Did Queen Elizabeth I murder her lover’s wife?
Queen Elizabeth the First was known as ‘the virgin queen’ but it’s unlikely this was the case. It’s true that she never married by most historians believe that she had a long-time affair with Sir Robert Dudley.
Elizabeth and Robert had known each other since childhood and were the very best of friends.When she became queen she appointed him to her court and it was then, it’s said, that the physical relationship between them began. Elizabeth received – and indeed encouraged – offer of marriage from the royal houses of Europe but it’s believed that these were political moves and she certainly showed no signs of loving any man – other than Robert Dudley.
Few, if any, of Elizabeth’s advisors and officials approved of Dudley. The queen relied on him too much and would take his advice even if it conflicted with theirs. It was clear that he saw himself as her partner and that she would marry no-one else but him.
But there was a problem. When he was just a teenager Robert had married to a slightly older girl named Amy Robsart.
When Robert first came to court, his wife Amy remained in her step-mother’s home in the country.
She was never part of her husband’s wife; not since their earliest days of married life.
The days of Henry VIII had gone. Disposing of wives, even my divorce, was unthinkable.
Amy had no permanent home as the years went by. She spent long visits with friends. She always hoped that her husband would return to her.
She was staying with friends near Oxford when, on September 8th 1560, she insisted that the rest of the household attend a local festivity – she claimed that she felt to ill to go with them.
But when the first of the servants returned to the house they discovered Amy – dead at the bottom of a short flight of stairs.
Was this an accidental death?
That’s what the inquest finally decided. Maybe she had simply tripped and fallen down the stairs. Or because she was known to be in poor-health perhaps a dizzy spell had caused her to fall.
Or maybe,despairing that she would never regain her husband’s love, she had taken her own life.
As there were no witnesses, the only real verdict could be that of accidental death.
Robert Dudley was now free to marry the queen.Or was he? Understandably, the gossip was that he had murdered his wife so that he could achieve that very result – the regal marriage he desired. If that was the case,it wasn’t to be.
No-one in the country, from the highest ministers to the lowliest peasant, would accept a murderer as the husband of their queen. If Robert had indeed murdered his wife – or arranged for it to be done on his behalf – then the plan hadn’t worked because now he was the last person in the world who would be deemed suitable for Elizabeth.
But what, if others suggested, it was the queen herself who arranged for Amy to be murdered? And if she did, what was her reasoning behind it?
Was it so that she could marry her lover or had she decided that Amy’s murder would disgrace him? After all, if she had decided – or been advised – that a marriage with Robert was not desirable after all, what better way than to disgrace him in the eye of everyone int he land? This effectively completely precluded him from ever being a possible suitor.
Historian, professional and amatuer disagree on the matter; everyone has their own opinions and theories.
We might never know the truth.