`I LOVE MANY GOOD PARTS that are in Sir Robert Dudley, but dislike many of the evil ones,' wrote Lord Roos in a letter to Henry Stuart, Prince of Wales, in 1612.
Lady Lettice surely knew all about Leicester and the Queen, as well as his relationship with Lady Douglas, but she judged the first an inconvenient necessity and the second a trivial dalliance, with Robert Dudley Junior unquestionably illegitimate.
For Robert Dudley fate had found a kindred spirit, mentor, role model and life-long friend all in one.
In 1591, at the age of seventeen, Dudley married Margaret Cavendish, but she soon died without issue.
As he turned twenty, Dudley was eager to follow Elizabeth's `sea dogs' to the Pacific.
While Dudley's lofty rank only magnified his youth, inexperience and burning ambition, he nevertheless signed on a crew of some 275 veterans--a tribute to what must have been his already forceful personality and powers of persuasion.
Dudley's fleet sailed on November 6th, 1594, a full three months before Ralegh set out on his own more famous voyage.
Misfortune followed Dudley to the northern coast of Spain, where high seas in the Bay of Biscay swamped the Earwig, requiring him to take her crew aboard the Beare, then overcrowded with 140 souls.
By Christmas the Beare was at Tenerife, where Dudley's luck changed and he captured two Spanish caravels, re-christened them Intent and Regard, crewed them with some ninety Englishmen and put Captain Woods in charge.
Going on south to Guiana himself in the Beare, Dudley took along a Spanish-speaking Indian from Trinidad, who offered to guide the English adventurers up the Orinoco River, ostensibly to a gold mine.
With that setback, General Dudley quit Guiana, returning to Trinidad for refreshing before heading north on March 12th in the hopes of falling upon some storm-scattered stragglers from the annual Spanish gold convoy.
With provisions low, Dudley sailed for home, but ran into a Spanish man-o'-war of 600 tons.