Robert Dudley, b. June 24, 1532 or 1533, d. Sept. 4, 1588, was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I of England, who made him earl of Leicester in 1564. A son of John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, he was involved in his father's plan to secure the succession to the throne of Lady Jane Grey in 1553. When the scheme failed, he was condemned to death but later pardoned.
Dudley's dashing personality and good looks made him Elizabeth's favorite courtier from the time of her accession in 1558. She considered marrying him and might have done so had not his first wife, Amy Robsart, died under unusual circumstances in 1560. Many suspected that Dudley had murdered her, but there is no evidence to implicate him, nor did he lose influence with the queen. He was given Kenilworth Castle, near Coventry, in 1563 and ennobled in 1564. In the latter year, Elizabeth also tried to marry him to Mary, Queen of Scots, who rejected the proposal.
In 1578, Leicester did alienate Elizabeth by marrying the widow of the 1st earl of Essex. From 1585 to 1587 he commanded English forces participating in the Dutch Revolt and again angered the Queen by accepting the title of governor of the Low Countries. Leicester was also a notable patron of literature and drama.
Stanford E. Lehmberg from the Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, 1997
Bibliography: Jenkins, Elizabeth, Elizabeth and Leicester (1961); Rosenberg, E., Leicester, Patron of Letters (1958; repr. 1976).