Elizabethan Era 1558 - 1603

The Tudors Era 1485 - 1603

Jacobean Era 1603 - 1625

Robert Devereux 2nd Earl of Essex



The life of Robert Devereux - the Earl of Essex seems like a story. He is the essential tragic hero with the classic good looks and charm. He was in fact so charming that he managed to gain the affections of the Queen herself. Robert however, lacked in common good sense and was often rash and wrong in his judgement and actions that led to his disgrace from the Queen's attention.

Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, was born on 10th November 1565 at Netherwood near Bromyard, Herefordshire to Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex and Lettice Knollys. His maternal great grand-mother was a sister of Anne Boleyn, mother of Queen Elizabeth I. He took his education at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was the Second Chancellor of Trinity College, Dubin from 1598-1601.

In 1585 he went on an expedition to Holland with his stepfather The Earl of Leicester. He proved himself in the battle of Zutphen and after the death of his father he was established in the court and became one of the chief favourite of the Queen.

Due to his vanity over the Queen's interest in him, Robert soon made enemy out of many of the Queen's courtiers including Raleigh and many other prominent personalities of the court. He duelled with Sir Charles Blount, another of the Queen's favourites, and was wounded and disarmed.

Robert was young and restless. He forever wanted to go to foreign countries on expeditions. He was more often than not denied by the Queen because he was extremely rash on wars and instead of discretion and technique he depended on valour and impetuousness.

However, he did manage to go on some expeditions without the Queen's consent. He went on an expedition against Spain with John Norris but was called sternly back to return.

Prior to his entering the court of the Queen in 1584 and being an English nobleman and a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I by 1587, Essex provided military services under his step-father in Netherlands for which he was knighted for gallantry. In 1587, he became Master of the Horses and after the demise of Earl of Leicester in 1588,the Queen transferred the royal monopoly on sweet wines to Essex.


He is said to have underestimated Elizabeth and in one incidence wherein their was a furious battle of words in a Privy Council debate, the Queen cuffed the Essex around the ear. He immediately reacted by pointed his sword at her. In 1589, he participated in Sir Francis Drake's English Armathe which was an unsuccessful event.


In 1590, he got married to Frances Walsingham, theughter of Sir Francis Walsingham. She was the widow of Sir Philip Sidney. Essex along with his wife had many children but only three could live long enough to reach adulthood. In 1591, he commanded a troop that was sent to help King Henry IV of France and in 1596, he captured Cadiz.


It will not be wrong to say that the miserable state in which Essex led his campaign in Ireland during The Nine Years War from 1595, can be attributed as his biggest failure. Along with 16,000 troops, Essex set out to suppress the Irish rebels led by Hugh O'Neil. However, instead of directly battling with O'Neil, Essex took his men into the southern part of Ireland and fought some minor battles their.

It is said that lack of execution of appropriate planning resulted in loss of funds and randomly scattered army which was unable to fight off such a large Irish army. This led the Irish men to take control of the situation by winning some battles. As a result of this, Essex was forced to accept defeat and this event was regarded as an humiliating act.


After this defeat, Essex started his journey from Ireland on 24th September 1599 and landed on the English soil after the duration of four days. The Queen had prohibitted the reutrn of Essex in England but was shocked to him in her bedchamber before she was properly gowned. On his return, the Privy Council had set up a Court to decide the fate of Essex.


After initial proceedings, Essex was sent into custody in his own York House on 1st October. On 5th June, 1600, Essex had his first trial wherein he was tried before a Commission comprising of 18 men. In this trial, he was required to listen to the charges pressed against him and the evidence produced on his knees. The Commission declared him guilty and as a result, he was deprived of his public office and was to go back to his confinement.


During the month of August, 1600, Essex was given his freedom but his source of income, the sweet wines monopoly was not renewed. In the beginning of 1601, Essex had begun fortifying his Essex House. On 19th February,1601, Essex was tried on the charges of treason and after days of evidences being produced before the Commission, Essex was found to be guilty of the charges levied against and on 25th February,1601, Essex was beheaded on Tower Green.


He was the last person to have been punished in this fashion in the Tower of London. It was said that it took three strokes for the executioner to behead Essex. A direct consequence of Essex's conviction for treason was that his son could no longer inherit the title. After the death of Queen Elizabeth I, James I was to become the King and thus favouring the disinherited son, Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex.

   
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