from close friends etc at court – even the general public strongly suspected in 1562 that she had given birth (when she supposedly had smallpox). The government was so keen to smother the story that they executed people at Norwich in 1572 who made the claims public. Many others had their toungues cut out and ears cut off for repeating the rumours. The idea that Elizabeth’s secret son was the author of Shakespeare is certainly not ridiculous – one only has to think about the power politics and profound insight into the minds of rulers to see that Shakespeare’s author was in a very special social position. By contrast, the man from Stratford did not even know his age when questioned in a law suit in 1612.

  35. Wow! Amazing stuff here–I have THe Queen’s Bastard as well as Anne Boleyn’s Diary–also The Virgin-great reads–I find the ARthur Dudley stuff quite intriguing and am willing to admit it as a possibility–mainly because the timing would be right as that is the time E and R were young and much in love. I think the pregnancy could have been concealed. I have had teenagers in class who went home for Christmas break and had babies I didn’t even know they were expecting! But Shakespeare as Elizabeth’s son? I’m not buying it. Oh but it’s all such good stuff to think about–
    And as for Jean Plaidy–she is one of my favorites, all time! Thank you Claire–this is wonderful!

  36. do you not think that elizabeth would wanted to have been with her child since she did not have a mother and father in her life. That she would have emrassed her children and loved them since she had not been loved by her own mother and father or was she just like her father and only enjoyed the pleasure of being in power of eveyone and everything? I mean she was the strongest king or queen england ever had or has had.

  37. I have read Robin Maxwell’s book, and I am a personal fan of Sarah Gristwood’s research and writing, but this book I have not yet read.
    Like you, I am perplexed at why people simply cannot believe that Elizabeth was a virgin or childless. Is it because so many find it disturbing, even horrifying that a woman could be a Virgin her entire life? Is it because it is uncomfortable to think that Elizabeth did not give way to “maternal desires” and procreate like her contemporaries? I think it is a little bit of both of these things, and a lot more that drive people to invent children for Elizabeth.
    I think Arthur very likely could have been an English spy. His story certainly hints at a Walsingham-like agenda. I have aquired a book on Elizabeth’s spy network-I will have to page through it and see if I can find anything relevant to “Arthur Dudley”
    Semper Eadem,
    Ashlie (@ERITudor)

  38. It’s an interesting thought that Elizabeth really did have a child, but a part of me also thinks it’s not very likely. As a queen, there would have been very, very little chance of her having a child without rumours starting to circle around.

  39. I just finished the The Queen’s Bastard. I had never heard of Arthur Dudley until Robin Maxwell wrote this book, the story does seem plausible. However, we will most likely never know for sure if he was Elizabeth’s son.
    As for being able to hide a pregnancy, a slim woman could get away with it. When I was pregnant with my daughter I actually lost 6lbs. No one except my husband and myself knew I was pregnant and when I went to the hospital for delivery, the nurse asked me what was wrong with me. I told her I was delivering and she told me I probably just had gas. My daughter was born 3 min. after arriving at the hospital.
    As for the queen denying it, she might not have wanted to get married as in that time women were considered property of her husband or father and she didn’t want to share her rule or lose her head because her husband wanted all the power.
    I also think it’s possible she was exactly like her father, vain, cruel and manipulative and insane. If so, she would think nothing of dumping a baby with no thought to its future. After all, she came from an inbred family of murderers. she certainly had her cousin, friends and lovers beheaded just as Henry did.
    One more thing, there are quite few spelling mistakes in the comments, are you just bad at typing, too lazy to fix the errors or just unable to learn to spell.

  40. There’s a portrait of Elizabeth 1 in Hampton court of her in a birthing gown and 3 reports from 3 different embasadors reporting that she was ready to give birth , that were recently discovered , so I do think it was possible that she could have covered it up. No body knows really.

  41. What if HenryVIII had Mary and Elizabeth enoculated at the time Edward VI was conceived? It was said that Lady Jane Seymour had great sway with the pugnant King and soon after Henry banished Mary and Elizabeth as illegitimates and stated they would never rule or challenge young Edward VI for the throne.

    It seemed to cast out his 2nd and 3rd heir to the throne and create a void in the Tudor Dynasty should Edward VI die young would not sound like something Henry would want.

    So maybe Lady Jayne Seymour did have enough sway to make the King keep her son on the throne and to make sure that Mary & Elizabeth or their future heirs could not challenge Seymour’s son & future heir Edward and any of his future heirs. Therefore keeping the Seymour line firmly on the throne and isn’t it funny how both Mary and Elizabeth never had children. Maybe Jane Seymour saw to that?! Just a guess.


  42. * Typo Mistake on above comment. (Not enoculated spelt inoculated) What am I talking about?.. I meant made sterile


  43. This is a great site, with a great discussion. Thanks!
    I’d like to refer to one of the often quoted arguments against Elizabeth having had a child, namely that the news of it would have somehow got out. Because as far as I know, it did. Only in rumours, perhaps. But just like today when scandals about the royal family start of as rumours in the tabloids, rumours often have an element of truth at their core. Such true rumours (like those concerning the extra marital affairs of Princess Diana and Prince Charles) are at first always denied by the palace – only to be conceded later when the truth can no longer be hidden. In the old days, such stories could be quashed in infancy by sending the spreaders of them off to the tower (and I’m sure many royals today wish they could do the same with troublesome journalists). But rumours that were true had a habit of sticking around nonetheless, as they did with Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Beyond rumours, I’d love to know if there is any stronger evidence linking Elizabeth to her love child. For instance, did Arthur Dudley’s step parents actually receive any money from the crown? Is there any evidence of that?

  44. Hi
    I have just stumbled onto this forum and I am as always captivated by such stories. I love reading about the Tudors but am not a great researcher myself but I wondered what people’s thoughts were about Francis Bacon being the son of Elizabeth and Robert Dudley. There seems to be good evidence that he was not the real son of Nicolas Bacon and his wife. I remember reading that Elizabeth and Robert Dudley were imprisioned in the tower together for about 2 years. Sorry I don’t know facts but my writing is simply to get opinion from informed people who can piece things together better than myself. It is possible to conceal pregnancies as my mum on two occasions had babies where people who knew her wondered where she was one week ! Also Francis Bacon is meant to have been the writer of Shakespear’s works. My dad’s cousin’s mother was a ‘bacon’ from St Albans which is why we have great interest in this rumour. Well, I look forward to some help in thinking about all this. Ps I cannot buy the Arthur story myself.

  45. Has anyone actually worn a 16 century dress??? I personally made one and one could hide a pregnancy up to several months, the hoop skirt itself is really large and the corsets do not go down past the waist. It’s a possibility but again none of her ladies ever spoke of it. It’s just a thought.

    1. I think that even if the pregnancy could have been hidden by clothing, there’s no way that she could have hidden it from her ladies who bathed and dressed her and the news would have leaked out, somebody would have talked.

  46. Hello everyone from the Czech Republic.
    I do agree with Jane Thoele in these great discussion.
    There are a lot of gossips about Elizabeth I, about her real sex,Bisley Boy
    story,Arthur Dudley and Shakespeare origin etc.I do think Elizabeth was after her
    father in physical and character way and because she experienced all these horrible
    drama in marriages of her father and others, she decided to be independent.I also
    think it was impossible to keep in secret her pregnancy, but who knows.The fact is,
    that her personality,life and period attract us all !

  47. It’s a fascinating and intriguing part of English and European history. I tend to support the opinion that Elizabeth I did indeed have a child with Robert Dudley for two reasons that I shall try to explain here. Although it was god fearing and pious times and the concept of sin was extremely present everywhere, there was also a very lecherous side to life in the intersection between medieval time, the renaissance and reformation. Henry VIII, Elizabeth’s father, fornicating high and low, was a good example of this, and bending the scriptures to his whims and executing anyone including some of his spouses if they did not deliver what he expected them to do. The wanton sides of these times have been described many times. It is therefore in my view, very difficult to imagine that Elizabeth, growing up in the thick of this extremely physical environment, should remain untouched through her most fertile years. Furthermore being the sovereign ruler of the nation she would have had the power and opportunities to secretly deal with an illegitimate love child, which leads me to the second part of my argument. I recently saw a documentary (Revealed – The secret life of Elizabeth I) about this whole affair in which the English historian and writer Paul Doherty argues that Elizabeth and Robert had a child by the name of Arthur, finding new evidence in letters and wills from both spain and England which makes it plausible. It is mentioned in this documentary that Elizabeth in 1561 suffered from dropsy, we call it oedema nowadays, which according to the spanish ambassador, caused swelling of her abdomen, and the Queen was subsequently bedridden for some time. To me this indicates more than anything else that she might actually have been more pregnant than sick. 26 years later in 1587 this man Arthur Dudley turns up in Madrid claiming to be born in that year when Elizabeth allegedly fell ill with dropsy. In my view the probability of him being the son of Elizabeth is very high. What say You?

  48. As a descendant of Sir Philip Sidney and his cousin Robert Dudley, I am most interested in the story of Arthur. The fact that Elizabeth from time to time suffered from edema could explain various pregnancies, swollen abdomen et al. I tend to agree with Mr. Bjoernholt’s opinion.

  49. Elizabeth 1st son Aruther robert.was given to the sidney family and thus.lived in coity castle and then.thus pennshurst.castel.and then he become one of that family by name..p…so now you.. know.. the true story of the blood line…thats why iv allways been my england.for the blood. ,stop telling lies about us and history .r.w.p

  50. Stories of Elizabeth’s lifestyle are rife, remember her mother had been hated by the general population , she was the living example of the new faith. Her step father Thomas Seymour had made no secret of his ” attraction ” for her , her letter to the Lord Protector Somerset suggests her honour, even as a young woman, was questioned . She seems to have been fertile ground for myth makers , she may have been a ” born again virgin ” but her decision not to marry was about power , simple, this lady would share power with no one in Church or state, to our modern eyes , no problem in that but viewed through the eyes of 16th century Tudors ,this is a vacuum into which all these fantastic stories fit so neatly .

  51. I thoroughly believe that Elizabeth had at least one secret love child and not with Robert Dudley but with Thomas Seymour. When Katherine Parr was pregnant (and back in those days it was said to be dangerous to have intercourse with a pregnant woman) I think that Thomas and Elizabeth had an affair. During Katherine’s pregnancy, she sent Elizabeth away to Kat Ashley’s family. Maybe she found out that Elizabeth was pregnant also and sent her away for her own protection? Wasn’t there a story where a midwife was brought into a bedchamber one night blind folded and delivered a baby born to a red haired teenage girl? Some say the baby was born dead so it was thrown on the fire whereas others say it was alive and the midwife pretended it was dead and took it with her and raised it? There are so many stories about this that I don’t know what to believe?

  52. As someone who suffers from oedema in one leg, resulting from damaged valves with heart failure, I can’t believe that Elizabeth occasionally suffered from attacks of oedema. It just doesn’t work that way. Sometimes it is worse, but it doesn’t fluctuate between nothing and huge swelling. Occasional large ‘swelling’ could well have been a pregnancy.

  53. It is not unusual that she should have children..she was the queen and could do anything she liked…second…a virgin queen zuch as mary Magdalene…not a physical Virgin but a state one

  54. I think she could have hidden her pregnancy if she managed to keep it among her council and ladies. Think of the punishment for revealing such a secret…I know I’d keep my mouth shut tight. Elizabeth was one of the most powerful people in a world before any type of mass communication, it might have been easier than we think. Even today, with social media and CCTV and all that, people still keep some bombshells secret somehow. I guess we will never know, unless we can get DNA from Elizabeth and one of her alleged son’s descendants.

  55. Has any researcher looked into the diagnosis of Dropsy that “caused her to swell” in 1561 and discussed this disease with a medical professional. My reading of the condition suggests it is most associated with congestive heart failure or serious abdominal conditions that at the time would either lead to death or repeated chronic events. Other than the smallpox my reading of a Elizabeth was she was healthy as a young woman – therefore I wonder if an abhorrent occurrence of Dropsy could explain swelling from some other one off condition that was not abdominal swelling from pregnancy?

  56. I find it quite possible that Elizabeth 1 had a pregnancy as I have known three people in my life who gave birth but no one knew they were pregnant nor did they show. Hard to believe but it does happen.
    One a young school girl that even her parents had no idea. She gave birth in their toilet in their home as she herself had no idea what was happening.
    Another who basically only ate one meal a day and the third was a trapeze artist who they believe her muscles so tight she was unaware.
    Not all women are regular and some can be unaware. I know of another who experienced the same late in life and she thought her slight weight was from menopause.
    Yes…..I believe possible.

  57. i don’t believe the queen had a child but I do believe she love him and was intimate with him.I don’t believe she was a virgin,she loves both Robert and the throne and will not give up one or the other.She wanted him at her side always wanted to marry him but for political reasons she couldn’t this why she died alone to me is Lord Robert or no one she loves him until the end

  58. I personally have come to believe the Earl of Oxford and Queen Elizabeth story With Henry Wriothesley 3rd Earl of Southampton as their son. I just watch a documentary on the Therory behind William Shakespeare, and though it is dividing some scholars in the Oxford orthodoxy, I find it just as compelling as the Earl of Leicester theory. There is as much evidence to support it as any other. It was called Last Will and Testament on Amazon Prime. It’s an interesting watch. It talks about his relationship with Elizabeth in some form all the way through out. I think I remember watching something else on Amazon that supported the theory about Dudley as well.

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