Portraits of Elizabeth’s Favorite: Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

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.

Yale Center for British Art released under Creative Commons CC-BY license. Archived from the original on 2011-09-03.

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 in 1576, aged 44, as is stated in the margin. Miniature by Nicholas Hilliard


by Unknown artist, oil on panel, circa 1575

“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)

by Steven van der Meulen

Portrait by Nicholas Hilliard.

“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)

van der Meulen, Steven; Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester; The Wallace Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/robert-dudley-earl-of-leicester-209567


“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)

unknown artist; Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester; National Portrait Gallery, London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/robert-dudley-1st-earl-of-leicester-158140

unknown artist; Robert Dudley (1532/1533-1588), Earl of Leicester, High Steward of the University (1563); Old Schools, University of Cambridge; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/robert-dudley-153215331588-earl-of-leicester-high-steward-of-the-university-1563-195459


British (English) School; Robert Dudley (1533-1588), Earl of Leicester, KG; National Trust, Knole; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/robert-dudley-15331588-earl-of-leicester-kg-218909


Segar, William; Robert Dudley (1532/1533-1588), 1st Earl of Leicester; Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/robert-dudley-153215331588-1st-earl-of-leicester-193702



‘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)


by Unknown artist, marble bust, late 18th century or 19th century


Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester by Unknown artist;silver medal, 1587  National Portrait Gallery, London


Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester by Christoffel van Sichem (Voschem) line engraving, 1580s – National Portrait Gallery, London


Christine Hartweg (All Things Robert Dudley)

Tracy Borman (Robert Dudley: Queen Elizabeth I’s great love)

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History Robert Dudley

2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I share 23/25 Y chromosome match to Dudley’s second cousin John Dudley 1850. And the more important match is to his 6th cousin Robert Sutton 1637 where we share 59/67 sites tested. Dudley’s line supposedly went extince in Italy after his son Robert Dudley styled Duke of Leiscester married my first cousin Alice Leigh. Their sons lived and died in Italy where he tried to regain his father’s titles but he was illegitimate son of Dudley and Douglas Howard Schieffeld. Also my Maternal first cousin. Dudley is my second cousin and you can see the resemblence on my Face Book Page called D. Charles Rice. I think the comparrison to young Dudley and myself quite startling. We do not which female gave birth to his son raised by another cousin: Sir John Perrot of Carew but my 8th great grandfather was listed along with two other brothers by Sir JOHN and Sybil Perrot William and Sir Robert Perrot of Havorford west in the Oxinesis at Harvard 1580. D. Charles Rice

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