In the past there were no cameras, only brushes and canvas to leave us with images of those who we would later learn about in history books, lectures and blogs online. Their true identity would be left to the eye of the beholder – it was up to them to translate what they saw onto canvas…for prosperity. As with most portraiture the final product can vary with each artist.
Portraits of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
“Dudley’s youth was overshadowed by the downfall of his family in 1553 after his father, the Duke of Northumberland, had unsuccessfully tried to establish Lady Jane Grey on the English throne. Robert Dudley was condemned to death but was released in 1554 and took part in the Battle of St. Quentin under Philip II of Spain, which led to his full rehabilitation. On Elizabeth I’s accession in November 1558, Dudley was appointed Master of the Horse.” – Christine Hartweg (All Things Robert Dudley)
These two portraits are very similar – the sitter (Robert Dudley) appears to be wearing the same outfit, however, the faces appear to differ as do the details on the clothing. I was unable to find the artist for either of these.
It was in Dudley that the eight-year-old Elizabeth had confided upon the execution of her third stepmother, Catherine Howard, in 1541, vowing: ‘I will never marry’. He would always remember the conversation, and it may have been the reason he decided to marry Amy Robsart nine years later. – Tracy Borman (Robert Dudley: Queen Elizabeth I’s great love)
“Robert Dudley’s private life interfered with his court career and vice versa. When his first wife, Amy Robsart, fell down a flight of stairs and died in 1560, he was free to marry the Queen. However, the resulting scandal very much reduced his chances in this respect.” – Christine Hartweg (All Things Robert Dudley)
“Elizabeth made it clear that she had no intention of giving up her favourite. If anything, she found ways to spend even more time with him. A year after her accession, she had Dudley’s bedchamber moved next to her private rooms in order to facilitate their clandestine meetings. Before long, their relationship was causing a scandal not just in England, but in courts across Europe.” Tracy Borman (Robert Dudley: Queen Elizabeth I’s great love)
“For the first 30 years of Elizabeth’s reign, until Leicester’s death, he and Lord Burghley were the most powerful and important political figures, working intimately with the Queen. Robert Dudley was a conscientious privy councillor, and one of the most frequently attending.”‘ – Christine Hartweg (All Things Robert Dudley)
‘I humbly kiss your foot’ by Your Majesty’s most faithful and obedient servant. These were probably the last words ever written by Robert Dudley. Five days later, on 4 September 1588, he breathed his last. Elizabeth was inconsolable at the loss of ‘sweet Robin’, the only man whom she had ever truly loved. Their relationship had survived almost 50 years of trials and tribulations, and Elizabeth was lost without him.” -Tracy Borman (Robert Dudley: Queen Elizabeth I’s great love)