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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester


On September 4, 1588 Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester died.


Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester


Queen Elizabeth was very close to him, and considered him her "favourite."

He was arguably the one man she would have married if it had just been a matter of love and not politics.


Queen Elizabeth with Leicester


Leicester was a true renaissance man -- he had his own company of actors, which would later include Will Kemp, who later joined Shakespeare to create such roles as Falstaff. 


He was the first to obtain a royal patent for his actors, including James Burbage, who would go on later to build The Theatre in Shoreditch, and whose son Richard would be the first actor in history to play the roles of Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, Othello and many more.

When Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex died under suspicious circumstances, his widow married Leicester. There were rumors they had been having an affair, even before Essex's death.

He helped raise her son Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex.



Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex


I find it very odd that she named her son Robert. Why didn't she name him after her husband, Walter? 

Was her choice of the name Robert a clue to the real father of the boy?

Was Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex the biological son of Robert Leicester?

Even if he was not, he was treated as if he was Leicester's son.


Leicester


Leicester had been Master of the Horse. When he died, the Queen made Essex Master of the Horse. 

Leicester House, his home on the Strand in London, became Essex House. 

The Queen transfered Leicester's sweet wine monopoly to Essex, so he could have a good source of income. 

Whatever power Leicester had in her court was now Essex's. 

Leicester had been Queen Elizabeth's "favourite." 

Essex became her new "favourite."


Leicester, by Hilliard


Queen Elizabeth had no children. There are suspicions that she did have children. None of these theories seem very persuasive.

I have another theory. From the way she showered Essex with affection, wealth, property and power, it is evident that she treated Essex like the son she never had with the man she wanted to marry but didn't.

In her eyes, Essex was the son she would have had from the man she loved most of all.


Essex


Essex would become William Shakespeare's friend and patron, and many of Shakespeare's plays were written about and for Essex.

Essex appears time and again in the plays. Essex is Mercutio. Essex is Prince Hal and later King Henry V. Essex is Benedick. And so on.

In 1601, Essex would lead a failed a rebellion against the Queen.

If my theory has any truth, then it was a rebellion of son against mother.

When Queen Elizabeth chose to execute Essex for treason, it was as a mother killing her own son. 

I think that Shakespeare wrote one last play for Essex, later that year, in order to pay tribute to his close friend.

That play was Hamlet, and the character of Hamlet is based in large part on Essex.

If that is the case, then Leicester turns up in at least one of Shakespeare's plays, as the character of the Ghost of Hamlet's father.

I more fully explore the meaning of these relationships, and the significance they had for Shakespeare, in my version of Hamlet.


Cheers,

David B. Schajer


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