Robert Dudley (1532-1558)

Queen Elizabeth's 'Sweet Robin', Robert Dudley was the son of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, executed in 1553 for trying to put Jane Grey on the throne in place of her cousin Mary. When Elizabeth succeeded to the throne in 1558 he became so much her favourite that it was rumoured they slept together. However, the suspicious death of Dudley's wife and his unpopularity with th rest of the nobility led Elizabeth to set her own feelings aside and remain unmarried. Although they were close friends for thirty years it was a stormy relationship, Elizabeth reminding Dudley on one occasion that in her kingdom 'there was one mistress and no master.' When he died in 1588, shortly after the triumph over the Spanish Armada, she kept his last letter in a drawer in her closet, indicating to some that he had been the only real love in life.