426 years ago on 4th September 1588, Queen Elizabeth I lost the man who was her friend, her confidant and almost certainly her lover. Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester died at Cornbury Park near Oxford; he was 56 years old.
Dudley was on route to Buxton in Derbyshire to ‘take the baths’ and would have been in high spirits following England’s astonishing and defining victory over the Spanish Armada. Although his health had not been good, the Earl’s death was entirely unexpected and the news came as a terrible blow to Elizabeth I.
The Queen was deeply affected by his loss and locked herself away until Lord Burghley had the doors to her apartments forced open so that he could check on her. Elizabeth nicknamed Dudley ‘eyes’ and this could be seen in the sign ‘oo’ which was incorporated in their letters to each other. Six days before his death, Dudley had written to Queen Elizabeth; she endorsed it ‘his last letter’ before placing it in her bedside treasure box. The correspondence was still there when she died 15 years later. Eventually, Dudley was buried in the Beauchamp Chapel of St. Mary’s Church in Warwick.