Sussex author sets out to unravel Elizabethan spin and propaganda

Lurgashall author Robert Stedall continues his exploration of Tudor times with his new book

Lurgashall author Robert Stedall
Lurgashall author Robert Stedall

Elizabeth I’s Secret Lover: Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

It has been published by Pen and Sword History at £25 and is available from the publisher, Amazon and [email protected]

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Robert, aged 77, said: “This is my seventh history book and I have focused on histories surrounding Mary Queen of Scots and on Irish History.

“Dudley was put forward by Elizabeth as a suitor to marry Mary before her marriage to Lord Darnley. He was extremely reluctant, believing that Elizabeth, as a greater prize, was still available to him.

“Like Mary Queen of Scots, Dudley has always had a bad press. He was up against William Cecil, the English Secretary of State, who dominated the Elizabethan political arena, and the winners wrote the history. Cecil wanted to prevent Dudley from marrying Elizabeth and did all he could to do down his rival. My objective, as with Mary Queen of Scots, has been to redress the balance and to unravel the propaganda being spun against both of them.

“The more I studied Dudley, I realised he was perhaps the most interesting personality of the Elizabethan age.

“As a great impresario and Master of the Horse, he showed off Elizabeth to her people to glittering effect. He developed the breeding of horses for military and ceremonial purposes and was a forerunner of the development of the thoroughbred.

“He became the initiator of Shakespearean theatre, combining classicism with the ribaldry of the wandering players. He attracted finance for mercantile projects and exploration, including Drake’s circumnavigation. He was the supporter of academic endeavour, of poetry and of Puritan scholarship. By employing his own network of agents, he provided information crucial to English government.

“He built some of the finest houses and gardens of the age. He saw to it that England’s navy and army were properly prepared to face continental aggression, particularly in the Armada, and he led the English invasion force in the Low Countries in support of the Dutch and to maintain the Reformation in Northern Europe.

“On top of all, this he was devastatingly attractive to women, of whom Elizabeth I was at the forefront.”

Robert, who retired early and began writing history books in about 2000, added: “The research for the book was a revelation. In addition to a biography of Dudley, it provides a detailed assessment of Catherine Parr, Edward VI, the Duke of Northumberland (his father), Lady Jane Grey, Mary I, Elizabeth, Cecil, Douglas Howard (his mistress) Lettice Knollys (his wife) and Sir Philip Sidney (his nephew). It is design to be a serious but thoroughly readable history book.

“All my books on Tudor history link together. I have a particular view on the murder of Lord Darnley that I have wanted to test from different viewpoints. Although Mary Queen of Scots also provides a link to Lord Robert Dudley, this has involved a completely new area of research.

“I am following this up with a history of Dudley’s, stepson, the 2nd Earl of Essex, his sister Penelope Rich and her lover, Lord Mountjoy. This will encapsulate the Anglo-Spanish wars of 1586 to 1603, including the Armada.”


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