Earl of Essex

(Robert Devereux)


The Earl of Essex played a leading role in the late reign of Queen Elizabeth. He was the third of her three most renowned favorites, (the other two being Robert Dudley, and Walter Raleigh), and was a generation younger than either of them. Before being introduced to Elizabeth's court, Essex, born Robert Devereux, was engaged primarily in military matters. He served with his stepfather, Robert Dudley in the wars in the Netherlands, and was also of the party that favored war with Spain, and took part in many of the campaigns in the Anglo Spanish Wars. He eventually rose to be one of the most influential persons in Elizabeth's court, but was opposed by Robert Cecil, Elizabeth's most trusted minister, who tended to favor peace with Spain, and in later years became Essex's worst detractor.

By the late 1590, Essex had become very powerful and influential, and was no longer properly deferential to Elizabeth. This distressed her greatly because she had enormous personal fondness for him, and but never, at any time in her life, tolerated insolence from her favorites. He defied her wishes in order to campaign against the Spanish, and Elizabeth blamed the other commanders of the expedition rather than Essex for his disobedience of her orders.

The conflict at court was brought to a head by the Irish campaign of 1599, when an army of over 16,000 men under Essex was sent to pacify the Earl of Tyrone during the Nine Year's War in Ireland. He mismanaged the command, directly disobeyed orders, and returned to England in disgrace. The crisis was a personal one for Elizabeth, who was torn between her affection for Essex, who she regarded as son, and the necessity of upholding discipline. After a year of politicking, plotting, imprisonment, and numerous rumors of conspiracies and rebellions, Essex was finally tried and executed for treason. Elizabeth died shortly thereafter.

Key events during the life of The Earl of Essex:

Robert Devereux born.
Mother of Robert married Robert Dudley, old favorite of Elizabeth.
Campaigned in Netherlands with Robert Dudley
Became a favorite of Queen Elizabeth
Essex takes part in the Armada; Death of Robert Dudley
Campaigned against Spain in the Second Battle of Cadiz.
Accompanied Raleigh on a campaign to the Azores in defiance of Elizabeth.
Sent as a commander of English forces in Ireland. Returned in disgrace.
Tried and executed for treason.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Earl of Essex  in  Queen Elizabeth  by  Jacob Abbott
Favourite  in  Stories From English History, Part Second  by  Alfred J. Church
Elizabeth—The Story of the Queen's Favourite  in  Our Island Story  by  H. E. Marshall

Image Links

The Earl of Essex
 in Stories From English History, Part Second

Short Biography
Robert Dudley Favorite courtier of Queen Elizabeth. Granted many favors, but not much power.
Walter Raleigh Courtier of Queen Elizabeth. Explorer, mastermind of the Jamestown colony in Virginia.
Elizabeth I Led England through tumultuous age of reformation and discovery. Reigned 45 years.
Earl of Tyrone Leader of the Irish resistance during the Tudor re-conquest, Nine Year's War.
Robert Cecil Son of William Cecil, chief minister of Elizabeth. Inherited his position and served James I as well.
James I King of Scotland, who as also a poet. Imprisoned for many years by the King of England.