Essex, Robert Devereux, 2d earl of

Essex, Robert Devereux, 2d earl of

(dĕv`əro͞oks', –ro͞o', –rĕks'), 1567–1601, English courtier and favorite of Queen Elizabeth IElizabeth I,
1533–1603, queen of England (1558–1603). Early Life

The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, she was declared illegitimate just before the execution of her mother in 1536, but in 1544 Parliament reestablished her in the succession after
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. Succeeding to the earldom on the death (1576) of his father, he came under the guardianship of Lord BurghleyBurghley or Burleigh, William Cecil, 1st Baron
, 1520–98, English statesman.
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 and soon won favor at court. He distinguished himself in action while serving (1585–86) as a cavalry officer in the Netherlands under his stepfather, Robert Dudley, earl of LeicesterLeicester, Robert Dudley, earl of
, 1532?–1588, English courtier and favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. A younger son of John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, he was early brought into the society of Edward VI and Princess (later Queen) Elizabeth.
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.

When he returned to England he soon became a marked favorite of the queen, a position that involved him in a quarrelsome rivalry with Sir Walter RaleighRaleigh or Ralegh, Sir Walter
, 1554?–1618, English soldier, explorer, courtier, and man of letters. Early Life

As a youth Raleigh served (1569) as a volunteer in the Huguenot army in France.
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. In 1590 he angered the queen by secretly marrying the widow of Sir Philip SidneySidney or Sydney, Sir Philip,
1554–86, English author and courtier. He was one of the leading members of Queen Elizabeth's court and a model of Renaissance chivalry.
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. The following year he commanded a flamboyant but unsuccessful expedition to Normandy to help Henry of Navarre (Henry IV of France). He returned home and, advised by Francis BaconBacon, Francis,
1561–1626, English philosopher, essayist, and statesman, b. London, educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and at Gray's Inn. He was the son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, lord keeper to Queen Elizabeth I.
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, entered politics in an effort to seize power from the aging Burghley. But Essex was too obvious and impetuous in his demands on the queen; Elizabeth was wary, and gradually she conferred the power he sought on Burghley's son, Robert Cecil (later earl of SalisburySalisbury, Robert Cecil, 1st earl of,
1563–1612, English statesman; son of William Cecil, Baron Burghley. He entered Parliament and came gradually to rank second only to his father as adviser to Queen Elizabeth I.
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).

Essex became a national hero when he shared command of the expedition that captured Cádiz in 1596, but he failed the next year in an expedition to intercept the Spanish treasure fleet off the Azores. In 1599, at his own demand, he was made lord lieutenant of Ireland and sent there with a large force to quell the rebellion of the earl of TyroneTyrone, Hugh O'Neill, 2d earl of,
1540?–1616, Irish chieftain. He was the son of Matthew O'Neill, the illegitimate son of the 1st earl.
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. Failing completely to accomplish his mission, he made an unauthorized truce with Tyrone and returned to England. He was confined by the council, and it was eight months before he was tried for disobedience by a special council and deprived of his offices (1600). He was soon released but was banned from the court.

Still popular, Essex planned a coup that would oust the enemy party and establish his own about the queen. To this end he sought support from the army in Ireland and opened negotiations with James VI in Scotland, but these efforts failed. Desperately, he made his attempt with a small body of personal followers on Feb. 8, 1601. The Londoners failed to respond, the queen's government was thoroughly prepared, and he was arrested. At the trial Bacon contributed heavily to his former patron's conviction. Elizabeth, after some hesitation, signed the death warrant, and Essex was executed.

Bibliography

See biography by R. Lacey (1971); L. Strachey, Elizabeth and Essex (1928, repr. 1969).

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