Lady Amy Robsart Dudley, Countess of Leicester (June 7, 1532 - September 8, 1560) was the first wife of Lord Robert Dudley who was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. Amy is perhaps most well known for her rather mysterious death, which remains unsolved to this day.
Early Life Edit
Amy Robsart was born on June 7, 1532 in Norfolk, as the only daughter of Sir John Robsart of Syderstone and Elizabeth Scott. Young Amy grew up at her mother's home Stanfield Hall, and received an excellent education; she also grew up in a Protestant household and had excellent penmanship.
Amy meets Robert Edit
In 1549, 16 year old Amy met Lord Robert Dudley who was the son of John and Jane Dudley, Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. The couple were apparently smitten with each other from the time they first met.
A Wedding Edit
A well matched couple, Amy and Robert were married at the Palace of Placentia on June 4, 1550, Amy and Robert were both 17 at the time of their wedding which was attended by King Edward VI of England. The young couple made their new home at Ely House, home to Robert's parents, as well as at Somerset House which belonged to Robert.
Husband in the Tower Edit
Amy's sister in law, Lady Jane Grey was married to Robert's youngest brother Guildford; however after only a fortnight as Queen she was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. Robert was also convicted of treason, sentenced to death and imprisoned in the Tower of London where he remained from July 1553 - October 1554; Amy was allowed to visit her husband beginning in September 1553, and often stayed there with him.
Married Life Edit
Following his release, Amy and Robert Dudley in short had nothing to live on, so the couple were given financial help by their parents; however their lifestyle had to remain modest given that Lord Robert had considerable debts that he had acquired. Amy being a good wife paid off many of her husband's debts, when Robert went off to fight in the Battle of St. Quentin in France.
Sir John Robsart died in 1554, and his wife Elizabeth followed in the Spring of 1557; leaving Amy a very wealthy young woman at the age of only 21. The deaths of her parents meant that with the permission of Queen Mary I, Lord and Lady Dudley could take possession of the Robsart landholdings; however Amy's ancestral home at Synderstone was uninhabitable, and the couple were living in the home of William Hyde when not in London.
By the Summer of 1558 the couple were looking to settle in Norfolk, and began looking into finding a suitable residence; however upon the accession of Elizabeth I in November 1558, Robert found himself at court and completely at the service of the new Queen.
The Queen's hatred Edit
By 1559 it was apparent that Elizabeth had fallen in love with Robert, and speculation began to arise that she would marry him "if his wife died" since Lady Amy was very ill; however by June she was well but careful with her food. It later became obvious that Elizabeth would never let Robert out of her sight. Elizabeth was never fond of Lady Amy, and the favor she bestowed upon Robert didn't extend to his wife.
The Last time Edit
Robert visited his wife for a few days during Easter 1559, and Amy visited London for about a month that May. It was the last time Robert would see his bride alive.
Lady Amy's life Edit
From December 1559 Amy Dudley lived at Cumnor Place, near Abingdon in Oxfordshire. The house, an altered 14th century monastic complex, was rented by a friend of the Dudley's and possible relative of Amy's, Sir Anthony Forster. Lady Dudley's chamber was a large, sumptuous upper story apartment, the best of the house, with a separate entrance and staircase leading up to it. At the house's rear there was a terrace garden, a pond, and a deer park. Amy Dudley received the proceeds of her parent's estate directly into her hands and largely paid for her own household, which comprised about 10 servants. She regularly ordered dresses and finery as accounts and a letter from her as late as August 24, 1560 show. She also received presents from her husband.
Mysterious death & burial Edit
On September 8, 1560, Robert was at Windsor Castle making plans to visit his wife, when he received horrible news: his wife Lady Amy had been found dead at the bottom of the stairs of Cumnor Place from a broken neck; Amy was only 28 years old. Robert immediately set out for Cumnor Place, and ordered an inquest into his wife's death to determine exactly what happened to her, and in the end it was determined to have been an unfortunate accident.
Amy Dudley was buried at St. Mary's, Oxford with full pomp, which cost Dudley some £2,000. He wore mourning for about six months but, as was within custom, did not attend the funeral, where Lady Dudley's half-brothers, neighbors, as well as city and county prominence played the leading parts. The court went into mourning for over a month while Robert Dudley retired to his house at Kew.