His death came as a shock to Queen Elizabeth, who for years had been one of his closest companions - not to mention the woman he had always wanted to marry. Though he had been suffering for some time with a recurring stomach ailment, it was certainly unexpected when he fell ill at Cornbury in Oxfordshire and never made it to his destination - which was Buxton at the time, where he was going to "take the waters," a method of sitting in or near the hot springs to relieve illness and discomfort.
Robert Dudley, who was known more commonly as "Leicester" - because he was the Earl of Leicester - had just experienced a wonderfully successful summer alongside his Queen. He had shared in the triumph of the English victory over the Spanish Armada only a month prior, and since then he had been parading around the streets of London as if he himself were a King - and indeed he wanted to be! With Elizabeth's friendship (and love), he was nearer to the Crown than any other man in England, and people either admired or hated him because of it. But regardless of what people thought of him, this was an exciting time for England - and especially for Elizabeth, who must have thought that nothing could possibly interfere with or ruin this wonderful accomplishment and sense of pride and triumph. However, no one took the news of Robert's death worse than she did, and she most certainly did not see it coming.
It is interesting to note that Queen Elizabeth showed much more emotion at the news of Robert's death than his own wife, Lettice Knollys. An enemy of Elizabeth's (for obvious reasons), Lettice had been Robert's wife for nearly ten years - (his second wife... Don't forget about poor Amy Robsart who first married Robert and mysteriously died in 1560). Though there were no surviving children of Lettice and Robert, he did leave behind an illegitimate son from a relationship with Lady Douglas Sheffield. The boy, also named Robert, was left in the care of his stepmother Lettice, and would grow up to be a famous explorer.
Robert was buried in the Beauchamp Chapel of the Collegiate Church of St. Mary's in Warwick. Lettice would also be buried there in 1634 - joining him and their son (also Robert), who had died at age three in 1584.
This is definitely a sad day for lovers of Robert Dudley - and I count myself as one of his biggest fans. Today we can remember the man who was able to capture the heart (though not the hand in marriage) of Queen Elizabeth I - a feat that proved difficult for most other men. We remember Robert as someone who was handsome, intelligent, powerful and ambitious - the ultimate Tudor man.