Lettice <I>Knollys</I> Dudley

Lettice Knollys Dudley

Rotherfield Greys, South Oxfordshire District, Oxfordshire, England
Death 25 Dec 1634 (aged 91)
Drayton Bassett, Lichfield District, Staffordshire, England
Burial Warwick, Warwick District, Warwickshire, England
Memorial ID 12605544 · View Source
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English nobility. Lettice, Countess of Leicester, lady-in-waiting and romantic rival of Queen Elizabeth I, was one of the most notorious women in Tudor England. Born Lettice Knollys at Rotherfield Greys, Oxfordshire, into a staunchly Protestant family, she was Elizabeth's maternal cousin and her junior by six years. Cultivating their striking resemblance to the point of impersonation, she dressed and traveled in as regal a style as Elizabeth, who boxed her ears for her audacity. Unlike the famously virginal queen, however, Lettice married three times. Her first marriage to Walter Devereux, first Earl of Essex and a rising star at court, ended in his untimely death. While her husband was away on campaign and fatally ill, she dallied with his friend Robert Dudley, first Earl of Leicester and the queen's favorite. He and Lettice were secretly (and by some accounts, bigamously) wed c.1577, and the marriage so enraged Elizabeth she banished the couple from court. Although Dudley later regained the queen's favor, she never forgave her cousin, bitterly denouncing her as a "she-wolf". The Dudleys' marriage was largely successful none-the-less. After the death of their only child, a five-year-old son also entombed here, Lettice's ambitions focused on her children from Devereux. Scheming to marry a daughter to the King of Scotland, she also advised her son Robert Devereux, the second Earl of Essex, on how to gain and take advantage of the queen's favor. With her second husband's health rapidly failing in 1588, Lettice's intimacy with his young protege, Sir Christopher Blount, stirred gossip. She married him a year after Dudley's death, when she was 49 and her new spouse 25 years her junior, a May-December match which was mirrored in the queen's attachment to Lettice's dashing son. As Elizabeth's new favorite, he tried to reconcile her to his mother, but to no avail. He eventually led an armed rebellion against Elizabeth's advisors, and both he and Blount, who took part in the uprising, were executed for treason in 1601. Despite Lettice's close ties to both men and the animosity between herself and the queen, she was never accused of conspiracy. She outlived Elizabeth by over 30 years, dying at Drayton Basset, Staffordshire, on Christmas Day 1634 at the age of 95. Entombed in the Beauchamp Chapel next to her second husband, Dudley, her sarcaphagus is surmounted by a fine portrait effigy and bears the inscription "She did supply the wars with thunder and the court with stars". Her descendants include British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, Prince Charles, and his first wife, Princess Diana.

Bio by: Nikita Barlow

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Nikita Barlow
  • Added: 4 Dec 2005
  • Find A Grave Memorial 12605544
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Lettice Knollys Dudley (8 Nov 1543–25 Dec 1634), Find A Grave Memorial no. 12605544, citing St. Mary's Collegiate Church, Warwick, Warwick District, Warwickshire, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .